Focus on corruption at European Union Development Days

The European Union Development Days bring together the development community each year to consider and exchange ideas on enhancing international development efforts. The theme of the two day event in Brussels in June this year, was the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in action.

The event attracted high level delegations from donors and the developing world with keynote speakers including the UN Secretary General and the Presidents of Kenya, Mauritius, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Samoa, Ethiopia and Timor-Leste.

At the European Development Days in 2015 Mazars hosted a discussion panel on Business and Human Rights. This year I was privileged to be part of a panel discussion on engaging the private sector in the fight against corruption.

The 17 UN SDGs are aligned to 169 associated targets for delivery by 2030. Although corruption is only explicitly referenced in SDG 16, to “Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms”, the issue of corruption implicitly impacts a number, and arguably all, of the SDGs. It was unsurprising, therefore, that the issue of corruption featured in a number of other debates and panel sessions held during the two day event.

I was joined on the Mazars panel by:

  • Roxana Family, Chair Law and Business Ethics, University of Cergy – Pontoise, France
  • Igor Soltes, Member of the European Parliament for Slovenia
  • Philippe Levrat, Chief Risk and Ethics Officer, Transdev Group, France
  • Simon Webley, Institute of Business Ethics, UK

We were also joined, via video link, by David Lewis, Chair of Corruption Watch, South Africa.

In our session we explored corruption within public procurement in the Balkans, the experience of developing an ethics programme in a multi-national business, and the challenge of civil society engaging the private sector in the war on corruption.

An interesting aspect for me that arose in the discussion, was the dilemma of a commitment from top management to conduct clean business, not being demonstrated ‘in the field’. The corporate anti-corruption debate frequently focuses on the tone-from-the-top, but less frequently explores the disconnect between the stated desire of top management and frontline activities. The ethical communication bottlenecks and internal hurdles that prevent top intentions being enacted at the operational level, should be a focus for embedding a corporate anti-corruption programme.

The panel session also provided an opportunity to congratulate Fola Komolafe, the Mazars Group lead on International Development, who became a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) as part of the Queen’s 90th Birthday celebrations.

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