Transparency International's 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index indicates that the abuse of power, secret dealings and bribery continue to ravage societies around the world. More than two-thirds of the 177 countries in the 2013 index score below 50, on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be very clean).
Corruption in the public sector remains one of the world's biggest challenges, particularly in areas such as political parties, police and justice systems, the organization said, but these activities remain difficult to investigate and prosecute.
"The Corruption Perceptions Index 2013 demonstrates that all countries still face the threat of corruption at all levels of government, from the issuing of local permits to the enforcement of laws and regulations," said Huguette Labelle, chair of Transparency International.
Based on experts’ opinions of public sector corruption, the index is the most widely used indicator of corruption worldwide. Countries’ scores can be improved by strong access to information systems and rules governing the behavior of those in public positions, while a lack of accountability across the public sector coupled with ineffective public institutions hurts these perceptions.
In the 2013 index, Denmark and New Zealand tie for first place with scores of 91. Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia make up the worst performers, scoring just 8 points each. The biggest improvers this year included Myanmar, Brunei, Laos, Senegal and Nepal, while Libya, Spain, Mali and Democratic Republic of Congo make up the biggest decliners when compared to 2012 figures.
"The top performers clearly reveal how transparency supports accountability and can stop corruption," Labelle said. "Still, the better performers face issues like state capture, campaign finance and the oversight of big public contracts which remain major corruption risks."
As TriplePundit's Leon Kaye observed when writing about the index back in 2010, many of the countries that rank poorly are in regions that philanthropists and poverty relief organizations often fret about the most. Africa is mostly red, as are wide swaths of Latin America and Asia. This doesn't mean relief efforts in these regions aren't working, but it does indicate that governments with seemingly hostile business environments may have trouble attracting outside investment and lose out financially as a result. While it's difficult to quantify, the estimated annual cost of corruption worldwide is $1.26 trillion, enough to lift the 1.4 billion people living on less than $1.25 a day above this threshold for at least six years, according to Transparency International UK.
"It is time to stop those who get away with acts of corruption. The legal loopholes and lack of political will in government facilitate both domestic and cross-border corruption, and call for our intensified efforts to combat the impunity of the corrupt," said Labelle.
Image credit: Corruption Perceptions Index 2013 map and results courtesy of Transparency International
Based in Philadelphia, Mary Mazzoni is a freelance journalist who frequently writes about sustainability, corporate social responsibility and clean tech. Mary also contributes to Earth911; her work has appeared on the Huffington Post, Sustainable Brands and The Daily Meal. You can follow her on Twitter @mary_mazzoni.