Personal ethics not enough to fight global corruption

Title: Personal ethics not enough to fight global corruption
Publication: New Europe / The European Political Newspaper
Date: 03 December 2012
Author: New Europe Online

Individual ethics are not enough to change the culture of global corruption, despite their obvious force for good in modern business, instead, business organisations have to provide a clear ethical context for companies to operate within, a leading legal personality has told New Europe.

Speaking after an appearance at the World Forum for Ethics in Business in Brussels, Luic Moreno Ocampo, first prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) said that “that one honest man” is not going to save a company from being corrupt, it is up to individuals and organisations to draw up a concise set of rules to ensure ethical business practices. As he had previously put it, “Mafia treasurers are very honest people, otherwise they would be killed, but the organisations they work for are far from ethical”.

Speaking at the event, Ocampo, who has a distinguished record in prosecuting fraud and corruption cases, and who also served as deputy prosecutor in the military junta trials in his native Argentina, said that corruption often occurs out of a sense of “non-belonging” the question that needs to be settled, he said, is “do we belong to our organisation or do we belong to our humanity?” He used the example of a bribery case involving a top executive at industrial giant Siemans, who felt compelled to corruption out of a sense that it was benefiting the organisation; he was a good company man, he thought.

This is where the system breaks down, he told New Europe afterwards. “He was hired by Siemans precisely because he was considered so honest in the first place. So, is ethics simply about honesty? The answer is no”.

Fighting corruption, he says, needs to be addressed on three levels; through personal integrity, business organisation, and at the macro-level, namely “global companies working out a global institutional system”.

This last point, he says, requires a “new mentality” from top leaders. The key, he continues, is to “establish global governance without global government”, something the European Union is grappling with, and that has also occupied the mind of the ICC. “The EU is a good example to follow in seeing how far this can go while keeping a fair amount of national sovereignty”.

“In business, often there is an agreement on basic rules, but independent monitoring, that bis usually the missing part of every global treaty”, he says.

In the future, he says, citizens will have an increased role in holding big corporations to account, in much the same way that certain global regimes have also felt the pressure of the social media generation. “I believe the world is changing at a speed we don’t understand”, says Ocampo. “New technology will allow for a lot more individual pressure on international organisations. They will have to comply with laws, laws that are different territories”.

He says that it is important to stay positive about the future, and believes the EU will continue to remain the touchstone for change, on both a political and business level. “In Europe, the state will be like the business”.