Veranstaltungen: Dokumentation

Concluding plenary: The fight against corruption, for democracy. Opportunities and challenges

IRRESISTIBLE? A symposium on the phenomenon of CORRUPTION

25.7.2017
Sunday, 18 June 2017, 09.30-11.30

PDF-Icon Concluding plenary german

Thomas Krüger (Federal Agency for Civic Education, Germany)
Edda Müller (Transparency International Germany)
Eka Tkeshelashvili (European Union Anti-Corruption Initiative in Ukraine, Georgia)
Moderator: Constanze Abratzky (TV journalist and moderator, Germany)

Audio-Record: Concluding plenary: The fight against corruption and democracy: Opportunities and challenges; June 18, 2017 (© 2017 Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung)


The final panel of the symposium dared to look into the future, asking what strategies will be needed in the field of institutions, journalism and government to successfully fight corruption and promote transparency and justice. What are the preventive measures to be identified as "best practice" in fighting corruptibility? How can corruption as a narrative be overcome from the point of view of values and/or socio-cultural practice? How can ethical issues with regard to corruption be negotiated in different societies, and how can societies be sensitized in everyday life?

It was a first-rate line-up at the concluding panel: Thomas Krüger, President of the Federal Agency for Civic Education, Transparency International Germany Chairperson Edda Müller and Eka Tkeshelashvili, head of the EU Anti-Corruption Initiative in Ukraine, were the panellists. Ilya Yashin, one of the best-known activists fighting corruption in the Russian Federation, had also been invited as panellist but was prevented from coming because he had been sentenced to 15 days in prison for participating in an anti-corruption demonstration in Moscow. As a symbolic gesture, his chair remained empty.
IRRESISTIBLE? – A symposium on the phenomenon of corruption - Concluding PanelIRRESISTIBLE? – A symposium on the phenomenon of corruption (© bpb/Dorothea Tuch)


At the start, Edda Müller came back to the opening discussion looking into the link between corruption and human nature: "People are not corrupt by nature"; it is the prevailing systems in politics and societies that are to be blamed. Corruption continues to spread in the wake of the economic optimization of society and the resultant craving for ever greater efficiency. Moreover, policy-making is less about people’s real interests than perceptions among the population. That, too, paves the way for corruption.

Edda Müller contradicted the view that acknowledgement of corruption as a problem must already be seen as a success. She substantiated her claim by pointing out that large sections of civil society do not regard corruption as a problem. She gave environmental organisations as an example; some fail to highlight corruption out of fear of losing investment. She also called it a problem that lots of data were available, but hardly ever analysed.

“Corruption is an all-encompassing problem”, Eka Tkeshelashvili said in support. She especially urged the industrial countries and their civil societies to do their duty and fight corruption in order to set a good example. It is necessary to intensify both prevention and punishment to the same degree, because punishment alone is not effective enough. There is a special need to "create an international system to prevent corruption paying off". In contrast to Ms. Müller, Mr. Krüger regards civil society as a key factor in fighting corruption, because its activists are able to generate publicity. He believes that it is important for policymakers to fight inequality and, as a result, corruption.

In the course of the discussion, the panellists wondered whether a successful fight against corruption should start off with rather small cases or with "grand corruption". All panellists agreed that a holistic strategy is required. It is important to also create awareness of the cultural context of corruption to draw conclusions as to how to fight it successfully. In that regard, Thomas Krüger said that "fighting corruption means, at the same time, teaching democracy".

Müller stressed again that cooperation between civil society and ambitious policymakers was important.

IRRESISTIBLE? – A symposium on the phenomenon of corruption - Concluding PanelIRRESISTIBLE? – A symposium on the phenomenon of corruption (© bpb/Dorothea Tuch)
Tkeshelashvili addressed what she sees as a fundamental flaw of the system of democracy: Very often, thinking is determined by legislative periods so that long-term projects such as fighting corruption are rarely successful. In such situations, strong-willed individuals are indispensable.

Edda Müller pointed out that local communities rarely use the instrument of citizen participation, which is why she regards a mixture of various democratic instruments to integrate the general public as absolutely necessary. It is an illusion to believe that individuals may change the world. That is the very reason why reliable structures must exist.

The symposium was concluded with an Open Space, a discussion format that enables all participants to exchange views on self-selected topics. It sparked a critical discussion about a theory put forward in the course of the symposium that "women are less corrupt". Participants eventually agreed that women are not less corrupt than men "by nature". That impression is due to the fact that, in contrast to men, they more rarely hold positions of power.

Another thesis under discussion was whether or not a link exists between gender equality and corruption or whether there is a correlation between increasing gender equality and a lower level of corruption ("Gender equality is strongly related to lower levels of corruption."). Participants stated that these were rather two structural problems that depend strongly on the governing system.

Summary: Christoph Velling

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