Biden administration says corruption robs developing countries of $1.26 trillion annually and must be tackled head-on

The United States on Friday continued to explain why President Joseph R. Biden Jr. redefined his entire agenda on Thursday, making the fight against corruption a central element of his presidency.

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“Corruption robs developing countries of an estimated $1.26 trillion annually, while destabilizing democratic societies, undermining the rule of law, and diminishing the integrity of democratic institutions,” Samantha Power, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) said in a statement.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, who now leads the U.S. Agency for International Development, gives an opening statement at her U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, DC, U.S., March 23, 2021. Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, who now leads the U.S. Agency for International Development, gives an opening statement at her U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, DC, U.S., March 23, 2021. Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS

Power said authoritarians have also weaponized corruption to consolidate their rule and undermine confidence in democratic processes and norms.

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“And in many USAID partner countries, corruption fuels violence, funds transnational criminal and terrorist enterprises, and perpetuates the trafficking of drugs, arms, and people,” she added.

In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, countries have also realized that corruption impedes the integrity of emergency responses and humanitarian efforts to deliver life-saving resources to affected and vulnerable communities. 

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“As the world’s largest bilateral donor, USAID knows that corruption fundamentally undermines development progress across all sectors—whether health, education, economic growth, or building resilience to climate change,” Power said, adding that the Biden administration “has been clear that combating corruption is a key domestic and foreign policy priority.”

In line with that commitment, President Biden released a National Security Study Memorandum (NSSM) that establishes the fight against corruption as a core national security interest of the United States.

The NSSM launches the development of a first-of-its-kind, whole-of-U.S. Government strategy that will allow the United States to leverage its broad range of tools to tackle the scourge of corruption.

The NSSM directs a 200-day interagency review that will culminate in a report and recommendations on how the U.S. government and its partners can fight corruption.

According to the White House, President Biden intends to curb illicit finance, hold corrupt actors accountable, build international partnerships and improve foreign assistance to better fight corruption.

The United States will partner with foreign governments and civil society “to enhance the capacity of their domestic institutions to implement transparency, oversight, and accountability measures.”

In Africa, just like in the United States, corruption remains disguised but widespread. The new Biden agenda may likely bring back a new era of transparency, strengthen democratic institutions and fight authoritarianism.

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