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Yes, we do have a choice to stop corruption!

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15 July 2013

By Amanda Jackson

A recent survey of 114,000 people in 107 countries around the globe asked people’s views on corruption. 

Out of all the insights and statistics, one key finding leapt out at me. Nearly 9 out 10 people said they would act against corruption, two thirds said they had refused to pay a bribe and the majority said they would be willing to report corruption. 

People do not view themselves as powerless victims of corruption. 72% of people surveyed would sign a petition, and over half would join an organisation, pay more to deal with a corrupt-free company, protest peacefully and tell people via social media. 

And this is encouraging because corruption is thought to be increasing by over half the people surveyed and it’s not going to disappear by itself: too much money is involved. 

The Transparency International survey is fascinating reading. 27 per cent of respondents have paid a bribe when accessing public services and institutions in the last 12 months. In 36 countries police are seen as the most corrupt public institution, and in those countries 53% of people on average had been asked to pay a bribe to the police. 20 countries view the judiciary as the most corrupt (which I find disturbing). 

In 51 countries around the world, political parties are seen as the most corrupt institution. 55 per cent of respondents think government is run by special interests. 

It is a sad indictment of the state of public “service”. 

So we need to use that positive willingness amongst citizens to bring change. If 9 out of 10 people say they are willing to take action against corruption, what could that look like? 

At the local level, we can take a stand. Gisela Schneider is a missionary doctor who worked in various parts of Africa for over 25 years. Early on, she knew she had to live out her values and that meant not paying bribes. She calls it ‘authentic living’. 

“I learnt to always be respectful, to smile, to divert the request for  a bribe and always be clear that I would not pay. It took longer to get medicines, my licence. But it was the best way in the long-term. If I had paid $10, next time it would be $20 and my witness would have been compromised.”

But what about the big end of town? Can we hope to make a difference to corporate and political behaviour? 

Marijke Hoek, theologian and writer says that we focus on personal sin because it’s within our reach but corporate excess seems beyond our area of expertise. And economist-speak tends to negate personal responsibility. So Google UK’s Vice President told MPs who grilled him about Google’s aggressive tax avoidance that, ‘It’s not a matter of personal choice.’ 

We need to see that we do have choices, whether we are a doctor in a clinic in Kampala or a tax lawyer in London. 

The EXPOSED campaign is trying to tackle some issues around tax – misreporting or diversion of profits by multinationals which deliberately register in a low tax jurisdiction like the Caymans, Jersey or London (yes, London) and the way national governments must co-operate and work together to tackle cross border tax avoidance, tax havens and product mis-pricing. 

I’m not saying the choices are easy. But sometimes we falter at the first hurdle. On June 30th, I was involved in a phone fast to help raise awareness about the corrupt links between mobiles, coltan and the violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Over 1500 people have viewed the 3 minute video on Vimeo and I know lots of groups have shown the video in church, homegroup or college. 

But only 400 people took the step of sending an email to phone providers asking for conflict-free coltan. We are often willing to watch a video and relate to the issues but less willing to take one minute to send a message - in this case to businesses - about the issue. 

So let’s all take some time to do more than complain and blame. Let’s show that our faith in God’s justice means a willingness to empower and serve others. 

Could you take 2 mins to:

  1. Sign the EXPOSED Global Call
  2. Send an email to mobile producers that we want conflict-and-corruption-free phones

- See more at: Micah Challenge, Amanda Advocates