Lack of transparency breeds corruption. Political corruption affects us all. We elect politicians and political parties expecting them to act in the public interest. By electing them we give them access to public resources and the power to take decisions that impact on our lives. Given this privileged position, immense damage can be inflicted by politicians or parties acting out of greed, or in the service of those who bankroll their ascent to power. Citizens in three out of four countries consider political parties as the most corrupt institutions.

In politics transparency is introduced as a means of holding public officials accountable. When government meetings are open to the press and the public, when budgets and financial statements may be reviewed by anyone, when laws, rules and decisions are open to discussion, they are seen as transparent and there is less opportunity for the authorities to abuse the system in their own interest.

Public contracting is one important area where corruption breeds. In most countries, contracting activities are performed by all levels of government, from municipalities and towns, to provinces and national or federal governments. Corruption in public contracting leads to a distortion of fair competition, to the waste of scare resources and to the neglect of basic needs, perpetuating poverty. It adds to the costs of government procurement, and frequently results in inferior quality goods and services and unnecessary purchases.

Judicial corruption is another area of major concern. It denies citizens impartial settlement of disputes with neighbors or the authorities. When the latter occurs, corrupt judiciaries fracture and divide communities by keeping alive the sense of injury created by unjust treatment and mediation. Corruption occurs at every step of the judicial system, ranging from political interference in the judicial process by government agencies, to small-scale bribery by court clercks. The executive may affect the independence of the judiciary through appointment of members of judiciary not based on objective criteria, outright selling of judgeships and removal of judges critical towards the government. A judge may solicit bribes to delay or accelerate court hearings, or to simply decide a case in favour of a particular party. Lawyers may expedite or delay cases, sometimes working in unison with a judge and/or a prosecutor. Judicial systems debased by bribery undermine confidence in governance by facilitating corruption across all sectors of government.

Education is central to preventing corruption. Teaching ethics to schoolchildren or university students, showing the importance of integrity to public officials, and raising general public awareness helps fighting corruption. But when the education system itself is corrupt, how can children learn the values that underlie a transparent and accountable society? When money counts more than knowledge in the quest for a diploma, studying and learning lose their purpose. Illegitimate fees and bribes pose an obstacle for the poor to access education, and corruption in school management and in the process of accreditation of educational institutions leads to poor quality education. Corruption in education is also incompatible with one of education’s major aims: producing citizens that respect the law and human rights.