Geo-Economics and Politics

How young people are turning the tide against corruption

A woman talks on phone inside the Bank of China head office building in Beijing, China March 30, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj - D1AESVLIYXAA

Image: REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Blair Glencorse
Founder and Executive Director, The Accountability Lab
Friday Odeh
Country Director, Accountability Lab Nigeria
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Geo-Economics and Politics?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Values is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Values

A deluge of corruption-related news and scandals has recently rocked the world. The President of Guatemala has expelled a key United Nations anti-corruption body from the country. Romania’s anti-corruption chief has stepped down just as the country is taking over the Presidency of the EU. Japan’s Olympic Chief is facing allegations of bribery over Tokyo’s bid to host the 2020 games, and the Danske Bank money laundering probe continues to deepen.

This is not filling global youth with hope for the future. Young people continue to name corruption as the biggest challenge they face, according to a survey carried out through the Accountability Lab in conjunction the World Economic Forum. And with good reason - corruption has a high cost for society and the economy. It depletes public funds that should pay for education, healthcare and other basic services sorely needed in those countries most affected by it. Businesses and individuals - mostly the poor - pay more than $1 trillion in bribes every year, which undermines trust, exacerbates inequality and severs the social contract.

It is easy to get depressed about this. But there are plenty of reasons to believe that 2019 will be the year in which young people turn the tide against this lack of integrity and accountability. A new generation of change-makers is putting anti-corruption and accountability firmly at the centre of their understanding of global leadership across business, politics, media and civil society.

In business, this clearly showed at Davos 2019, which was chaired for the first time by Global Shapers from the World Economic Forum’s youth network. Accountability for everything from corruption in global corporations to state capture in South Africa were key topics of discussion. These Global Shapers and their contemporaries are leading the way in the corporate world, where now more than ever, young consumers prefer to work and shop at businesses that drive social good.

CEOs understand this. The likes of David Cruickshank at Deloitte and Paul Polman, formerly at Unilever, are speaking out strongly on issues of ethical business. At a recent World Economic Forum Partnering Against Corruption (PACI) meeting, which included many leading global corporations, there was a clear consensus on the idea that values-based organizations are not just better for the world, but also more profitable in the long-term.

In government, a new generation of politicians and bureaucrats is emerging, pushing for more inclusive, transparent decision-making. In Malaysia, the 27-year-old Minister of Youth and Sports Syed Saddiq has not shied away from calling out the kleptocratic behaviour of elites. In Botswana, the 32-year-old Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry Bogolo Kenewendo is pushing back against unfair business practices. During our recent global Integrity Idol campaign to “name and fame” honest bureaucrats, we found hundreds of young, honest civil servants doing everything from fighting corruption in the police to ensuring fair justice at the local level.

In the media, the ability of youth activists to set a national and global accountability agenda is growing rapidly. Young people are creating news checking sites to combat fake news; bloggers in countries including Nigeria are pushing for decision-making based on openness and honesty; and incredibly brave investigative journalists are taking on corrupt regimes and criminal networks. The proliferation of social media has made it harder for those in power to listen only to dishonest elites. Tech-savvy young media-makers have shown that they won’t be silenced or strong-armed by the corrupt, and are building a collective voice for change.

Finally, a new wave of civic activists is pushing back against the old ways of fighting corruption, and showing real progress. These new groups are nimble and collaborative, not bureaucratic and competitive, and draw on historic lessons from movement-building, theories of strategic non-violent action, and ethnographic approaches within specific contexts. Networks such as Libera are taking on the mafia and “spreading a culture of legality” in Italy; groups such as Al Bawsala are bringing transparency to decision-making in Tunisia; and coalitions such as Africans Rising are effectively supporting people-powered action in countries from Nigeria to Zimbabwe.

Corruption remains arguably the largest impediment to global economic and political progress. But there is a new generation finding creative, collective ways to push back against it.

Learn more about the Partnering Against Corruption Initiative here.

Have you read?
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Geo-Economics and PoliticsResilience, Peace and SecurityYouth Perspectives
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

The ZiG: Zimbabwe rolls out world’s newest currency. Here’s what to know

Spencer Feingold

May 17, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum