The global economy loses $3.6 trillion to corruption each year, says U.N.

Secretary-General António Guterres said corruption is "an assault on the values of the United Nations."

  • December 9 marked International Anti-Corruption Day.
  • The U.N. has mounted an international campaign to equip individuals, organizations, businesses and governments with tactics they can use to combat corruption in their countries.
  • In a 2017 survey, 25% of worldwide respondents said they had had to pay a bribe to access public services in the past 12 months.

The annual costs of international corruption amount to a staggering $3.6 trillion in the form of bribes and stolen money, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said on International Anti-Corruption Day, December 9.

Corruption can take many forms: bribery, embezzlement, money laundering, tax evasion and cronyism, to name a few. Whatever its shape, corruption always comes at someone's expense, and it often leads to weaker institutions, less prosperity, denial of basic services, less employment and more environmental disasters.

"Fighting corruption is a global concern because corruption is found in both rich and poor countries, and evidence shows that it hurts poor people disproportionately," the U.N. wrote on its website. "It contributes to instability, poverty and is a dominant factor driving fragile countries towards state failure."

The U.N. lists corruption "one of the biggest impediments" to achieving its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, which include the elimination of poverty and hunger, as well as improved education, well-being and infrastructure. That's why the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime have spearheaded an international campaign to equip everyone, from politicians to trade unions, with tactics to combat corruption in their countries.

1 in 4 people worldwide have had to pay a bribe

A 2017 survey from Transparency International, which included responses from 162,136 adults, showed that 25 percent of people worldwide said they had had to pay a bribe to access public services in the past 12 months. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 57 percent of people said their government was doing "badly" at fighting corruption. The survey also found that police and elected officials were ranked as the most corrupt groups, based on global average.

The good news is that more than half of the people surveyed said they felt empowered to make a difference. That's a feeling the U.N. hopes to promote in the years to come.

"People often think that they are at the mercy of corruption and that it is just a "way of life"," the U.N. wrote. "However, every society, sector and citizen would benefit from getting united against corruption in their everyday life."

To check out what you or your organization can do to fight corruption, check out the U.N.'s Call to Action Matrix here.

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