October 10, 2014 OPINION/NEWS

business manager handshake isolated with hundred dollar money



Anant Mishra

The prevention of bribery and corruption in political processes is a key challenge to the effective and undiscriminating operation of the public sector as well as sound policy making in many countries across the globe. It is an unfortunate fact that public officials often take advantage of their position, in order to gain unfair financial or other advantages, sometimes even through extortion and similar techniques.

Over the years, leaders of many governments have been making an effort to devise effective mechanisms to prevent bribery and corruption in political processes.  However, their objective was hard to accomplish due to the nature of the subject matter. Corruption is perpetuated in several different forms, which often require an unfeasible degree of supervision monitoring the concerned processes.  The delegates are called to develop innovative and feasible mechanisms, which can be put in place so as to prevent the abovementioned phenomena. This study guide provides fundamental background information on the issue assesses already existing national as well as international mechanisms, analyses the various standards put in place by the United Nations (UN) as well as other supranational bodies and directs the delegates in the formulation of implementable solutions.


Background Information

The European Colonial Period (approx. 16th – 19th century AD) 

Bribery may also more generally refer to an illegal (or even immoral) payment from one party to another in return for some kind of favour. Although the concept of political corruption had existed since the beginning of civilization (and the birth of organized society), it thrived particularly during the colonial era.  European invasions into foreign lands were followed by oppression and large scale exploitation of the local populations by colonizers for the acquisition of raw materials and/or intermediates (such as coffee, tobacco and tea) and their transportation to their domestic industries. Of course, this practice was a major factor in the accelerated development and growth of the European economy of that time. Major colonial powers, such as the UK, also relocated part of their domestic population to the colonies granting them large pieces of land in fertile areas.  This whole situation proved to be fertile ground for the development of corruption among government officials who exercised their powers in the colonies as representatives of the invading country. Far away from their superiors, in the unstable and insecure environment of the colonies these officials took advantage of their position and expected special favours in return for the discharge (or not) of their duties. The existence of two ethnical, social, economic and political classes with the resulting exploitation of local populations only added to this situation.


Corruption during the Post-Colonial Era 

After years of looking for ways of ousting the colonial governments, many natives decided to engage in armed struggle so as to achieve their independence. A majority of them were not successful at first. However, after the two world wars European nations were not able to hold on to most of their colonies. After the achievement of independence, most of the leaders who fought for it made significant strides in developing their countries. This was followed by a period, in which these countries strived for economic development. The era immediately after independence was characterized by leaders who were statesmen. Their main objectives were to eliminate poverty and ensure that their countries would develop stable public institutions.  Many of the leaders who rose to power after these countries had well established institutions and their economies were performing quite well (compared to colonial times). Thus, many of these leaders sought to pursue their own interests and embarked on a process of acquiring wealth through questionable means. In that process, they were gluttonous and ended up embezzling state properties and funds, which became the predominant form of corruption of the time.

In the United States, the 20th century was characterized by competitive politics. The reason for this was the fact that most of the large corporations were formed during this period. Most of these corporations would fund the electoral campaign of their preferred candidate with the objective of earning the favour of his future administration. This funding turned to be an indirect form of bribery. Upon gaining power through such means, a candidate who had been funded through this process was inclined to twist the rules in one way or another as a favour to their allies, in order to ensure further support in future campaigns. As a result, most corporations in the country started playing an important role in both local and national elections.  Of course (and as usually), this system operated at the cost of national interests and the general public.


The contemporary situation in More Economically Developed Countries (MEDCs) 

It would be false to claim that this practice has ended. With the existence of a well established judicial system in America, the perpetrators of such crimes can be prosecuted appropriately in a court of law. However, the government has not been successful in reducing the level of bribery in the political system. This can be attributed to the complex and indirect ways of transmitting the involved funds, which are hard to trace. This transition to indirect and legally as well as technically complex means of bribery constitutes the major challenge for the political systems of most (MEDCs), while other forms of corruption such as patronage and embezzlement are more common than ever.


The situation in Less Economically Developed Countries (LEDCs) 

In most LEDCs, bribery and corruption are rampant in political systems. The low standards of living and education, the high poverty rates and widespread illiteracy allow for the preservation of a minimum-transparency political system by officials and effectively prevent public critique of governmental practices. More often than not, the national checks and balances are of poor standard. As a result of this, the act of bribery becomes easier. Citizens are easily swayed by hand-outs and prefer to vote for petty cash or some essential goods. However, with the increase in the number of persons who are literate in these countries, the level of voter bribery is likely to reduce. This is because a large percentage of the electorate is well informed of the quality of leaders that they would like to elect.  In addition, more people are now able to secure decent, well paying jobs. This has brought about a situation where there has been a rise in the standards of living of the electorate, leading to a decline in the reliance on hand-outs. There has also been an increase in the number of civil society groups that are championing for the development of credible institutions. Some countries have even gone as far as to establish governmental agencies mandated with combating corruption. Other countries such as China and Japan have put in place stringent laws to govern bribery and corruption. Such efforts have brought about a significant decline in the levels of corruption that is prevalent in such countries.


Major Countries and Organizations Involved

The United Nations      

The United Nations has a Department of Political Affairs that seeks to ensure that all elections carried out throughout the world are in conformity with international standards. It is through this department that the United Nations is able to play an oversight role through the institution of electoral observers. In some cases, the United Nations Department of Political Affairs can be appointed to manage the elections of a country. This is especially common in newly founded or revolutionized countries.  A good example is that of Tunisia:  After the citizens of Tunisia overthrew the government of President Ben Ali, the people of Tunisia called upon the United Nations to manage the electoral process. Most recently after the ousting of President Muammar Gaddafi from office, the United Nations has been given the responsibility of organizing elections in the country. This is a very challenging task given that the citizens of Libya had not taken part in any democratic elections since Gaddafi ascended to power in 1969/1970.


The African Union (AU) 

Many political systems in Africa are characterized by bribery and corruption. This has mainly been due to a lack of well established institutions and a widespread culture of impunity, which has been propagated over the years. When perpetrators of bribery and corruption were found guilty, most of them sought political asylum from neighbouring countries. Additionally, most countries haven’t enforced extradition treaties; consequently, the individuals can easily evade prosecution. In light of this, the African Union decided to host a conference on an “African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance”. The main objective of this conference was to deliberate on matters pertaining to efficiency in governance. During the meeting, the AU member states arrived at a consensus on collaborating in an attempt to curb corruption in Africa.



Mexico has one of the highest levels of bribery and corruption worldwide. This has allowed drug barons to conduct their illegal trade with minimal interference from the authorities, thus contributing to an alarming increase in the level of domestic and cross border drug trafficking. One of the side-effects of this development was a sharp increase in gang related violence. The high levels of bribery and corruption have entered Mexico’s political system and have influenced domestic political processes to such an extent, that many citizens found it pointless to participate in elections. However, it is worth noting that the country has been making strides in a bid to end this menace. For instance, the country passed an anti-corruption law which targets the whole political system.


United States of America 

Over the years, the U.S. has faced numerous challenges with respect to its political system, including several large scale corruption related scandals. This has brought about a situation whereby the legislature has passed numerous bills and acts of parliament so as to reduce and prevent corruption within the country. Examples include the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 and Ethics in Government Act of 1978.


Relevant International Treaties, Resolutions and Events United Nations Convention against Corruption

In its resolution 55/61 of 4 December 2000, the General Assembly recognized that an effective international legal instrument against corruption, independent of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (resolution 55/25, annex I) was desirable and decided to establish an ad hoc committee for the negotiation of such an instrument in Vienna at the headquarters of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.  The text of the United Nations Convention against Corruption was negotiated during seven sessions of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Negotiation of the Convention against Corruption, held between 21 January 2002 and 1 October 2003.  The Convention approved by the Ad Hoc Committee was adopted by the General Assembly by resolution 58/4 of 31 October 2003. The General Assembly, in its resolution 57/169 of 18 December 2002, accepted the offer of the Government of Mexico to host a high-level political signing conference in Merida for the purpose of signing the United Nations Convention against Corruption.  In accordance with article 68 (1) of resolution 58/4, the United Nations Convention against Corruption entered into force on 14 December 2005. A Conference of the States Parties is established to review implementation and facilitate activities required by the Convention.





Anant Mishra

Anant Mishra is a former youth representative for United Nations. Almost 4 years of experience, he has served in number of committees including United Nations Conference for Trade and Development and United Nations General Assembly primarily focusing on international trade, education, finance, economics. food crisis And disputes. He is available on


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