December 20, 2019

Senate Passes Cardin, Young Legislation That Makes Fighting Global Corruption a National Security Priority

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.), lauded unanimous Senate passage Thursday of their legislation, S. 1309, the Combatting Global Corruption Act. First introduced in May, the bipartisan bill would raise the profile of efforts to fight international corruption, making it an American national security priority, encouraging greater transparency in U.S. foreign and security assistance, and publicizing anti-corruption efforts and results worldwide.

“Corruption is a threat to peace and stability around the world and poses a serious threat to democracy and democratic values. Authoritarian regimes the world over, including both Russia and China, are investing heavily in destabilizing countries through dirty money and corrosive capital. It is critical that we make every effort to counter this,” said Senator Cardin. “We enter this fight clear eyed – any fight against corruption will be long-term and difficult. But it is time for the United States Congress to send a strong message to our nation and to the world that corruption cannot be accepted as the status quo.”

“Corruption is a root cause of human suffering and conflict around the globe. In Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere, corruption has stood in the way of stability efforts and threatened our service members by perpetuating armed conflict, blocked humanitarian aid from reaching those in need and undermined our global economic health with the diversion of $1 trillion annually in bribes,” said Senator Young. “Given the significant physical and material toll that corruption inflicts on those around the world, I am proud the Senate passed this bipartisan effort to support the world’s most vulnerable while holding those in power responsible for their actions.”

Joining Senators Cardin and Young as cosponsors of the Combating Global Corruption Act of 2019 are U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), as well as Chris Coons (D-Del.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Earlier this month, we commemorated International Anti-Corruption Day. It provides an annual reminder of the dire need to prioritize combatting corruption here in the United States and around the world. Corruption undermines democratic institutions, it compromises the rule of law, and it erodes human rights protections.  It damages America’s global competitiveness and hampers economic growth in global markets.  It fosters the conditions for violent extremism and weakens institutions associated with governance and accountability. These are direct threats to our national and international security. 

Earlier this year, Transparency International published its Corruption Perceptions Index for 2018. It underscored that the failure to curb corruption is contributing to a worldwide crisis of democracy.  Not surprisingly then, Freedom House, similarly reported that 2018 was marked by global declines in political rights and civil liberties for the 13th consecutive year. A total of 68 countries suffered net declines in political rights and civil liberties during 2018, with only 50 nations registering gains.

The headlines have been extensive in recent years – from scandals in Liberia, Hungary, and Guatemala, to the doping by Russian athletes and their subsequent ban from the 2016 Summer Olympics and using aid to influence other nations’ behavior.  It is clear that where there are high levels of corruption we find fragile states, authoritarian states,  or states suffering from internal or external conflict – in places such as Lebanon, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Nigeria, and Sudan. 

Global corruption can also have a severe, negative impact on the effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance.  Corruption risk assessment and analysis before, during, and after the provision of foreign and security assistance is key to reducing and eliminating corruption and holding U.S. foreign assistance and security assistance programs accountable to U.S. taxpayers.

In order to combat corruption and increase accountability for U.S. foreign assistance, the Combating Global Corruption Act of 2019 requires the State Department to author and publicly distribute a report, similar to its annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which takes a close look at each country’s efforts to combat corruption. The bill underscores the importance of prioritizing corruption into strategic planning and encourages sharing information and best practices across our agencies, bureaus, and our missions overseas in order to foster greater cooperation on anti-corruption efforts within the U.S. government.

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