Issues

5 Essays About Corruption

Internationally, there is no legal definition of corruption, but it includes bribery, illegal profit, abuse of power, embezzlement, and more. Corrupt activities are illegal, so they are discreet and done in secrecy. Depending on how deep the corruption goes, there may be many people aware of what’s going on, but they choose to do nothing because they’ve been bribed or they’re afraid of retaliation. Any system can become corrupt. Here are five essays that explore where corruption exists, its effects, and how it can be addressed.

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Corruption in Global Health: The Open Secret

Dr. Patricia J. Garcia
The Lancet (2019)

In this published lecture, Dr. Garcia uses her experience as a researcher, public health worker, and Minister of Health to draw attention to corruption in health systems. She explores the extent of the problem, its origins, and what’s happening in the present day. Additional topics include ideas on how to address the problem and why players like policymakers and researchers need to think about corruption as a disease. Dr. Garcia states that corruption is one of the most significant barriers to global universal health coverage.

Dr. Garcia is the former Minister of Health of Peru and a leader in global health. She also works as a professor and researcher/trainer in global health, STI/HIV, HPV, medical informatics, and reproductive health. She’s the first Peruvian to be appointed as a member to the United States National Academy of Medicine

‘Are women leaders less corrupt? No, but they shake things up”

Stella Dawson
Reuters (2012)

This piece takes a closer look at the idea that more women in power will mean less corruption. Reality is more complicated than that. Women are not less vulnerable to corruption in terms of their resistance to greed, but there is a link between more female politicians and less corruption. The reason appears to be that women are simply more likely to achieve more power in democratic, open systems that are less tolerant of corruption. A better gender balance also means more effective problem-solving. This piece goes on to give some examples of lower corruption in systems with more women and the complexities. While this particular essay is old, newer research still supports that more women in power is linked to better ethics and lower corruption levels into systems, though women are not inherently less corrupt.

Stella Dawson left Reuters in 2015, where she worked as a global editor for economics and markets. At the Thomson Reuters Foundation and 100Reporters, she headed a network of reporters focusing on corruption issues. Dawson has been featured as a commentator for BBC, CNB, C-Span, and public radio.

“Transparency isn’t the solution to corruption – here’s why”

David Riverios Garcia
One Young World

Many believe that corruption can be solved with transparency, but in this piece, Garcia explains why that isn’t the case. He writes that governments have exploited new technology (like open data platforms and government-monitoring acts) to appear like they care about corruption, but, in Garcia’s words, “transparency means nothing without accountability.” Garcia focuses on corruption in Latin America, including Paraguay where Garcia is originally from. He describes his background as a young anti-corruption activist, what he’s learned, and what he considers the real solution to corruption.

At the time of this essay’s publication, David Riverios Garcia was an Open Young World Ambassador. He ran a large-scale anti-corruption campaign (reAccion Paraguay), stopping corruption among local high school authorities. He’s also worked on poverty relief and education reform. The Ministry of Education recognized him for his achievements and in 2009, he was selected by the US Department of State as one of 10 Paraguayan Youth Ambassadors.

“What the World Could Teach America About Policing”

Yasmeen Serhan
The Atlantic (2020)

The American police system has faced significant challenges with public trust for decades. In 2020, those issues have erupted and the country is at a tipping point. Corruption is rampant through the system. What can be done? In this piece, the author gives examples of how other countries have managed reform. These reforms include first dismantling the existing system, then providing better training. Once that system is off the ground, there needs to be oversight. Looking at other places in the world that have successfully made radical changes is essential for real change in the United States.

Atlantic staff writer Yasmeen Serhan is based in London.

“$2.6 Trillion Is Lost to Corruption Every Year — And It Hurts the Poor the Most”

Joe McCarthy
Global Citizen (2018)

This short piece is a good introduction to just how significant the effects of corruption are. Schools, hospitals, and other essential services suffer, while the poorest and most vulnerable society carry the heaviest burdens. Because of corruption, these services don’t get the funding they need. Cycles of corruption erode citizens’ trust in systems and powerful government entities. What can be done to end the cycle?

Joe McCarthy is a staff writer for Global Citizen. He writes about global events and environmental issues.

About the author

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Emmaline Soken-Huberty

Emmaline Soken-Huberty is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. She started to become interested in human rights while attending college, eventually getting a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and climate change are of special concern to her. In her spare time, she can be found reading or enjoying Oregon’s natural beauty with her husband and dog.