Corruption is one of the most pervasive types of crime: it fuels transnational crime, wastes public resources, destabilizes countries, and impedes good governance. Authoritarian countries and those veering towards authoritarianism increasingly weaponize corruption to perpetuate power at home and undermine democracy around the world.
While no country is immune to this threat and the United States approaches this challenge with humility, engaging other countries to promote integrity and accountability is a priority for INL, key to its mission to protect U.S. interests and safeguard U.S. citizens from crime and instability. To promote reform, INL is committed to advancing a holistic approach that establishes anti-corruption regimes which balance prevention and enforcement and empower internal (e.g., inspectors general) and external (e.g., legislative, journalistic, citizen) oversight. To sustain this effort, INL engages in high-level diplomacy, develops and funds projects to build partner capacity, and reinforces the important role played by civil society, the media, and the business community. INL has an important role in leading U.S. participation in major multilateral anti-corruption bodies to advance U.S. priorities and in mobilizing international political will (and resources) to address the most pressing corruption issues.
INL’s specific priorities to combat anti-corruption are:
Strengthen Regimes to Prevent Corruption and Bring Corrupt Actors to Justice
An anti-corruption regime refers to the legal frameworks, institutions, and capacities that countries enact and sustain to prevent, detect, and prosecute corruption. Legal reforms are insufficient without capacity to implement or enforce them, such as the ability to effectively investigate, prosecute, and adjudicate crimes. As corruption is increasingly transnational in nature, the ability of officials of individual countries to prevent and pursue corruption must be complemented by regional and global efforts and measures to support effective international cooperation and partnerships.
Enhance International Cooperation and Partnerships
INL’s efforts to strengthen country systems are enhanced by strengthening the abilities of countries to cooperate internationally and building up frameworks that facilitate such cooperation. This includes capacity building efforts related to strengthening international legal cooperation, complex case investigation, asset recovery, and multi-country networks of practitioners. These relationships and networks often benefit U.S. law enforcement in their pursuit of schemes with a nexus to the United States.
International treaties establish clear roadmaps for reform measures and benchmarks against which to hold countries to account. The United States helped negotiate the (UNCAC) and is working around the world to assist governments fulfill their obligations under this comprehensive set of standards. UNCAC covers all aspects of combating corruption, and with over 189 States parties, it is nearly universal. Through UNCAC, as well as separate anticorruption treaties enforced through the Organization of American States (OAS) and Council of Europe’s Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO), the United States has led the effort to promote reforms in areas such as bribery, conflicts of interest, procurement, and independence of judges.
As one of the Department’s primary leads on multilateral anti-corruption policy, INL also coordinates U.S. participation in and engagement with a variety of high-profile multilateral bodies and initiatives, including within the auspices of the UNCAC, OAS, APEC, G7, and the G20, as well as the anti-corruption pillars of President Biden’s signature Summit for Democracy Initiative and the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF). Through this engagement, INL helps develop and promote strong international standards and encourage implementation of policies and practices necessary to effectively counter corruption around the world.
Denying Safe Haven
Denying corrupt individuals access to the United States and global financial systems sends a strong message about our values, and it demonstrates in meaningful ways that there are consequences for those who engage in corruption. INL manages visa restriction authorities that allow for publicly and privately designating corrupt officials and private citizens engaged in official corruption as ineligible for entry into the United States. INL also works with the U.S. Department of Justice and international organizations to help countries pursue the proceeds of corruption located abroad. For example, INL support has allowed INTERPOL to convene a global network of asset recovery practitioners and to train investigators and prosecutors from countries across Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia to track and recover stolen public assets. Both economic sanctions and visa restrictions have exposed corruption and blocked corrupt officials at all levels of government from visiting and spending their ill-gotten gains in the United States.
In addition to INL’s foreign assistance and diplomatic engagement to strengthen anticorruption efforts and promote action, some INL efforts to combat corruption focus on individual conduct. INL approaches balance the imposition of consequences with incentives for reform, recognizing that positive messaging can be equally consequential when it inspires action or extends protection. In addition to supporting individual leaders through the Bureau’s foreign assistance programs, INL coordinates the Secretary’s recognition of brave and impactful advocates and reformers through the Department’s global Anti-Corruption Champions Award.
Leverage Coordination and Learning to Combat Corruption
As a learning organization, INL is continually investing in means to improve the effectiveness of foreign assistance and policy approaches. INL supports the distillation of research to enhance its understanding of what is and is not effective in countering corruption, as well as undertakes or underwrites new research to address current evidence gaps. INL works closely with others in the U.S. government as well as the private sector and civil society organizations as they advance important elements of good governance and integrity, such as the Open Government Partnership Initiative, the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials, the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.