Not long ago, a colleague asked me an interesting question: “You have co-chaired an anti-corruption task force for the past two years under the auspices of the G20. Are you making a difference, or are you simply paying lip service to what is obviously a very difficult, frustrating and often confounding problem?”
It’s a great question and one that I have sometimes asked myself. With the many challenges business leaders face today, none of us want to spend valuable time on issues we can do little to affect, or if we can, do so with minimal returns.
When it comes to corruption, I firmly believe we are confronted by a scourge that presents a substantial roadblock to global growth and robs economies of resources that should be utilized to improve the quality of life for our fellow citizens. The challenge before us, therefore, is how to take affirmative, pro-active steps to isolate and address the conditions that make corruption a global reality.
Over the past several years, much has been done – the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, the OECD, Transparency International, the International Chamber of Commerce and the World Economic Forum’s Partnering Against Corruption Initiative are but a few of the many efforts that have come together to take the issue on.
More recently, G20 leaders have entered the fray and stepped forward to foster development of a global anti-corruption action plan. The impact of the G20’s political leadership not only comes at an opportune time, but also enables bold actions that otherwise would not have occurred. Beginning in 2010 and continuing through the present, the G20 has sought a partnership with business, which has become the task force I have had the pleasure to co-chair.
First at the 2011 meeting of the G20 in Cannes and again last year in Mexico, the global business community provided a number of practical, pragmatic recommendations on how government, business and NGOs could cooperate in building upon the impressive work of such entities as the UN and OECD to help take the battle to the frontlines, so to speak.
We have, for example, agreed with our G20 counterparts to address government procurement by making all aspects of this process transparent. In addition, we are working to put into place collective action mechanisms that will harness the power of all stakeholders in confronting corruption, whether it is public or private. And, we are creating the tools necessary to help build the capacity of small and medium-sized enterprises to better enable them to fight corruption in their respective countries and regions.
These are but three of a much more comprehensive list of actions we have underway. As the current year unfolds, I have every expectation that we will make further progress in implementing our action plan under Russia’s leadership as that country prepares to host the next meeting of the G20 in St Petersburg in September.
So, are we making a difference? Yes, I believe we are. Along with the UN, OECD and a host of others, the G20 is providing the leadership necessary to bring an even greater focus on the issue and the steps that can and must be taken to address it.
This is one of those challenges where failure is not an option. For failure will continue to roadblock the level of global growth required to effectively meet the needs of a growing global society.
David Seaton is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Fluor Corporation, and a participant of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting.
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