anti corruption

Anti-corruption (or anticorruption) comprises activities that oppose or inhibit corruption. Just as corruption takes many forms, anti-corruption efforts vary in scope and in strategy. A general distinction between preventive and reactive measures is sometimes drawn. In such framework, investigative authorities and their attempts to unveil corrupt practices would be considered reactive, while education on the negative impact of corruption, or firm-internal compliance programs are classified as the former. Legal and moral frameworks to reduce corruption date back to antiquity and gained broad international support since the last decade of the 20th century.


Early history
Photograph of the code of Hammurabi stele as displayed in the Louvre
Among the earliest documented anti-corruption efforts include the code of Hammurabi, dated to around 1754 BC.
The code of Hammurabi (c. 1754 BC), the Great Edict of Horemheb (c. 1300 BC), and the Arthasastra (2nd century BC) are among the earliest written proofs of anti-corruption efforts. All of those early texts are condemning bribes in order to influence the decision by civil servants, especially in the judicial sector.During the time of the Roman empire corruption was also inhibited, e.g. by a decree issued by emperor Constantine in 331.

In ancient times, moral principles based on religious beliefs were common, as several major religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, and Taoism condemn corrupt conduct in their respective religious texts. The described legal and moral stances were exclusively addressing bribery but were not concerned with other aspects that are considered corruption in the 21st century. Embezzlement, cronyism, nepotism, and other strategies of gaining public assets by office holders were not yet constructed as unlawfully or immoral, as positions of power were regarded a personal possession rather than an entrusted function. With the popularization of the concept of public interest and the development of a professional bureaucracy in the 19th century offices became perceived as trusteeships instead of property of the office holder, leading to legislation against and a negative perception of those additional forms of corruption. Especially in diplomacy and for international trad purposes, corruption remained a generally accepted phenomenon of the political and economic life throughout the 19th and big parts of the 20th century.


In the 1990s corruption was increasingly perceived to have a negative impact on economy, democracy, and the rule of law, as was pointed out by Kofi Annan. Those effects claimed by Annan could be proven by a variety of empirical studies, as reported by Juli Bacio Terracino. The increased awareness of corruption was widespread and shared across professional, political, and geographical borders. While an international effort against corruption seemed to be unrealistic during the Cold War, a new discussion on the global impact of corruption became possible, leading to an official condemnation of corruption by governments, companies, and various other stakeholders. The 1990s additionally saw an increase in press freedom, the activism of civil societies, and global communication through an improved communication infrastructure, which paved the way to a more thorough understanding of the global prevalence and negative impact of corruption. In consequence to those developments, international non-governmental organizations (e.g. Transparency International) and inter-governmental organizations and initiatives (e.g. the OECD Working group on bribery) were founded to overcome corruption.

Since the 2000s, the discourse became broader in scope. It became more common to refer to corruption as a violation of human rights, which was also discussed by the responsible international bodies. Besides attempting to find a fitting description for corruption, the integration of corruption into a human rights-framework was also motivated by underlining the importance of corruption and educating people on its costs.