Transparency International founder speaks on campus
April 27, 2007
By George Mauzy
Transparency International founder Peter Eigen told an Ohio University audience of more than 200 on Thursday that corruption is the greatest stumbling block in the advancement of developing countries.
Eigen's talk in Baker University Center Ballroom was sponsored by the College of Business, Center for International Studies and Kennedy Lecture Series. Transparency International, based in Berlin, is a global anti-corruption organization that promotes transparency and accountability in the global economy.
Referring to what he called a "perversion of economic decision making," Eigen said many developing nations suffer because their officials steal money and fail to have the best interests of their people at heart. More than a trillion dollars is stolen each year through corrupt government arrangements, he said.
The consequences are grave, he said. "Many leaders believe in corruption despite the fact that it leads to poverty, death and disenfranchised people. More than 1 billion people live off less than $1 per day, and more than 11 million children die each year before reaching the age of 5 because of poverty caused by corruption."
However, he said, organizations such as Transparency International are making progress toward eliminating corruption among governments and businesses around the world.
"We have managed to keep the issue at the heart of the global policy agenda for over a decade," Eigen said. "Foreign bribery is now outlawed, and many national enterprises have been convicted in court for bribing government officials. However, there is still much work to do."
Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative is one tool Transparency International uses to fight corruption in developing countries rich in natural resources. The initiative requires governments to practice transparency in their financial transactions with oil, gas and mining companies.
"This practice ensures local populations benefit from the natural resources taken from their land," Eigen said. "More and more countries have agreed to participate in this initiative, and it is leading to more stability and development."
Eigen said Transparency International fights corruption by putting intellectual pressure on governments rather than protesting and creating conflict. "We identify the problems and work with the countries or companies to fix them with their cooperation," he said.
Eigen appealed to this particular audience in his conclusion: "The gap between civil service organizations and academia needs to be closed. Very few universities train people to serve the needs of CSOs, and that is what we need. We need more young leaders."
George Mauzy is a media specialist with University Communications and Marketing.