The fight against corruption and human right

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The fight against corruption and human right

Corruption is a major cause of numerous human rights violations. In consideration to respect of human rights, we observe a general trend towards the coexistence of endemic corruption and institutional failure. Countries where the Index of Perceptions of Corruption (IPC) is high are also most frequently cited for serious human rights violations.

Corruption indirectly violates the most basic human rights, by hijacking democratic governance, and depriving states of resources needed to carry out basic functions and provision of basic services. In addition, corruption affects negatively different groups such as women, children, the vulnerable, the poor, people with disability, the elderly, refugees and displaced persons.


Corruption is in itself a violation of the fundamental principle of equality of citizens before the law, from which results multiple other violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

Although countries’ commitments to fight corruption and respect for human rights are sometimes carried out in parallel, in fact they share the same principles: equal participation, accountability, democratization, and the inclusion of marginalized populations. Once implemented, these concepts can help improve the conditions of people, and the functioning of the state, establishing common goals for human rights and anti-corruption movements. However, anti-corruption (AC) and human rights (HR) movements use different language to describe their work. The issues listed below highlight the corresponding terms used in each domain of action:


•     Fighting corruption in politics and justice system (AC) is also to guarantee civil and political rights (HR)

•     Fighting against marginalization and exclusion (AC) is also to protect the right to non-discrimination and equality (HR)

•     Ensuring the delivery of public services (AC) is also to ensure economic, social and cultural rights (HR)

Although some actions and objectives are similar between the two movements (AC and HR), there are still some disputes when it comes to putting them into practice. By way of example:

•     Governments can set up an anti-corruption programme which does not respect human rights;

•     National legislative measures to improve the effectiveness of anti-corruption efforts may conflict with human rights laws, norms and values;

•     Anti-corruption can harm marginalized groups and thereby block their access to essential services;

•     The tools to fight international corruption can demonstrate legal inadequacy when it comes to respecting human rights.

Despite these challenges, a number of similarities between the two movements (AC and HR) concern the possibility of developing joint actions in order to guide the work of anti-corruption to a greater focus on human rights. The areas of action could be:


•        To examine corruption as the cause of human rights violations: a growing need to recognize and analyze how corruption contributes to human rights violation, and how the findings could be incorporated in the two movements’ publications;

•        To collaborate in order to increase awareness: advocacy against corruption and for human rights could be aligned more effectively to highlight the common characteristics of their respective organisations and through different frameworks;


•        To align strategies and political activities: Political activities within each movement can strengthen their ties and benefit for mutual support;

•        To understand citizens’ accountability mechanisms as a platform for the harmonization of the actions of the two movements.


The objective of the fight against corruption was largely to put an end to grave abuses that distort the political process and allow individuals to gain power even though they do not represent the people they govern. It also seeks to promote an independent, impartial and effective judiciary.

Thus, the reduction of corruption helps improve access to public services, including for the poorest and most vulnerable citizens. It also helps to improve transparency as a way to increase the impact of natural resources’ wealth in the development process. Therefore, concerns about issues of human rights are of similar nature and aim:  to respect, protect and fulfill these priorities. However, despite the challenges, there are many areas where the priorities for each of the two  movements are complementary.