By DR SANJEEV CHOPRA
Uttarakhand will host the second G20 AntiCorruptionWorking Group (ACWG) meeting at Narendra Nagar, Rishikesh, on 25-27 May – the second in the series of the three meetings assigned to the state. The first, the Chief Scientific Adviser’s Round Table was held from 28 to 30 March at Ramnagar, and the third one – on infrastructure – will also be held at Narendra Nagar from 26 to 28 June. For a small state like Uttarakhand, it is indeed an honour, and recognition of its ability to organise multilateral conferences.
The Working Groups of G20
But beyond the spectacle and the media blitz surrounding the conference, let me share with the readers the concept of the working groups under G20. As G20 does not have a permanent secretariat like the UN or the EU or the Commonwealth, it was agreed that rather than create ‘structures’, it was best to have the widest possible network of consultations among the key stakeholders, policy makers and governance professionals to ensure that there is a deeper understanding of shared concerns and the practical steps to achieve the intended goals. Thus, G20 has thirteen working groups, namely Agriculture Working Group, Anti Corruption Working Group (ACWG), Employment Framework for Growth, Working Group on Inclusion, Green Finance Study Group, Health Working Group, International Financial Architecture Working Group, Sustainability Working Group (Energy and Climate), Trade and Investment Working Group and the Task Force on Digital Economy.
As the focus of this column is on the ACWG, it bears recall that while the forum was launched at the Toronto Summit in 2010, the main declaration was drawn up at St Petersburg during the Russian presidency in 2013. The St Petersburg conference resolved that ‘corruption remains a serious challenge, impeding economic growth and development, threatening the integrity of markets, undermining fair competition, distorting resource allocation and undermining public trust and the rule of law’. The conference agreed that ‘corruption was a severe impediment to building prosperity and security for our countries and communities and undermined the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’.
New Vulnerabilities in a Global Economy
The forms and manifestations of corruption are constantly evolving, and new vulnerabilities, especially in a context of economic crisis, increase opportunities and incentives for corrupt behaviour. The prevention of, and the fight against corruption, had to be conducted in a manner consistent with our obligations with regard to and respect for all human rights, justice, democracy and the rule of law at all levels.
This becomes important as the global economy is getting more integrated, and the fallouts of corruption can have a debilitating effect on the economies, not just of the member nations, but also those which are still struggling with institutional mechanisms to cope with this. Thus, sharing best practices amongst the nations will help the evolution of a common protocol to address these issues.
Can ICT address Corruption?
What is it that India has to offer specifically in this group? First and foremost is the application of ICT to address issues of corruption. Second is the aspect of transparency in financial transactions. Then there is the contested question of the political funding of elections. Even though the jury is still out on the roll out of electoral bonds, the ACWG has taken up the question of the role of big money in the financing of elections at all levels. India does have the legal mechanism in place, but there is the need to involve civil society to address the issue of corruption. Last but not the least, there is the need to sensitise Gen X about the inter-relatedness of corruption at all levels. When building rules are violated, or examination papers are leaked, or criminal cases thwarted because of political influence, this is also corruption.
Chipko was a Movement against Corruption
But we in Uttarakhand also have the sterling example of how, during the Chipko Movement, women were not just protecting the environment, but also agitating against the corrupt nexus between corporate interests and forest officials. It is hoped and expected that this conference will contribute to mitigating the cancerous impact of corruption in public life.
(Sanjeev Chopra is a historian, public policy analyst and the Festival Director of Valley of Words, an International Literature and Arts festival based out of Dehradun. He was a member of the IAS, and superannuated as the Director of the LBS National Academy of Administration)