SEATTLE, Washington — On January 22, 2021, Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Todd Young (R-IN) reintroduced the Combating Global Corruption Act (S.14). Echoing a piece of bipartisan legislation introduced in 2019, if enacted, S.14 would prioritize the identification and obstruction of international corruption by the State Department. In an effort to make international corruption a U.S. security priority, the bill would establish a three-tiered system that demonstrates the level of corruption within each nation. The senators cite their motivations to stand with the world’s most vulnerable and hold those in power responsible for their actions. Such an endeavor serves the interests of both the countries faced with corruption as well as the United States.
What Constitutes Corruption?
To identify the level of corruption within the nation, the bill lists five minimum standards with which a country must comply:
- The government has established laws and practices that prevent corruption
- The government enforces the above laws through a fair judicial process
- There is an appropriate punishment for corruption and other serious crimes
- There is an appropriate punishment for petty corruption that would deter such acts in the future
- The government is making active efforts to eliminate corruption within its country
Using the above standards to determine the level of corruption within a nation, Senators Cardin and Young further outline how these levels will be ranked in a three-tiered system. The Tier 1 countries comply with all of the minimum standards; Tier 2 countries have made some efforts to comply with these standards but are not achieving full compliance and Tier 3 countries have made no efforts to comply with the minimum standards. Should countries be found entirely non-compliant, and thus fall under the Tier 3 categorization, sanctions may be imposed on the country under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.
The Importance of the Bill
The correlation between corruption and poverty is undeniable. Corruption is considered to be the root of many existing humanitarian crises today, therefore, corruption and poverty go hand-in-hand. Corruption may take different forms, ranging from a leader distorting the economy through political bribery and extortion to repression and brutality throughout a society. Not only does corruption erode the stability of the country’s institutions but it also amounts to pervasive unrest and insecurity among people. It undermines the rule of law and creates barriers to growth.
Countries such as South Sudan, where the poverty rate sits at a staggering 82%, consistently rank among the most corrupt nations in the world. The people of South Sudan are faced with a severe humanitarian crisis and this case is hardly an exception for the consequences of corruption. In the Combating Global Corruption Act press release, Senator Young named specific countries severely affected by corruption. This includes Afghanistan, Yemen and Venezuela. A country that is mismanaged, where its leaders cannot be held accountable for their malfeasance, inevitably results in pervasive suffering, and in many cases, violent extremism.
Given that the Combating Global Corruption Act brings the issue of corruption to the forefront of U.S. priorities, the legislation may translate to more comprehensive actions to mitigate global poverty. Eradicating corruption is important because education, hunger, sanitation and a multitude of other goals of development are nearly impossible in the context of corrupt governance. As witnessed in countries faced with devastating circumstances, accountable governance is one of the keys to a country’s prosperity.
– Alessandra Parker