In the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2016, Nepal was ranked 131 out of 176 countries surveyed, with a low score of 29. Nepal is listed as one of the most corrupt countries in the world as the nations with score below 50 are perceived to be highly corrupt. Likewise, according to the latest report of the Transparency International Nepal, published a few months before, a total of 40.8 percent service seekers in Nepal are obliged to pay a bribe while receiving services from government offices. These instances show that corruption is rampant in this country.
Corruption poses serious challenges to development, good governance, rule of law and human rights. Former United Nations (UN) Secretary General Kofi Annan once said, “Corruption is an insidious plague that has a wide range of corrosive effects on societies. It undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to violations of human rights, distorts markets, erodes the quality of life and allows organised crime…” This implies that corruption is a serious impediment to the realisation of human rights, democracy and peace.
As the government institutions and service providing agencies in Nepal are found to be highly corrupt, they are compromising with public services, including education, health, employment, food and housing, which are essential for the realisation of fundamental human rights. Consequently, corruption has contributed to inequitable access to public services, favouring only those who are able to influence authority through power, position and bribes. Poor, marginalised and disadvantaged groups are, thus, particularly affected as they cannot influence the government institutions and corrupt officials as they cannot afford bribes while receiving public services.
Of late, many countries and international organisations, including the UN, have become increasingly mindful of the negative impacts of corruption on the realisation of human rights. Corruption negatively impacts on the enjoyment of human rights, and the denial and violation of human rights breed corruption.
Corruption and human rights related abuses and impunity can be reduced by upholding the human rights and anti-corruption related common values in all spheres of public services and government institutions. These values include transparency, accountability, participation, right to information, equality, non-discrimination, etc. Since human rights and anti-corruption have common tenets, a human rights-based approach could be an effective tool in combating corruption. The rights based approach integrates the norms and principles of human rights in anti-corruption efforts to advance the rights of the people. The rights based approach to anti-corruption requires strengthening government institutions, including formulation and effective implementation of anti-corruption laws and policies. The approach requires that human rights principles are promoted in all spheres of the government institutions for people centric and corruption free service delivery.
As per this approach, the capacity of both the duty bearers and rights holders has to be strengthened simultaneously for combating corruption. Thus, the duty bearers such as the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), the Office of the Auditor General, National Vigilance Center, Department of Money Laundering Investigation, and the Judicial Council should be strengthened so that they can fulfill their legal obligations to combat corruption. On the other hand, the government should empower the rights holders, i.e. citizen, by generating awareness on corruption and enabling them to raise a voice against it. People’s voice should be heard and integrated into the relevant plans, policies, programmes and legislation for making necessary improvement in corruption control.
Transparency and accountability are key values of a human rights based approach to anti-corruption strategies. Transparency and accountability can be strengthened through effective implementation of laws and policies that ensure the public access to information on governmental processes, decisions and policies that reinforce participatory and transparent decision making process. Promotion and acceptance of these principles in government institutions, political processes and social sectors are essential for both reducing corruption and ensuring human rights of the people. Citizens’ access to and understanding of official information discourages corruption and makes the public authority more accountable towards people. Citizens’ access to information and monitoring of public institutions can also contribute to the reduction of abuses of power and corruption.
Likewise, people’s active participation in policy formulation and its implementation can improve the effectiveness of the public policies, programmes and services. Right to participation enables people to monitor how well public officials are performing their duties. The rights based approach pays particular attention to the participation of disadvantaged, marginalised and vulnerable groups in decision making process that would ensure that their needs and interests are addressed while formulating and implementing programmes and policies. People’s participation makes the duty bearers accountable on their duty towards fulfillment of human rights and combating corruption.
Anti-corruption initiatives will be more productive if there is a strong coordination and cooperation among human rights institutions, anti-corruption agencies, law enforcement agencies, judiciaries, the media, private sectors and civil society for the common goal of combating corruption and establishing human rights and justice. Anti-corruption and human rights institutions, including the National Human Rights Commission, should conduct promotional campaigns against corruption and recommend the government for necessary reforms on the government institutions to make them more transparent and accountable to the public. Civil society’s effort in making the government and its institutions accountable and transparent also plays a vital role in reducing corruption. The media can play an important function to promote human rights and anti-corruption awareness among people.
Thus, rights based anti-corruption could be an effective measure in combating corruption and promoting human rights of all people. All government institutions should uphold rights based values, such as transparency, accountability, participation, equality and non-discrimination while delivering services to the public to this effect.