Strengthening Global Rule of Law, Together

By John Sammis, USEU Deputy Chief of Mission

U.S. Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, Dr. Sarah Sewall visited Brussels on January 20 to meet with EU officials on questions of security and development. She also gave a speech on corruption’s cost to our shared human development, economies, and security, and how it can fuel conditions that give rise to violent extremism. Under Secretary Sewall told the audience that the key to ensuring U.S. and European citizen security lies in applying a “preventive lens” to both anti-corruption efforts and to more effectively address the underlying grievances and conflicts that feed violent extremism.

Under Secretary Sewall Speaks on Partners in Prevention: Addressing Threats to Civilian Security at the EPC in Brussels on January 20, 2015. Photo: USEU
Under Secretary Sewall Speaks on Partners in Prevention: Addressing Threats to Civilian Security at the EPC in Brussels on January 20, 2015. Photo: USEU

We’ve seen in the United States and around the world that corruption furthers economic inequality and organized crime. The EU Commission, through its first Anti-Corruption Report published in 2014, found that corruption costs the European economy around €120 billion each year.

Last fall, President Obama spoke in New York about how fighting global corruption saves billions of dollars that can instead be used to build infrastructure and promote development. He highlighted how corruption weakens official budgets, alienates citizens, who can lose faith in the state, and can even fuel insurgencies. He made his remarks at a meeting of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), a successful initiative to spur government transparency that now has 65 participating countries, 20 of which are EU memGraphic: U.S. Anti-Corruption Agenda Fact Sheet (White House)bers.  Inside of government and out, transparency unmasks potential corrupt actors, building trust along the way. And we believe that governments should earn the trust of their people.

Through the U.S. Global Anti-Corruption agenda, we’re making changes to increase government transparency. The U.S. government is working to share more data with entrepreneurs so they can pursue the new innovations and businesses that create jobs. We’re also working through more traditional law enforcement approaches, tracking down the proceeds of corruption to prevent our legal and financial systems from becoming safe havens for money gained through fraud.

Under Secretary Sewall: Focusing on corruption once it has occurred is only half the battle. The new frontier is about trying to prevent corruption. Photo: USEU
Under Secretary Sewall: Focusing on corruption once it has occurred is only half the battle. The new frontier is about trying to prevent corruption. Photo: USEU

We want to partner with private sector and civil society on this issue.  In November, I spoke to U.S. and EU industry representatives, EU officials, and NGOs at the International Forum on Business Ethical Conduct (IFBEC) about U.S. efforts to combat corruption and the strength of the U.S.-EU transatlantic relationship. IFBEC’s voluntary industry standards to fight corruption are an example of the kind of cooperation it will take for all of us to meet the long-term challenge of strengthening our democracies to ensure civilian security.

Here at the U.S. Mission to the EU, we’re directly engaging EU partners to promote global rule of law. As we expand our joint efforts, Under Secretary Sewall’s remarks are particularly timely.

More information from the U.S. Mission to the OECD on Combatting Corruption

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