The Problem with Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index

By Joseph Thomas and cross-posted from New Eastern Outlook

(DQ here: this article is a fitting companion piece to a very important 2014 article by Professor Jason Hickel challenging Transparency International’s unapologetic pro-Western bias).

23431231231Transparency International puts out what it calls the “Corruption Perceptions Index.” It is an annual index it claims “has been widely credited with putting the issue of corruption on the international policy agenda.”

These carefully selected words, taken at face value appear benign, even progressive. But upon digging deeper into this organisation’s background it becomes clear that these “perceptions” are politically motivated, and the “international policy agenda” clearly favours a very specific region of the globe, particularly that region occupied by Washington, London and Brussels.

Transparency International claims upon its “Who We Are” page of its website that (our emphasis):

From villages in rural India to the corridors of power in Brussels, Transparency International gives voice to the victims and witnesses of corruption. We work together with governments, businesses and citizens to stop the abuse of power, bribery and secret deals. As a global movement with one vision, we want a world free of corruption. Through chapters in more than 100 countries and an international secretariat in Berlin, we are leading the fight against corruption to turn this vision into reality.

Before moving onto the organisation’s funding and financials, one would assume that above and beyond any other organisation in the world, Transparency International would carefully and diligently avoid any perceptions of conflicts of interest on its own part. Yet, that is not the case.

An Anti-Corruption Org Swimming in Conflicts of Interest

Upon their page, “Who Supports Us,” Transparency International admits that it receives funding from government agencies including:

  • The United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID);
  • Federal Foreign Office, Germany and;
  • The US State Department.

Transparency International not only receives funding from the very governments it is tasked to investigate, hold accountable and “index” annually, constituting a major conflict of interest, it also receives money from the following:

  • The National Endowment for Democracy;
  • Open Society Institute Foundation and;
  • Shell Oil.
Transparency International’s funding disclosure is riddled with other troubling sponsors, but the inclusion of immense corporate interests like energy giant Shell is particularly troubling. So is the inclusion of the National Endowment for Democracy whose board of directors is chaired by representatives from other large corporations and financial institutions as well as partisan political figures involved heavily in not only influencing politics in their own respective nations, but who use the National Endowment for Democracy itself as a means to influence other nations.
While these interests are transparently self-serving, the use of the National Endowment for Democracy allows them to predicate their involvement in the political affairs and elections of foreign nations upon “democracy promotion.” This seems to be the very essence of corruption, “abuse of power” and “secret deals,” yet they are funding Transparency International’s very existence…

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