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“Do not look the other way”

Corruption exists all over the world. Discover here what harm is done by this abuse of power for personal gain and how to combat it.

Corruption is an abuse of power. Here a doctor is being bribed.
Corruption is an abuse of power. Here a doctor is being bribed. © picture alliance / dpa-tmn

German policy is bound by the values laid down in the Basic Law. Germany also upholds these values internationally. That also applies to its commitment against corruption. As a result, several ministries support the non-governmental organisation Transparency International in its fight against corruption. The national office of Transparency International is financially independent and does not receive any money from the Federal Government.

Sylvia Schenk, lawyer and member and former Chair of Transparency International Deutschland, tells us what dangers corruption holds.

Every year Transparency International publishes the Corruption Perceptions Index that ranks 180 countries.
Index that ranks 180 countries. © picture alliance/dpa

What is corruption?

Corruption involves the abuse of entrusted power for personal gain – at the cost of the poorest and the especially vulnerable:

  • An expert consultant takes money and in return “overlooks” safety deficiencies in a factory.
  • Following an earthquake, the customs official only allows rescue equipment into the country in return for an additional payment.
  • Parents have to bribe the doctor so that their child is treated.
  • The football club president forces female players to have sex so they can remain in the team.
  • A waste transporter illegally dumps poisonous waste somewhere in return for a small payment.
  • A company bribes government officials to receive government contracts.

Why is corruption harmful and criminal?

  • The factory collapses, leaving people dead and injured.
  • The rescue of earthquake victims is delayed.
  • The money for the bribe is no longer available to feed the family.
  • The football players are sexually abused.
  • Poisonous waste pollutes the drinking water.
  • Corruption is exported, the rule of law undermined.

Where law and justice mean nothing, people live dangerously, dependent on others and in poverty. Furthermore, investments are risky, the economy is paralysed, the environment damaged and the country plundered.

How do you fight corruption?

With transparency and zero tolerance for rule violations. Perpetrators must not go unpunished.

  • Companies must ensure compliance – in other words, that rules are obeyed – in their domestic operations and in their supply chains. The judiciary, the media and civil society must guarantee its implementation.
  • It is important to protect journalists and whistle-blowers worldwide.
  • The use of government funds must be transparent and monitored and also tied to fulfilment of good governance criteria.
  • What this means for everyone is: we must reject bribery, inform the authorities or – in a high-risk situation – report it anonymously and then seek help.
  • But, above all, we must not look the other way and say nothing, because that protects the perpetrators.

“But, above all, we must not look the other way and say nothing, because that protects the perpetrators.”

Sylvia Schenk
Sylvia Schenk


Sylvia Schenk is an anti-corruption lawyer and chairs the Working Group on Sport at Transparency International Deutschland e.V. She took part in the 1972 Olympics.


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