Frank-Walter Steinmeier: Message of greeting on behalf of the 15th anniversary of Transparency International

30.06.2008 - Speech

Lieber Herr Eigen,

Dear Ms Labelle,

dear members of the board of Transparency International,

ladies and gentlemen,

Just yesterday I returned to Berlin from the G8 Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Japan. The main topic was Afghanistan, where, as you know, the G8 and the entire International Community are strongly committed to promoting security, stability and lasting peace. And not only that. The continued support of the International Community to the region is a vital element of efforts worldwide in the promotion of the rule of law, of Human Rights, democracy, of freedom, justice and social rights as well as economic growth and opportunity. Also for that reason, we have to improve our efforts in Afghanistan not only in fighting against terrorism but also towards what is called “good governance”.

In this respect, there is a link between Kabul and Kyoto. And between Transparency International and the efforts of the international community. You all here have committed yourself so impressively in your fight against corruption of all kinds with Transparency International. Your efforts stimulate and help politics. And sometimes, politics needs your “wake-up-calls” !

For one thing, corruption creates high, often hidden, financial costs that in the long run hurt both, business and the tax payer. The true economic costs of corruption have now been clearly analysed by academia, not least thanks to the work of TI over the past 15 years. Bribery and corruption are in nobody’s interest. Companies involved in cases may find themselves in a costly dilemma when competing for mandates.

Public procurement distorted by corruption produces worse results for tax payers’ money than an undistorted, transparent market mechanism.

More importantly, corruption creates mistrust and inefficiency, main causes of ‘bad governance’. This, in turn, hinders economic growth, economic development and aid-effectiveness, creating a vicious circle of poverty and corruption.

Corruption goes so far as to undermine institution-building and the rule of law itself by distorting public decision-making. Its arbitrariness is the opposite of the rule-based system that promotes the public interest, the interest of everyone.

For the same reasons, corruption is a proven disincentive to international investments in individual economies. An effect that is reinforced – on a transparent basis - by your published rankings, such as the “Corruption Perceptions Index”, the “Bribe Payers Index” or the “Global Corruption Barometer”.

This, by the way, is where Transparency International makes Foreign Ministers a little nervous at times – part of our mission is public diplomacy and the care for the image of our countries abroad, after all. But even though Germany does not always come out number one worldwide in your rankings (I hear it scores reasonably well but with room for improvement), I can assure you how much I admire your work and that we can be proud of having a globally renowned institution like yours seated here in Berlin.

Let me say a few words on our commitments as Federal Government on the issue in international politics.

With our G8 partners, we call for an effective implementation of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption which spells out concrete standards and principles in the fight against corruption worldwide.

We fully commit to strong implementation of the “Anti-Bribery Convention” of the OECD, the group of countries accounting for the majority of exports and foreign investment in the world. Making bribery abroad a criminal offence under national criminal law was a major step in fighting the supply side of corruption. Law enforcement authorities, in Germany, too, take this seriously, as you know not only since prominent recent cases. Moreover, we continue to be committed to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and to the idea of using export credit agency practices as a leverage for reducing corruption in cross-border business. At Heiligendamm in 2007, we have reiterated our commitment to the UN and OECD conventions as well as to helping developing countries implement them. The upcoming G8 summit in Toyako will address these issues again: Implementation of the UN and OECD conventions, including peer review mechanisms.

All these initiatives, as well as national initiatives on liability of corporate leaders and public officials, have benefited from your input. It was also TI who has made us aware, in the first place, of the fundamental fact that the fight against corruption worldwide starts here in our industrialised countries, and not only concerns emerging economies.

And it is good that TI continuously reminds us of the necessity to follow up on these developments. I can only encourage you to continue the work you have done so successfully over the past 15 years.

Looking at the incredibly strong case for the fight against corruption shows which gap Transparency International has filled as a global NGO 15 years ago. Your work has been most valuable, not only in raising awareness. But also in international standard-setting in all relevant fora, in advising governments, and in developing codes of conduct for a highly complex issue. And even in advising corporations who actively asked for concrete guidance from you in their own efforts to fight corruption, guidance they could get only thanks to your expertise and commitment.

This is why I want to congratulate you to the 15th anniversary of Transparency International. And 15 years is a short time for giving a campaign and an NGO such momentum, for raising so much awareness and for inducing concrete change like you have done. This, I am sure, was also made possible by your unconfrontational style of coalition-building and by your promotion of clear principles of integrity.

No one knows this better than Peter Eigen. Dear Mr. Eigen, I especially want to congratulate you as the leading founding father of Transparency International. You have left an impressive career in the international public sector in order to start TI from zero. Your vision and expertise have made TI a success story.

Congratulations again, and I wish all of you as well as Transparency International the best of success for the future.

Thank you.

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