Highlight 42/2022 – The role of national parliaments in the fight against corruption
Edem K. Medzinyuie, 6 July 2022
According to the World Economic Forum, echoing a statement made by the UN Secretary-General, funds in the form of bribes and stolen money amount to a USD 3.6 trillion each year. No country in the world, developed or not, democratic or not, is spared this scourge. Each state faces corruption in one form or another, to one degree or another.
National parliaments are tasked with dealing with corruption. They carry out this mission through the approval of the annual budget but mostly through the scrutiny of its implementing measures.
At an international level, national parliaments have created an assembly, the Interparliamentary Union (IPU) (in 1889). The IPU reunites 178 national parliaments and aims to be a central international institution fostering a worldwide parliamentary dialogue. This body works for the promotion of peace, democracy, sustainable development and cooperation among peoples as well as for the solid establishment of representative institutions.
The IPU is part of the global coalition aiming to tackle corruption. It adopts a soft-power approach, consisting mainly of global advocacy involving its members and third parties. Its greatest merit is to have, decades before the adoption of the UN Convention on Corruption, recognized the threat representing that phenomenon. In November 1962, it took the lead by proposing a draft convention on measures to be taken in the international field against corrupted public officers. The document was to be submitted to the UN for consideration. In October 1995, the IPU, continuing its fight against corruption, adopted a resolution addressing this problem during an Assembly held in Bucharest (Romania). Both texts urge national parliaments, states and international organizations to accentuate their efforts and involvement in the fight against corruption.
However, there are many stumbling blocks that impede the work of parliamentary institutions charged with the responsibility to reduce government corruption
. For example, autocracy, which is a fertile ground for corruption, undermines the actions of national institutions tasked to deal with corruption. The second obstructing factor is the constitutional majority rule. Since national Governments are appointed by the Parliamentary majority, the one institution supports the other. Budgetary scrutiny is then reduced to its congruent share. Another challenge is the partisanship that dominates modern democracies. Nowadays, the members of the national parliaments privilege the unity and interests of their party over the Nation’s interests.
As for the IPU, its challenges are mostly of legal nature. Unlike its fellow international organizations, its existence and functioning are not founded on a international treaty. As consequence, it has no legal competency to adopt binding regulations with regard to its members. Additionally, it has neither an indisputable legal status nor privileges nor immunity anywhere except Switzerland and the United States of America. Therefore, the IPU is deprived of the means that are indispensable for the fulfilment of its mission.
Despite all these challenges, parliamentary institutions are playing a capital role in the fight against corruption at a national and international level. However, for their input to be more significant, national opposition parties should be more valued in order to counterbalance the effects of the majority rule. Regarding the IPU, it needs to be founded on an international treaty that will grant it with more substantial powers necessary for the achievement of its missions.
Edem K. Medzinyuie, Highlight 42/2022 – The role of national parliaments in the fight against corruption, 6 July 2022, available at www.meig.ch
The views expressed in the MEIG Highlights are personal to the author and neither reflect the positions of the MEIG Programme nor those of the University of Geneva.
 World Economic Forum, Corruption is costing the global economy $3.6 trillion dollars every year, 18 April 2018 available at https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/12/the-global-economy-loses-3-6-trillion-to-corruption-each-year-says-u-n (last accessed 14 June 2022)
 Report of the Delegation of the US to the 51st IPU Conference held in Brasilia, Brazil Oct 24 to Nov 1, 1962, #15 (p.7) available at https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.35112103242097&view=1up&seq=15