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When the mighty fall

Transparency International

2021 is off to a rough start for some heads of state around the world who are being confronted with their missteps.

Protesters at a rally against Lukashenko in Minsk, Belarus, holding a banner reading “Fair elections. Tribunal. Freedom to the political prisoners.”

This week, the outgoing US President Donald Trump made history by becoming the first president to be impeached twice. While the most recent developments need no reminder, his first impeachment came in December 2019 for the abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Halfway across the world, the Estonian Prime Minister resigned over a corruption investigation involving his party.

Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu is not faring much better. Israel has been rocked by protests – spurred by government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis and Netanyahu’s indictment for corruption – with calls for the Prime Minister to resign.

In Belarus, protests have been raging for six straight months against President Alexander Lukashenko after he was declared winner of the dubious and heavily fettered presidential election in 2020.

Bulgaria has also seen daily anti-government protests for months against corruption and state capture during the reign of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov. In fact, state capture is a deeply troubling trend observed also in Georgia as well as Western Balkans and Turkey.

Corruption allegations are also catching up with several former leaders.

Just this week, two former prime ministers in Algeria went on trial for corruption; in Romania, former prime minister is being investigated for suspected bribe-taking; and South Korea upheld former president Park Geun-hye’s 20-year prison sentence for bribery.

In France, in a landmark trial for corruption, former president Nicolas Sarkozy might be facing a four-year prison sentence, including a two-year suspended sentence for corruption and bribery.

Image: Mathew Schwartz / Unsplash. Protests in South Korea during the trial of former president Park Geun-hye.
While it is encouraging to see corruption at the highest levels exposed and prosecuted, it also comes with a troubling reminder.

In far too many places around the world, grand corruption – abuse of high-level power to benefit the few at the expense of the many – goes unpunished. This is largely because the current international anti-corruption framework does not adequately address challenges in prosecuting corruption implicating political leaders.

These failures devastate communities and rob people of a chance at sustainable development. We’ve said it before and will say it again: this year’s UN General Assembly Special Session against Corruption (UNGASS 2021) should hit, not miss grand corruption.
What do you think? Let us know @anticorruption.

Final call – UNGASS 2021: Commit to transparency in company ownership for the common good
Our campaign with leading economists, trade unions and diverse civil society groups asks the governments preparing for the first-ever United Nations General Assembly Special Session against Corruption (UNGASS 2021) to make central, public registers of beneficial ownership a global standard. We invite diverse groups of stakeholders to sign the appeal until 20 January 2021.


Impunity for grand corruption – a problem too big for international community to ignore
This year, the UN General Assembly will hold its first-ever Special Session against Corruption, UNGASS 2021. What should we talk about when we talk about corruption at this important high-level event? Recognising grand corruption as a threat to sustainable development and our future, the UNGASS 2021 can be a game-changer if it prioritises grand corruption, argues Mats Benestad.

Belarus at the crossroads
Belarus has seen regular protests for six straight months after Alexander Lukashenko claimed an improbable landslide victory over his opponent in the 2020 presidential election. The protests have lasted long despite brutal attempts to crush them, with the citizens of Belarus demanding freedom from Lukashenko’s regime in ‘Europe’s last dictatorship.’

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