Corruption remains a number one concern of citizens across the world. People feel left out of the benefits of globalization and are increasingly disillusioned with the public institutions meant to protect them and their economic and social interests. Predictably, this year’s OECD Anti-Corruption and Integrity Forum focused on public integrity.
At times it was a call to action, but it also felt like a mea culpa recognition by OECD members that trust in them (government) is alarmingly low and we (civil society) have to better hold them to account. The few exceptions that exist were present, with thoughtful and values driven addresses by the Prime Ministers of Norway and Iceland (which are worth reading.) Despite the state of affairs throughout the OECD and beyond, there was optimism and a sense of purpose among the anti-corruption community.
And yet, I came away feeling like there was one crucial component missing to the discussions, the panels, the research and side conversations: the local business community.
It is essential now that government and civil society recognize, acknowledge and create space for the local private sectors around the globe. Though diverse, the following traits are more or less applicable to most local business communities:
- Primary employers of a population
- Largest group of bribe payers and those most negatively impacted by bribery
- Lowest trust in government, its ministries, agencies, and representatives and those most reliant on their services
- Least likely to be engaged by international organizations
It is true, we are hearing from “business” but that is new branding for multi-national companies — often from OECD member countries, not the mid-sized local firm that has a huge impact on the local environment, how much tolerance there is for bribery, and whether there is optimism in the economic prospects of the community.
For too long, governments and civil society organizations have viewed the private sector with skepticism at best, and has neglected to consider local business communities including entrepreneurs, small and medium-sized enterprises, and business associations in the fight for public integrity and against corruption.
At the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), we believe democracy should deliver for all and that local business communities play an essential role in creating inclusive and prosperous economies and societies. CIPE supports a range of efforts to combat corruption, including through collective action by private businesses, good governance reform of state-owned enterprises, compliance principles and guidance for small and medium sized enterprises, and much more.
We call on the international community to engage local business communities as key stakeholders in the fight for public integrity and against corruption.
Louisa Tomar, pictured above, is a Global Program Officer at the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE). She works on anti-corruption compliance for SMEs and anti-bribery principles for business associations. She’s the editor of CIPE’s Corporate Compliance Trends blog. She previously worked on anti-money laundering compliance at FINCA International, Inc.