Corruption Violates Human Rights

“Corruption kills. It undermines human rights in every possible way and hits the poor first and hardest,” UN Human Rights chief Navy Pillay said ahead of the Human RighBlog 93ts Council´s panel discussion on anti-corruption recently. Corruption is generally described as cheating, collusion, bribery or bid rigging. The 2012 corruption perception index by Transparency International ranked South Africa 69th out of 174 countries. Compared to the 2011 index this represented a worsening of the corruption level in South Africa with minus 5 places. According to Transparency International South Africa now ranks behind many of its regional neighbours, like Lesotho, Namibia, Ghana and Rwanda. Corruption and human rights are closely interlinked but the effects of corruption are often less visible and articulated than that of other crimes.

Transparency International defines corruption as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.” Corrupt conduct is intentional wrongdoing, not a mistake or a result of lacking attention. Every state faces corruption, but the degree to which corrupted practises infiltrate central state institutions vary across the world. Entrenched corruption features seem in South Africa to be related to a number of (combined) factors and developmental trends over the past years. Rapid economic growth, social polarization and large differences between rich and poor, political transformation and low political competition are among the explanatory factors often mentioned when explaining increased corruption in South Africa. Corruption – once allowed to grow exerts serious negative impact on society and its population.

According to Transparency International, South Africa has become increasingly corrupted during the past decade. In comparison to its score on the 2012 index, the country´s ranking in 2001 was at 38th. The many faces of corruption can for instance be seen in increased prices for public services, lowering of quality of public services and restricted access to water and electricity – overall services that often affects the poor most. While South Africa indeed has developed positively on a range of economic indicators, the country is yet to fully institutionalize a system, which could help prevent the opportunity of self-gain by powerful politicians as well as other lead actors in the country. The fundamental changes South Africa experienced following the apartheid regime, created a window of opportunity for corrupted practise. Unfortunately it has in many aspects become part of daily life.

The impact of economic crimes like corruption is not always easy to see and its victims often lack a face – and a voice. In a way, it makes corruption harder to grasp and address. ´Prove it´ corrupted leaders might say knowing it often takes years to document corrupted funds. Understanding the nature of corruption is a first step in fighting it, and while everyone pays for its consequences, it affects the poor parts of the population disproportionally. Corruption reinforces inequality, hinders economic development and thereby counteracts eradication of poverty. Corruption is a conscious act that is inherently immoral showing a lack of respect for the lives and destiny those who suffer under its consequences.    


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