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Summit of the Americas: Governments must act now…

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Dear heads of states and governments,

We, Transparency International’s chapters from the Americas, along with its board and secretariat, urge you to take this moment at the 2022 Summit of the Americas to commit to tackling the continent’s unprecedented crisis of corruption, democratic backsliding and erosion of human rights.

Corruption fuels poverty and inequality and inhibits our ability to combat our toughest challenges – from the pandemic to climate change. To build a sustainable, resilient and equitable future we must take strong action against corruption and open space for civil society and the public to hold power to account.

Yet four years after the 2018 Summit of the Americas in Lima, at which leaders recognised the fight against corruption as essential for strengthening democracy and the rule of law, little progress has been made. Instead, we are seeing the deterioration of anti-corruption efforts, the rise of authoritarianism, and the loss of fundamental rights and freedoms, such as expression, press, association and access to information.

In many countries the executive branch has concentrated power, weakening checks and balances and making it very difficult for oversight bodies to hold power to account. Few have sufficiently independent judiciaries, leaving this branch incapable of investigating and punishing corruption and other abuses. Some elites have co-opted judicial institutions, blocking investigations and threatening honest prosecutors for doing their jobs to investigate corruption and human rights abuses. Simultaneously, civil society, activists and the independent media are increasingly exposed to intimidation, threats, digital attacks and state-sanctioned violence.

Aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, corruption has also undermined social and economic rights, depriving citizens of access to vaccines, as well as basic necessities like food, water, education or quality health. This has disproportionately adverse effects on women, girls, indigenous groups, LGTBQ communities, the elderly, migrants and Afro-descendants – further stratifying societies.

At this critical moment, leaders must take the opportunity to implement policies that support anti-corruption, democracy and fundamental rights. The 2018 Lima Commitment was signed by 35 heads of state and governments, all affirming an ambitious and innovative regional agenda. The commitments were forward thinking, including traditional elements to fight corruption by strengthening fundamental rights, transparency and public integrity as well as developing innovative policies to improve international cooperation and equity across genders and ethnicities.

Rather than develop new commitments, we now call for you to reaffirm the Lima agenda and urgently allocate appropriate resources in the following critical areas.

Reinforcement of democratic governance

  • Develop legal frameworks and financial support for civil society to maintain oversight of governments and hold them to account.
  • Educate students at all levels about democracy and civic values.
  • Include vulnerable communities in anti-corruption efforts, including planning, implementation and evaluation.
  • Appoint public officials through merit and open processes.
  • Publish public officials’ declaration of assets, interests and taxes and regulate their movement between positions of public office and jobs in the private sector.

Transparency, access to information, protection of whistleblowers, and human rights, including freedom of expression

  • Establish systems that encourage reporting of corruption and protect whistleblowers, in accordance with international conventions.
  • Maintain the independence of the judiciary and oversight and control bodies.
  • Develop common systems and statistics to evaluate transparency and access to information and ensure they are readily available to civil society.

Financing of political organizations and election campaigns

  • Increase oversight of candidates and political parties to prevent illicit financing and electoral fraud.
  • Support financing for women and other candidates from vulnerable populations to promote diverse leadership.

Prevention of corruption in public works and public procurement and contracting

  • Openly share quality data on contracting processes.
  • Include anti-corruption clauses in all public contracts.
  • Monitor and evaluate anti-corruption policies with the support of civil society.

International legal cooperation; the fight against bribery, international corruption, organized crime, and money laundering; and asset-recovery

  • Cooperate across borders to allow for the forfeiture of ill-gotten gains through transnational corruption.
  • Adopt and enforce beneficial ownership transparency measures.
  • Develop systems that include due process and allow for the return of wealth and assets to the victims of corruption.
  • Prevent the use cryptocurrency and other virtual assets to launder dirty money or finance illicit activity.

To rescue the Lima commitments and protect democracy across the Americas, we need urgent action to defend civic space and fight corruption.

Signatories

Poder Ciudadano Argentina

Transparência Internacional Brasil

Transparency International Canada

Chile Transparente

Transparencia por Colombia

Costa Rica Íntegra

Participación Ciudadana Republica Dominicana

Fundación Ciudadanía y Desarrollo Ecuador

Funde El Salvador

Acción Ciudadana Guatemala

Transparency Institute of Guyana

Asociación para una Sociedad Más Justa Honduras

National Integrity Action Jamaica

Transparencia Mexicana

Fundación para el Desarrollo de la Libertad Ciudadana Panama

Proética Peru

Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute

Transparency International US

Transparencia Venezuela


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