Central America’s Anticorruption Support
The presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras were in Washington to discuss plans for the $750 million that Congress authorized to help their nations take on violence and boost economic development. The outlay comes in the wake of a record uptick in Central American migration to the United States. Nearly 3 million people have fled their homes and neighborhoods, including 100,000 unaccompanied minors who arrived at the southern border between October 2013 and July 2015. The U.S. funding requires Northern Triangle governments to address myriad domestic problems, including strengthening legal systems, protecting human rights, and rooting out corruption. U.S. anticorruption efforts will be met with broad civil society and multilateral support, dovetailing with grassroots campaigns against graft and high-level impunity in Honduras and Guatemala, and furthering the resolve of multilateral-backed bodies such as Honduras’s new Mission Against Corruption and Impunity (MACCIH).
The UNDP at Fifty
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the multilateral’s agency dedicated to reducing poverty and inequality, turned fifty on Wednesday. Since its founding, the number of poor dropped from one in three to one in eight people globally. UNDP helped spur these positive changes through its work in 170 countries and by rallying members to make ambitious commitments through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But development aid is changing. Though worldwide government spending reached a $134.7 billion peak in 2013, it is far short of the UN’s 0.7 percent of gross national income (GNI) target, with a rich-country average closer to 0.39 percent. And Western governments are increasingly turning their attention and dollars to security assistance. The OECD recently widened the definition of aid to include military spending in fragile countries, and the United States is allocating more foreign assistance to programs such as Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). UNDP and other believers in traditional economic and social development worry this shift will not only slow, but undermine decades of gains.
Foreign Bribery Actions Up
Though only settling two Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) cases last year, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is ramping up foreign corruption prosecutions. Dedicated staff will rise by 50 percent from nineteen to twenty-nine prosecutors this year, and an assistant attorney general recently announced many pending cases. Meanwhile, foreign authorities are also upping their actions. The UK just convicted its first corporation under the five-year old Bribery Act, finding Sweett Group guilty of paying bribes to secure construction contracts in the UAE. The $3.3 million fine follows a $25.2 million settlement with the British outpost of South Africa’s Standard Bank last December for illegal payments in a Tanzanian infrastructure project. The UK law goes even further than the FCPA in scope, holding companies accountable not just for giving or taking bribes, but also for failing to prevent bribes, as Sweett Group discovered.