Linking Corruption and Human Rights: An Unwelcome Addition to the Development Discourse
CORRUPTION AND HUMAN RIGHTS, Forthcoming
24 Pages Posted: 10 Jun 2010 Last revised: 3 Feb 2021
Date Written: June 10, 2010
As the call for a human rights approach to corruption from within the human rights world is implicitly directed at the developing world, it is necessary to consider it by reference to the development industry. We see two elements to this story. The first is the rise of anti-corruptionism. Instead of simply lamenting the existence of corruption and the harm that it does, we wish to consider why it is that corruption suddenly became the central issue of concern within development – why it became, in the words of one scholar, “the new star of the development scene” in the second half of the 1990s. This paper will suggest that the anti-corruption drive – what this paper will term ‘anti-corruptionism,’ denoting a narrative that places corruption at the centre of development concerns – is tightly bound up with the ‘good governance’ turn within the development discourse and, further, with the shift towards legal formalization. The appearance of corruption as such a central narrative in the relationship between key international institutions and developing countries supports a particular economic account of development and, as such, cannot be understood as neutral. The second element of the story focuses on the second half of the equation and considers the alleged connection from the perspective of the growing domination of human rights at the international level and the seemingly unstoppable drive to frame every aspect of life in terms of human rights concerns. This paper will however argue that corruption does not lend itself well to capture by human rights language. Where the connection between the two is alleged to be one of outcome, we will suggest that it adds little to the stated aims of anti-corruptionism. We will also attempt to draw out the inconsistencies that arise in justifying the connection on the basis of the outcome of corruption. Moreover, while the desire to raise awareness of the potential harm of corruption is noble, this paper will argue that such proposals are harmful to the notion of human rights and counter-productive to the stated aim of ending corruption.
Keywords: Corruption, Human Rights, Development
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