The fight against corruption in public sectors globally is facing significant setbacks, as highlighted by the latest Corruption Perceptions Index released by Transparency International. The report reveals a worrying trend of weakened justice systems and rising authoritarianism, contributing to deteriorating conditions in both democratic and authoritarian states.
According to the index, 23 countries have now reached their lowest rankings in almost three decades, with high-profile democracies and authoritarian regimes alike showing signs of increased corruption. The analysis, based on data from sources like the World Bank and the World Economic Forum, places 180 countries on a scale from 0, indicating high corruption, to 100, signifying minimal corruption.
François Valérian, Chair of Transparency International, emphasized the urgency of addressing this issue. “Corruption will flourish unless justice systems can effectively punish wrongdoing and ensure government accountability”, Valérian stated. He stressed the importance of investing in and safeguarding the independence of institutions responsible for upholding law and combating corruption.
Among those experiencing significant declines are traditionally high-scoring democracies such as Iceland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Britain. Authoritarian countries like Iran, Russia, and Venezuela have also seen their scores drop. On the other hand, Denmark continues to lead the index with the highest score for the sixth consecutive year, followed by Finland and New Zealand.
The United States maintained its score of 69, placing it 24th globally. Conversely, Somalia remains at the bottom with the weakest score. The report highlights a concerning stagnation, with the global average score remaining unchanged at 43 for the twelfth year in a row, and over two-thirds of countries scoring below 50.
Regional disparities are also evident. In the Asia-Pacific, little progress has been made in curbing corruption, while Latin America and the Caribbean face issues of opacity and undue influence in their justice systems. The Arab countries’ average score reached an all-time low, and sub-Saharan Africa remains stagnant.
Western Europe and the European Union, despite being the best-performing region, are not immune to challenges. The report points out issues of weak accountability and political corruption that erode public trust and allow narrow interest groups to exert undue control over political decision-making.
Countries like Poland and Hungary are highlighted for their weaknesses in judicial systems. Poland’s recent political changes have raised concerns about the continuing influence of the previous governing party over the judiciary. Ukraine, despite its ongoing conflict with Russia, has shown a steady improvement in its score by focusing on judicial reforms, an essential aspect of its bid to join the EU.
The report concludes with a stark warning: without significant and sustained efforts to strengthen justice systems and ensure government accountability, corruption will continue to be a pervasive problem worldwide.