Advocacy statements

Corruption and human rights

  • Date / 2011
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 2: Annual report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

International Humanist and Ethical Union

UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: 16th Session (28 February to 25 March 2011)

Item 2, Reports of the Office of the High Commissioner

Corruption and Human Rights

Mr President

We find it deeply troubling that the reports from the Office of the High Commission have largely overlooked the worldwide phenomenon of corruption and its devastating impact on the lives of the world’s poorest people. We refer to our report on this subject A/HRC/16/NGO/93.

Kofi Annan referred to corruption as an ‘insidious plague’, that ‘undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to violations of human rights, distorts markets, erodes the quality of life and allows organized crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish.’[1] A recent report [2] found crime and corruption cost Egypt approximately US$6 billion per year and US$57.2 billion total between 2000-2008.  The report also estimates that corruption has cost India the equivalent of half its GDP over six decades.[3]

Corruption erodes international confidence and discourages foreign aid. It has been estimated that for every $1 donated in aid, 50 cents of it is lost to corrupt or fraudulent practices: a figure which rises to 90 cents in some USAid programmes.[4] The UN has reportedly estimated that corruption costs States about $1.6 trillion per year.[5]  A salient example is presented by the India 2G scandal, which cost between $12 billion and $38 billion to the Indian taxpayer.[6]

States may have fewer resources to supply basic services because of the economic impact of corruption. This problem is accentuated by tax evasion, estimated to lose poor countries up to US $160 billion in tax revenue per year.[7]
Corrupt governments tend to spend government resources on projects which are capital intensive in order to maximise their bribe receipts.  This creates distortions in development priorities, where spending is diverted from essential basic services such as education to projects like buying military equipment, which generate larger bribes.

In India Rahul Ghandi recently estimated that only 5% of government aid actually reaches the intended beneficiaries.[8]

An assessment conducted in 23 countries by the UK’s Department for International Development showed consistently that corruption is limiting access of the poor to basic health services. [9]

In Law Enforcement, Transparency International found that a staggering 80% of those who had interacted with the police in India had paid bribes.[10]       

Mr President, we urge States to address corruption as a matter of urgency, to criminalise the use of their financial institutions for transactions related to corruption, and urge all States that have not yet done so to sign and ratify the UN Convention Against Corruption.[11]

And finally, we call upon the Council to consider the setting up of a working group on Corruption and Human Rights as a first step towards measures aimed at the elimination of corruption world-wide.


Thank you, sir.

[1]  Foreword to UNCAC. See http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/treaties/CAC/

[2] Global Financial Integrity (GFI) report “Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries”

[3]  http://www.gfip.org/storage/gfip/documents/reports/IFF2010/gfi_iff_update_report-web.pdf

[4]   http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/dec/18/afghanistan-corruption?INTCMP=SRCH

[5]  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8350239

[6]  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/dec/26/india-sleaze-corruption-economy

[7]  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/dec/09/corruption-bribery-investigation?INTCMP=SRCH

[8]  Hindustan Times, September 24 2008

[9]  http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm200001/cmselect/cmintdev/39/3908.htm#n78

[10]  http://www.transparencyindia.org/resource/survey_study/India%20Corruption%20Study%202005.pdf

[11]  http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/treaties/CAC/signatories.html

Suggested academic reference

'Corruption and human rights', Humanists International

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