A recent conference demonstrated that civil society efforts to fight the destructive impact of international corruption is increasingly focused on corruption’s impact on climate, natural resource governance and conservation—as well as whistleblowers’ role in uncovering it.
Just in time for International Anti-Corruption Day on December 9th, last week’s International Anti-Corruption Conference, convened every two years by the global organization Transparency International, featured three panels on these issues. Each highlighted the multi-national nature of corruption and the natural resource sector’s high vulnerability to corruption.
In one panel titled “The Future of Anti-Corruption in the Natural Resource Space,” moderator Norm Eisen of the Brookings Institution stated that “no purely domestic case of corruption in natural resource governance exists.” Yet the United States has historically been a leader in fighting cross-border corruption with strong laws like the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), according to panelist Alexandra Gillies of the Natural Resources Governance Institute (NRGI).
Gilles said the incoming presidential administration can further strengthen its leadership role by implementing transparency rules such as the Corporate Transparency Act, legislation included in an annual defense bill adopted by Congress this week that would fight money laundering by ending anonymous company registration, as well as Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act.
Section 1504 resulted from a bipartisan amendment to the 2010 Act requiring companies to disclose payments to foreign governments in exchange for developing oil, gas, or minerals. The amendment has won support from the financial industry, civil society and other major economies such as Canada and the European Union, but opposition from oil and gas companies that want to hide their financial details. The Securities and Exchange Commission has fielded several rules attempting to implement the amendment that were struck down by opponents. Transparency advocates—including NWC—believe the current proposed rule is too weak and should be redrafted next year. A vote is scheduled on the matter next week.
In another IACC panel titled “Collaborating to Tackle Corruption, Climate Change and Nature Loss,” Alain Bernard Ononino of the World Wildlife Fund explained how sharing documents on social media led to the unraveling of a major timber-trafficking scandal in Gabon, implicating 13 high-ranking officials and a Chinese businessman. Though the vital role of whistleblowers in fighting corruption was explored in other conference panels, this story showed how critical insider information is to penetrating natural resources supply chains.
The vital role of environmental whistleblowers was echoed in a third IACC panel titled “Climate Corruption: Time for Integrity,” featuring panelists from NRGI, the Environmental Investigations Agency (EIA), and the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which provides financing to developing countries to implement climate change adaptation and mitigation policies and projects. Ibrahim Pan of GCF said whistleblowers were responsible for 30 to 40 percent of reports about fraud among grantees or employees to the GCF and that the GCF has implemented a whistleblower policy to maintain the organization’s integrity.
This blog post by WWF’s Targeting Natural Resources Corruption project in honor of International Anti-Corruption Day picks out the threads running through all the panels: Vulnerability of global supply chains, importance of understanding political and cultural contexts of corruption, and need for transparency in order to “follow the money.” We would add to that list crucial protections for insiders who often understand how these threads intertwine better than experts. These protections are expanding across the world with initiatives such as the European Center for Whistleblower Rights, a new partnership between NWC and Whistleblowing International. As emphasized in all of NWC’s anti-corruption campaigns, whistleblowers around the world can use the strong transnational protections in U.S. laws such as Dodd-Frank, FCPA and the Lacey Act to bring the injustices they witness to light. Now that natural resources corruption is receiving increased attention, hopefully these laws will too.