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22

JUNE 2016

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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

The following is excerpted from the speech by Secretary of State John F. Kerry to the World Economic Forum in Davos,

Switzerland, on Jan. 22.

We have to acknowledge in all quarters of leadership that

the plagues of violent extremism, greed, lust for power and

sectarian exploitation often find their nourishment where

governments are fragile and leaders are incompetent or

dishonest. And that is why the quality of governance is no

longer just a domestic concern. …

Now, obviously, corruption’s not a new problem. Every

nation has faced it at one time or another in its development.

America’s own Founding Fathers knew the threat of cor-

ruption all too well, warning of the dangers that it posed to

democratic governance. But today, corruption has grown at

an alarming pace and threatens global growth, global stabil-

ity and, indeed, the global future. …

Still in the United States, my friends, we continue to

prosecute corruption, and [at the same time] we live with

a pay-to-play campaign finance system that should not be

wished on any other country in the world. I used to be a

prosecutor, and I know how hard it is to hold people in posi-

tions of public responsibility accountable. But I also know

how important it is.

The fact is there is nothing—absolutely nothing—more

demoralizing, more destructive, more disempowering to any

citizen than the belief that the system is rigged against them

and that people in positions of power are, to use a diplomatic

term of art, crooks who are stealing the future of their own

people; and by the way, depositing their ill-gotten gains in

ostensibly legitimate financial institutions around the world.

Corruption is a social danger

because it feeds organized

crime; it destroys nation-states; it imperils opportunities,

particularly for women and girls; it facilitates environmen-

tal degradation; it contributes to human trafficking; and it

undermines whole communities. It destroys the future.

Corruption is a radicalizer

because it destroys faith in

legitimate authority. It opens up a vacuum which allows the

predators to move in. And no one knows that better than the

violent extremist groups, who regularly use corruption as a

recruitment tool.

The Challenge of Governance

BY SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN F. KERRY

Corruption is an opportunity destroyer

because it

discourages honest and accountable investment; it makes

businesses more expensive to operate; it drives up the cost

of public services for local taxpayers; and it turns a nation’s

entire budget into a feeding trough for the privileged few.

And that is why it is imperative that the business com-

munity of the world starts to demand a different standard

of behavior, that we deepen the fight against corruption,

making it a first-order, national security priority. …

All told, corruption costs the global economy—global

GDP—more than a trillion dollars a year. ... This corruption

complicates, I assure you, every single security, diplomatic

and social priority of the U.S. government and other govern-

ments trying to help other countries around the world. And

by itself it creates tension, instability and a perfect playing

field for predators.

It is simply stunning to me ... that in the year 2016, more

than 20 million people are the victims of modern-day slav-

ery in what has become a $150 billion illicit human traffick-

ing industry.

The New York Times

recently had a compelling

story on its front page of a young Cambodian boy seduced

into leaving his country and going to Thailand, believing he’d

be part of a construction company. He wound up at sea for

two years with a shackle around his neck as a slave in an

illegal fishing operation. Those numbers should shock the

conscience of every person into action, because although

money is legitimately and always will be used for many

things, it shouldn’t be hard for us to agree that in the 21st

century, we should never, ever, ever allow a price tag to be

attached to the freedom of another human being.

The bottom line is that it is everybody’s responsibility

to condemn and expose corruption, to hold perpetrators

accountable and to replace a culture of corruption …with

a standard that expects honesty as a regular way of doing

business.

Never forget: The impact of corruption touches every-

one—businesses, the private sector, every citizen. We all

pay for it. So we have to wage this fight collectively—not

reluctantly, but wholeheartedly—by embracing standards

that make corruption the exception and not the norm.