Corruption thrives in silence and isolation. In response, several hundred representatives of governments, business and civil society gathered today in Vienna to celebrate with some pomp the opening of the International Anti-Corruption Academy. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon pledged his full support for this first international center for anti-corruption professionals. Senior representatives of 108 countries followed suit. The event was hosted by the Austrian government, which also provided the 17th Century Palais Kaunitz-Wittgenstein to house the Academy.
Will it have an impact?
Corruption is a global problem and this Academy provides a venue for global cooperation in response. Corruption is a crime by the powerful through the misuse of their authority and today's speeches by one senior government official after another called for a renewed commitment to transparency. It's easy to be cynical about grand statements of this kind, but the sort of international cooperation that this Academy is designed to foster will make it more difficult for kleptocratic officials to loot their countries, to hide what they loot and to spend what they hide.
To deter the corrupt, adept at shifting tactics to avoid detection and prosecution, INTERPOL's Secretary General Ron Noble pledged to share the experience of the world's largest international police organization at facilitating and coordinating information across borders. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the European Anti-Fraud Office are co-partners with the Academy and will lend their own expertise.
Economic crimes are now global and need a global strategy. Responses to international corruption have been patchy, with enforcement agencies, the private sector and civil society all taking different approaches, or none at all, and often blaming one another for the lack of progress. Even the more effective initiatives have been slow, fragmented and inconsistent. The Academy offers a home for this scattered community; it promises a holistic, interdisciplinary forum for current anti-bribery professionals and training and technical assistance for the next generation. The impact of this new campus remains to be seen, but its absence had become an obstacle and its inauguration today is a welcome development for the anti-corruption community.