Corruption and its Discontents: a new report by Tearfund

30 November 2010.

A new Tearfund report: Corruption and Its Discontents – Assessing the impact of people living in poverty, highlights the way corruption and poor governance is compounding poverty across the developing world.

Extensive dialogue with Tearfund’s partner organisations and research carried out in Peru, Cambodia and Zambia – including comment from the poorest people in these countries – highlights corruption and a culture of bribery as root causes of poverty and one of the biggest hindrances to people’s escape from it.

‘At the hospital here, you will find doctors just sitting in a room drinking tea, when they have patients to attend to,’ said a participant from Nakatindi Village, Zambia. ‘A person may be really sick waiting in the queue outside, but they do not care if you have no money to pay them.’

‘Corruption generates mistrust amongst the population, and that further increases poverty. There will never be development for those who are deceived,’ another told Tearfund in Huamanga, Peru.

Erika Izquierdo, Micah Campaign Coordinator for Latin America, says that corruption is one of the ‘biggest threats’ to the poorest people trying to escape from poverty.

‘Churches are at the centre of civil society, tackling the issues of poor governance and empowering the poorest and marginalised communities to stand up to the effects of corruption,’ says Erika. ‘The voices of the discontented are many and they should be heard. I have seen how corruption undermines public services, reduces access to justice and perpetuates the abuse of women. Society and the international community must work together to tackle corruption at every level so that it does not undermine meeting the development goals.’

The research by no means seeks to undermine the case for aid. Development aid is known to effectively tackle the causes and consequences of poverty. What is essential, according to the report, is finding the best possible ways to ensure that all resources at the disposal of national governments can benefit the poorest communities more than they are currently able to.

Tearfund believes that society and the international community must work together to rebuild the trust and social cohesion that has been broken between local communities and institutions, such as elected public officials, local magistrates, police and public health providers. It says such institutions should be strengthened to build trust between citizens and the state.

Tearfund’s Abi Akinyemi explains: ‘Investing in poor communities to help them hold authorities to account can help prevent corruption and ensure that all resources are more effective in relieving poverty. We need to see greater transparency and accountability through all levels of society, starting with those who have been entrusted with public office, and local communities must have a voice in the decision making processes that can affect them so acutely. Corruption thrives where there is secrecy and a lack of information.’

The report calls for greater investment in listening to poor and marginalised people, while devising governance and anti-corruption strategies – such as programmes that take account of the actual experiences and perceptions of people living in poverty. Corruption is presented as a development issue, not just an economic or bureaucratic issue, and tackling corruption should be central to all efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

Tearfund’s report recognises the distinctive and important role of faith based organisations – including churches – and the central role they play working with the communities affected and within wider civil society.

Notes to Editors

Erika Izquierdo, from Peru, is the Micah Campaign Coordinator for Latin America. She has led the Global Campaign Against Poverty set up by the World Evangelical Alliance and was previously Coordinator for Evangelicals for Democracy.

Tearfund is a Christian relief and development agency building a global network of local churches to help eradicate poverty. Tearfund is a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee.