Background paper prepared by the Inter-Parliamentary Union
for the Second Global Forum on Fighting Corruption and Safeguarding Integrity
The Hague (Netherlands), 28-31 May 2001

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), which was founded in 1889 and has its headquarters in Geneva, is the world organisation of national parliaments. It is the oldest multilateral political institution with a mission to foster peace and security through political dialogue. It also seeks to promote democracy and respect for human rights and to contribute to the development of representative and effective legislative institutions.

As a political forum, the IPU brings together delegates of parliaments from around the globe on a regular basis, representing every system and the entire spectrum of political currents and parties. Through resolutions and reports, the organisation expresses the views and positions of the world parliamparliamentary community on issues of international interest and makes recommendations for parliamentary action.

The IPU is an official international organisation that works closely with the United Nations system. It provides a parliamentary dimension to the UN by encouraging direct participation and involvement of national parliaments and their members in UN activities and by extending parliamentary support to the UN at international level.

The present paper has been prepared by the IPU Secretariat to serve as a working document during the session on the role of parliaments and supreme audit institutions at the 2nd Global Forum on fighting corruption and safeguarding integrity. It contains a statement of the IPU's position regarding corruption and presents a number of recommendations for parliamentary action and mechanisms to combat this scourge.


Corruption is a global phenomenon which occurs in developed and developing countries alike and has existed at all times and in virtually every society, albeit to varying degrees. Although its manifestations vary from country to country according to the level of economic development and attitudes to it differ from one culture to another, corruption is fundamentally the same evil wherever it occurs. It has grown at an alarming rate in recent years due in particular to liberalisation and globalisation, the widespread introduction and use of new technologies and the increasing role of multi-national corporations in a rapidly evolving political and economic context.

Corruption is a serious threat to the rule of law, the stability and security of societies. It jeopardizes the fair distribution of resources since it undermines fundamental democratic values and institutions and impedes social, economic and political development and the enjoyment of human rights.

Links between corruption and other forms of crime, particularly organised crime, terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering and other economic crime at both national and international level are very disturbing.

Integrity, accountability and transparency of the political system and the civil service are a fundamental requirement for trust, credibility and authority of government in a modern and democratic society.

The emergence of new forms of corruption, coupled with its traditional forms, calls for the intensification of international co-operation, including the establishment of an international legal framework and the speedy implementation of the relevant international instruments.

Parliaments, in discharging the functions provided for in national constitutions, namely, legislating, overseeing the Government and representing the people, have a pre-eminent role to play in the global drive to curb corruption.



a. Law-making

Most parliaments are empowered to establish the legal framework for the organization and management of public affairs and society. In general, they should promote the inclusion in their national constitution of the major principles of the probity of political figures, institutions and public servants and transparency in public administration. They can play a particularly important role as follows:
  • Vote appropriate anti-corruption legislation that criminalizes corruption and provides for appropriate punishment and other deterrent measures. In particular, incorporate provisions into the criminal code, administrative law and all other areas of law to reduce the scope of corruption and related offences, and introduce penalties that deter potential offenders;
  • Vote integrity legislation for members of parliaments and other public officials, including members of government and other government officials and see to it that this legislation is enforced. This legislation would include, inter alia codes of ethics/conduct, declaration of interest, conflict of interest, etc;
  • Ensure that appropriate oversight legislation is adopted to ensure transparency and accountability in government and public affairs;
  • Lobby their governments to sign and/or ratify relevant international instruments and see to it that the provisions of these instruments are written into national legislation and enforced as such;
  • Promote the passage of freedom of information legislation that allows for the disclosure by government of information considered necessary for the conduct of parliamentary business, especial in investigating cases of corruption;
  • Promote party-funding and electoral campaign legislation that fosters transparency in the electoral process and thus increases the legitimacy of the elected parliament. Such legislation should, among other things oblige political parties and groups to declare the sources of their funding and should institute heavy penalties for those who infringe it;
  • Promote legislation that addresses areas which have a potential for corruption, through: adequate social security for every citizen; introducing public service pay structures which are not conducive to corruption; establishing speedy and transparent bureaucratic procedures; guaranteeing that all participate equitably in the decision-making process;
  • Streamline and ensure the equity of laws and regulations on government procurement procedures, taxation, the administration of justice, etc.
b. Oversight
Parliaments need to make maximum use of constitutional and other legal mechanisms for ensuring oversight of government and thereby promoting transparency and accountability in government. In so doing, they should adopt and/or strengthen processes in the following ways:
  • Institute and/or reinforce mechanisms within parliament for bringing government to account, including through questions to the government, optimum use of committees to scrutinize government business. In this regard, Parliaments may consider establishing and/or strengthening special committees that deal with public accounts;
  • Ensure that the process for preparing and executing the national budget is transparent and provides for safeguards against government misuse of public funds and resources: In this regard, strengthen the powers of and resources available to such parliamentary committees as public accounts committees, etc;
  • Promote the creation of watchdog agencies such as the Auditor/Controller General, Ombudsman, etc. and ensure that these agencies are provided with adequate resources and that their reports receive due attention by the parliament and the government;
  • Ensure that the opposition is adequately represented in the parliamentary structures and processes and that it has sufficient resources and is afforded equitable opportunities to voice their views on the management of public affairs, including denouncing corruption and probing or initiating investigations into alleged cases of corruption;
  • Institute transparent and stringent mechanisms for the approval of senior government and public officials so as to ensure that only the most competent and morally upright are appointed to public office; institute appropriate mechanisms for sanctioning those public officials who are found guilty of wrong-doing in the performance of their duties. Establish conflict of interest standards for public employees and effective measures against illicit enrichment, including appropriate sanctions for those who use their public position to benefit private interest.
c. Representation (interaction with civil society)
Parliament and parliamentarians represent the people and have a duty to ensure that they have a say in the management of public affairs. In this connection, they should:
  • Encourage the public to denounce and condemn corruption; in this connection provide legal and other protection from duress to all persons involved actively in combating corruption;
  • Promote or participate in the promotion of high standards of probity and moral integrity through public awareness campaigns; introduction of civic education in school curricula, etc.
Parliaments are increasingly required to play a prominent role in international affairs. In particular, they have a moral duty to ensure that international affairs are conducted according to the highest standards of integrity. This international dimension of parliaments' work calls for more effective international co-operation in dealing with corruption. In particular, parliaments are called upon to adopt the following measures:
  • Promote international co-operation among parliaments and parliamentarians for the fight against corruption through exchange of experience and best practice, etc. In this connection, encourage the participation of parliamentarians in regional and inter-regional seminars that foster the exchange of information on anti-corruption techniques, laws and research, and the examination and promotion of improvements in institutional arrangements and procedures. Such action should, ideally be coordinated within the framework of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the world organization of parliaments;
  • Adapt their legislation so that persons residing on their territory who corrupt foreign public servants or authorities are punished or at least extradited to the country concerned, and make it an offence to launder the proceeds from corruption, including in a third State.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union should spearhead inter-parliamentary co-operation in combating corruption and strengthen its efforts to foster national democratic reforms and good governance.


While the role of parliaments in combatting corruption is recognized world-wide, many parliaments, especially in the developing world and emerging democracies often lack the capacity to fulfill this role efficiently. They therefore require assistance from the international donor community to develop processes and structures that foster efficiency on a sustainable basis. In particular, these parliaments require donor support in:

  • Creating awareness among parliamentarians of their role in the drive against corruption (seminars, conferences, advisory services, etc);

  • Devising and enforcing adequate mechanisms for ensuring oversight, transparency and accountability in government (establishment of appropriate structures and processes such as committees, Ombudsman and ensuring their proper functioning through streamlined procedures and sufficient human and material resources;
  • Ensuring an effective role for the opposition in bringing government to account and thereby promoting integrity, transparency, accountability and good governance;
  • Establishing efficient information and documentation services including the optimum use of new technologies that facilitate access by parliamentarians to information relevant to their work especially in ensuring government accountability.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union is committed to pursue its action in support of more efficient parliamentary institutions that can discharge their missions as legislators, controllers of government and representatives of the people.

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