Opening remarks delivered at the OECD Global Anti-Corruption and Integrity Forum on 20 March 2019 at the OECD Headquarters in Paris, France.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Ministers:
It is great to see so many of you here from governments, business, civil society organisations and academia to open the 7th OECD Global Anti-Corruption & Integrity Forum. This is the biggest Global Anti-Corruption & Integrity Forum yet.
Let me also thank the UK government for supporting this global dialogue as well as our Forum partners: BIAC, Transparency International, the Open Government Partnership, U4, IDEA, and the Centre for International Private Enterprise.
We know that corruption is a complex problem to fix.
Firstly, it is endemic: a recent study shows that 38% of senior decision makers in some of the world’s largest companies knew that bribery or corruption happened widely in business in their country. This number jumps to 52% – over half – in emerging countries!
Alarmingly, our analysis of transnational bribery cases concluded under the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention shows that officials were bribed from 15 out of the 19 G20 member countries.
And as we have seen, corruption can reach the highest levels of government: OECD data shows that 11% of the total amount in bribes went to Ministers and Heads of State.
Second, and this is what will be the focus of much of your discussions here, crimes have become increasingly complex, sophisticated and transnational.
Corruption crimes are complex to track: in 75% of cases, intermediaries were involved, such as local sales and marketing agents, distributors and brokers.
Over a third of intermediaries were corporate vehicles, such as subsidiary companies, local consulting firms, companies located in offshore financial centres or tax havens, or companies established under the beneficial ownership of public officials receiving bribes.
Corruption also fuels poverty and inequality. We have seen a rise of multidimensional inequalities, in income, opportunities, wealth, which accumulate into inequalities in education, health and even life expectancy.
These inequalities hamper social mobility, undermine economic performance and worsen social divisions. Indeed, we’re seeing the effects that skewed distribution is having on the governance of countries.
In some countries, being wealthy can buy you access to political influence and decision-making. Inequalities of income and wealth can translate into political inequalities.
A concentration of wealth, power and influence at the top becomes a vicious cycle; indeed, people are seeing that the super-rich and well-connected may have undue access to power and influence and are able to get their way because they have the means to do so.
This is all having a devastating effect on public trust in governments and business, which is being eroded and people are lashing out against globalisation and the established political and economic order. The recent Edelman Trust Barometer shows that overall, less than half of the general population trust their government.
Indeed the breakdown in trust between citizens and institutions, and even citizens and democracy can be traced back to unequal outcomes, lack of opportunities, and latent corruption.
Anticorruption strategies therefore have to be core to public policy-making, not only to improve economic outcomes, but also to improve societal and political ones.
Think about recent controversies around financing of political campaigns; it’s clear that integrity and transparency are needed in the system. The lack of transparency can undermine democratic outcomes, and cause people to lose faith. This is why corruption is also linked with inequalities, and with a growth model that is not sustainable.
So we need solutions. This is why we’re all here at the OECD, which has been a driving force in international anti-corruption efforts.
Influence of technology on the integrity and anti-corruption agenda
We chose this year’s theme – “Tech for Trust” – carefully. Digital has been the focus of much of our work recently because it is, quite simply, the future.
The OECD is both embracing and driving this transformation. Last week, the OECD Going Digital Summit delivered a new vision for tackling the challenges and opportunities that digitalisation is offering.
We know there are opportunities and uncertainties around the digital revolution, particularly what it could mean for future jobs and inequalities.
Nowhere is this dichotomy between opportunities and challenges more obvious than in the application of new technologies to fight corruption and promote integrity.
The promises of new technologies for integrity and anti-corruption, such as blockchain, algorithms and AI, big data analytics, and civic technologies, are vast. They are helping us solve challenges.
For example, blockchain is being used to mitigate high-risk transactions in areas that are particularly exposed to corruption risks, such as property registration, land titling and public contracting. Likewise, Artificial Intelligence offer new avenues to prevent corruption.
By analysing previously undiscovered relationships between economic factors, such as rising real estate prices and corruption cases, researchers are making it possible for policy-makers to better allocate preventive measures to corruption risk areas.
Big data analytics are helping experts improve delivery of vital services, such as health and unemployment benefits, whilst protecting public funds from corruption, fraud, waste and abuse.
Technology can also help increase information flow between citizens and governments. For instance, online platforms are giving more citizens a voice in the allocation of resources, as well as enhance citizen knowledge and engagement for public integrity, and help to regain trust in public institutions.
Yet with these promises come risks: when we think about the anonymity of digital platforms, and the speed at which transactions can take place, we see that blockchain and other technology could become potential platforms for illicit trade, money laundering and tax evasion. And these crimes are increasingly cross-border, complex and multi-dimensional.
Similarly, the concentration of the development and deployment of such technologies in the hands of a small number of companies raises fundamental questions about whose values are informing some of the most important social, political and economic questions of our time.
Indeed, we know that concertation in the platform economy is high: of the top 15 internet market capitalization leaders in 2017, nine were US companies. The rest were Chinese.
Technology is a means, Planet Integrity is the goal
Today and tomorrow, when we discuss the problems and solutions, let’s keep in mind that technology is a means to an end. And the end goal is clear: Planet Integrity.
We need fair competition, fair revenue collection, where the public interest prevails in policy making, where women and men, girls and boys have equal opportunities. We need values of integrity, fairness and inclusion to drive the actions of governments, businesses and citizens. In short: we need the benefits of globalisation to contribute for everyone.
So how do we get there? First, technology can help us, in particular by strengthening our evidence-base for policies that promote good governance and combat corruption.
We are actively working with our members and stakeholders like you to use technology to design corruption out of the system. Look at public procurement, for example. By installing electronic procurement systems, we can avoid face-to-face meetings between procurement officials and government suppliers.
These kinds of solutions can mitigate corruption risk in one sector that directly impacts citizens’ lives.
New tech also needs to be integrated into a coherent system, which includes accountability and enforcement measures.
Second, we need stronger and more widespread implementation of global anti-corruption and integrity standards to prevent and prosecute corruption.
At the OECD we have our Anti-Bribery Convention, which is celebrating its 20th Anniversary. This has been fundamental to help countries cooperate on large scale cases, such as the Odebrecht case.
But having the instruments isn’t enough, we also need to ensure that there are sufficient skills and resources to allow effective implementation, which is uneven, and sometimes prevents the best outcomes.
We also need governance frameworks that are accountable and transparent, that identify and address conflicts of interest. The OECD has developed standards and tools to help governments tackle all of these dimensions.
We also have tools to help businesses, such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the G20/OECD Principles of Corporate Governance, which provide global benchmarks on transparency, accountability and business integrity.
We update these regularly to move with the times, including the digitization of business.
Third, to fight transnational corruption and complex financial crimes, we need comprehensive international cooperation and strong international instruments.
We also need to use tools offered by technology to follow the money flows and see who they belong to. The OECD is at the heart of global efforts to promote the transparency of beneficial ownership and to strengthen international cooperation against tax evasion and avoidance.
Fourth, we need more and better data on corruption. Numbers speak. But a major problem with documenting corruption is that it relies a lot on self-reporting.
The OECD will continue to work with Transparency International – and I am pleased to see Delia Ferreira Rubio here – and others to build the evidence-base for policies to promote good governance and combating corruption.
Finally, we need a clear and explicit commitment by global leaders to promote integrity and combat corruption. The OECD has been a driving force in the G20, as well as the 2016 London Anti-Corruption Summit.
Technology will be an important part of all these efforts to create a culture of integrity, as well as dealing with cutting-edge, 21st Century issues such as golden visas and data analytics. This Forum will help explore these challenges with coordinated, multilateral solutions.
Fundamentally, the digital agenda is a vital tool to improve collaboration between government and business, citizens and government, and business and citizens.
But let me leave you with this: we must ensure that we use technology for the greater good, to benefit the lives of all.
We saw the atrocities in New Zealand and the way social media and technology was used. We also see it with young, impressionable people that are drawn into terrorist or extreme ideologies over the internet, which highlights how important it is to ensure that technologies are used for good. At the OECD, we’re proud to have just approved a set of Principles on Artificial Intelligence, which also covers the issues of transparency, accountability, and ethics.
We need to work with governments and business to ensure the right incentive structures are in place to develop technology with human ethics at the centre. This will be key in regaining the public trust in our institutions.
Count on the OECD to be looking into these issues, and to remain at the forefront of global efforts in the fight against corruption.
 OECD Foreign Bribery Report, 2014