Fighting corruption through Collective Action

Sabrina Vetter is a 2015 Delegate Speaker in the Leadership & Government Plenary Session.  You can watch her speech here


No single government, company or civil society organization can tackle corruption alone. Only through our joint efforts can the risk of corruption be mitigated.

Corruption is inherently wrong and constitutes a misuse of power and position. It is the greatest obstacle to economic and social development around the world because it hinders countries from realizing their economic potential.

According to the World Bank, bribes amounting to $1 trillion are paid around the world each year. This is already a huge number; but the real costs of corruption are assumed to be even higher as this figure does not include the negative effects of corruption.

Corruption reduces domestic investment, discourages foreign direct investment, inflates government spending and shifts it away from education, health, and infrastructure. Thus, while money paid as a bribe can be small, the implicit cost is much greater.

Even now in 2015, corruption is still a critical factor that undermines clean markets, competitiveness, governance, the rule of law and hence sustainable development. It is a cross-cutting issue and, if we want to make a difference and real progress in other areas such as economic growth, environmental protection, or development of infrastructure, we cannot further ignore it. We need to jointly develop solutions to address the root causes for corruption so that we can improve the market environment.

No single government, company, or civil society organization can tackle corruption alone. In addition, it has to be noted that fighting corruption can be very dangerous for an individual, as it can involve a personal cost, and it requires enormous courage to do so. For these reasons, I think that the risk of corruption can only be effectively mitigated through our joint efforts or ‘Collective Action’.

Concept and advantages of Collective Action

Collective Action provides the opportunity to use the power of a group to make a real difference by engaging multiple stakeholders and key players of governments, industries, and civil societies in developing innovative initiatives to tackle systemic corruption issues.

Through such alliances of like-minded organizations, the problem can be resolved from multiple angles and the impact of individual action can be increased.

A driver of Collective Action

The idea behind Collective Action is simple; its implementation however is often highly complex and challenging. One important driving force for the promotion of Collective Action is the Siemens Integrity Initiative which was set up in 2009. The initiative is part of the comprehensive settlements with the World Bank in 2009 and the European Investment Bank in 2013. It can be described as a funding mechanism with a total funding amount of over 100 million USD dedicated to not-for-profit organizations fighting corruption around the globe.  

The initiative’s work with currently 55 funded projects has helped to trigger the much needed change in ethical behavior and policy reform and even the establishment of new laws which assist in creating fairer market environments.

With the initiative’s work and its concept of Collective Action, compliance standards can be increased and awareness can be created by forming alliances between the public and the private sector. Furthermore, capacity is built, a culture of integrity is fostered and knowledge-sharing between institutions and stakeholders is promoted. Thereby, sound policy frameworks at national, regional and international levels can be formulated and advocated, and Collective Action concepts and practices can be integrated into programs of national anti-corruption authorities.

Global cooperation is the key to winning the fight against corruption and therefore I believe joint efforts and Collective Action across countries, nations and industries is necessary. The more widespread Collective Action becomes, the more difficult it is for individuals to exploit institutions’ weaknesses. Collective Action offers you the opportunity to go one step further to demonstrate your commitment to fighting corruption.

However, the demand for all of us to act as individuals with principles of ethics and integrity in all aspects of our lives remains as well of the highest importance. If our decisions and actions are always in line with common moral principles and ethical values, we can raise the standard with which others measure their behavior and therefore can contribute to raising the barrier for misconduct.