Cayman Islands: Corruption: A Human Rights Impact Assessment

Last Updated: 5 September 2018
Article by Angela Barkhouse

Co-authored by Hugo Hoyland, Kroll and Marc Limon, Universal Rights Group

Corruption, especially grand corruption, has enormous implications, both direct and indirect, for the enjoyment of human rights. Corruption undermines - perhaps even violates - a wide array of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development. Where governments fail to respect and protect civil and political rights, it in turn creates governance conditions in which corruption can thrive. What is more, all this has negative consequences for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Yet despite the seriousness of the crime of corruption, and despite the gravity of its consequences for universal human rights, and while States (including in the Human Rights Council) are quick to condemn it; there is a significant disconnect between the narrative and action taken.

There are a number of possible reasons for this. One is that corruption is, in a sense, an 'invisible crime,' compared to, for example, terrorism. Another is the high cost of, and difficulties involved in, fighting corruption (domestically and internationally) compared to, say, drug smuggling or human trafficking. Yet corruption is the common denominator in all these - and other - transnational crimes, and its impacts are more 'visible' and immediate than is commonly perceived.

This new policy brief, co-authored by Angela Barkhouse, Director at KRyS Global, aims for the first time, to empirically measure the immediate and serious impacts of corruption on internationally protected human rights. The hope of the authors is that this will help build a case for a serious push by the international community to combat and eliminate corruption, as an essential prerequisite to the full enjoyment of all human rights and the realisation of the SDGs 'leaving no one behind.

Introduction

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development1 incorporates 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), focused on social, economic, political, cultural, and environmental development through good governance, the rule of law, access to justice, personal security, and the fight against inequality.

The realisation of human rights, including, inter alia, the right to health, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to education, non-discrimination, gender equality, and the right to development, is an explicit objective of the SDGs, derived from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the core UN human rights treaties. The realisation and implementation of the SDGs are in turn dependent upon good governance, transparency, participation, and accountability - the cornerstones of anticorruption policy.

The State holds the primary responsibility to promote and protect the human rights of citizens and other individuals within its jurisdiction, yet when corruption is prevalent, those in public positions often fail to take decisions with the interests of society in mind, causing violations of the State's obligations under the core UN human rights treaties, especially the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Where corruption is systemic, it directly affects the poorest sections of the population, as a result of the diversion and siphoning off of public expenditure budgets. In other words, corruption works in direct tension to, and contradiction with, the call made throughout the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that'noone [should be] left behind.'2

At the very least, corruption compromises a government's ability to deliver an array of public services, including health, education and welfare – all essential for the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights. In the worst cases, corruption compromises the rights to dignity, security of person, and even the right to life.

The generally accepted definition of corruption (derived from the work of international organisations, international treaties and domestic legislation) is: the abuse of public office for private gain.3 Specifically, grand corruption 'involves the distortion and exploitation of entire systems for the benefits of private interests.'4 This is also known as 'political corruption.' It is directly related to an individual's official duties, and is done under the 'colour of office:' i.e. it is conducted under the appearance of authority, but involves actions that manifestly exceed such authority. It involves those, who through their abuse of positions of power or influence use State institutions or policies to purloin, embezzle or enrich themselves or their allies, or sustain political power, at the expense of the State's wealth and its citizens' welfare.

Yet despite the seriousness of the crime of corruption, and despite the gravity of its consequences for universal human rights, and while States (including in the United Nations Human Rights Council) are quick to condemn it; there is a significant disconnect between such protestations and actual action to confront corruption and to hold perpetrators to account. There have been notably few successful prosecutions around the world, under either criminal or civil law, and - equally importantly - there are very few cases where victims have been able to secure remedy and redress.

There are a number of possible reasons for this. One is that corruption is, in a sense, an 'invisible crime,' compared to, for example, terrorism. Another is the high cost of, and difficulties involved in, fighting corruption (domestically and internationally) compared to, say, drug smuggling or human trafficking. Yet corruption is the common denominator in all these - and other - transnational crimes, and its impacts are more 'visible' and immediate than is commonly perceived.

The victims of corruption are not as remote from the wrongdoing as is often assumed. For example, where the diversion of public funds for the purchase of child immunisation kits for preventable diseases ends up in private pockets, children may die as a result; where money earmarked to build schools or pay teachers' salaries is instead paid into the private bank accounts of public officials, children will not be able to enjoy their right to education; and where kleptocrats tightly control the media, the police and the judiciary, individuals will be deprived of their rights to freedom of speech, liberty and family.

Moreover, a cursory review of every single situation of serious human rights violations on the UN Human Rights Council's agenda today, demonstrates that each and every one of those situations is the result, in large part, of corruption and related efforts of governing elites to safeguard their privileged positions - so that they can continue to be the principal beneficiaries of accumulated power and wealth.

It is with this type of corruption (political corruption - rather than petty corruption) and its severe and immediate impact on human rights - that this policy brief is specifically concerned.

The main objective of the brief is to demonstrate, empirically and objectively, the immediate and serious impacts of corruption on internationally protected human rights. The hope of the authors is that this will help build a case for a serious push by the international community to combat and eliminate corruption, as an essential prerequisite to the full enjoyment of all human rights and the realisation of the SDGs 'leaving no one behind.'

In order to demonstrate and measure that impact, the brief presents the conclusions of a one-year data analysis project, using Kroll's proprietary data analysis software, that compares and correlates levels of corruption in 1755 different UN member States (as measured by Transparency International's corruption perception index - CPI) with levels of the enjoyment of basic human rights - especially economic, social and cultural rights, and the right to development - in those same countries (as measured by applying and analysing multiple human rights impact indicators, as defined by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights - OHCHR). The data for said indicators was in turn taken from relevant reports by international organisations and UN agencies, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UN International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the UN Development Program (UNDP), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.6

It is important to note that not all social indicator data was available for all States. For example, some States with poor human rights and/or development records may desist from providing data to relevant international organisations: This may lead to an unfair selection bias. A further issue with social indicator data is the collection year. Where possible, the authors used 2014 data; however in a few cases this was not available, and therefore 2013 data was used instead. Moreover, some (mostly smaller) States were excluded from the analysis - by default - because they are not covered by Transparency International's corruption perception index (CPI).

When reviewing the results of the Barkhouse-Kroll- URG analysis, it is also important to recall that while we have used a single overarching index for corruption (Transparency International's CPI), in reality not all corrupt acts have an equal impact on human rights. Petty bribes cause social inequality, exacerbate poverty and undermine public health.7 High-level nepotism and patronage, on the other hand, cause market inefficiencies and distort whole economies.8 Furthermore, it is important to recognise that Transparency International's CPI index in based purely on public perceptions of corruption. It is not a detailed measure of actual levels of corruption and nor does it provide 'in-depth information about where corruption occurs or what types of corruption are predominant in a country.'9 Notwithstanding, as of the time of writing, the CPI is recognised as the best available proxy for actual measurements of corruption10 - as noted by the Global Institute for Peace and Economics, there is a strong correlation between the CPI and World Bank Control of Corruption Index (r=0.998).11

To read this Report in full, please click here.

Footnotes

1. General Assembly resolution 70/1, UN Doc. A/RES/70/1, (12 October 2015). Available at: http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/generalassembly/docs/globalcompact/A_RES_70_1_E.pdf

2. UN General Assembly, Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, (21 October 2015),A/ RES/70/1, available at: http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/70/1&Lang=E

3. For example the World Bank, Transparency International, the United Nations Convention on Anti-corruption, the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combatting Corruption (2003), the UK Bribery Act 2010, the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to name a few, all recognise corruption as the abuse of public position for private gain.

4. Mary Evans-Webster, Fifteen minutes of shame; the growing notoriety of grand corruption, Hastings International and Comparative Law Review, (2008).

5. CPI for 2014 had 175 countries, although not all social indicator results had the results for these same 175 countries, so these were removed as set out in the appendices.

6. Please see appendix B for a list of data used in this report.

7. See e.g. Susan Rose Ackerman, Corruption and Government: Causes Consequences and Reform, Cambridge University Press, (1999 and 2016).

8. The United Nations Anti-Corruption Toolkit, 3rd edition (2004). Available at: http://www.unodc.org/pdf/crime/corruption/toolkit/corruption_un_anti_corruption_toolkit_sep04.pdf

9. Elaine Byrne, Anne-Katrin Arnold, and Fumiko Nagano, Building Public Support for Anti-Corruption Efforts: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, The World Bank Communication for Governance & Accountability Program (CommGAP ), (2010).

10. The World Bank Control of Corruption (WBC) measure uses a wide variety of survey data, other composite measures, and expert perceptions of corruption.

11. Institute for Economics & Peace, Peace and Corruption 2015, (2015). Available at: http://economicsandpeace.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Peace-and-Corruption.pdf

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