30. May 2022

Annual Report 2021: Defeating corruption for peace, prosperity, equality and dignity

Annual Report 2021 spread

Foreword to our Annual Report 2021.

When the year 2021 ended, we were cautiously breathing a sigh of relief. It seemed that the pandemic was starting to get under control in a growing number of countries, and that we could turn our full attention again to the other pandemic, corruption.

Little did we know that not even two months would pass until the world would be stunned by another earthquake. One that would fundamentally shake our belief in principles which are so central to our work, and indeed everyone’s life.

Of course this is not the first time that international law and convention is trampled on, or that global governance seems to have lost its meaning. But wars are not something you compare or rank in levels of horror. War is always wrong.

Our first and foremost hope is that the military aggression in Ukraine ceases, that the killing and destruction stops, and that Ukrainian territorial integrity is preserved. The impact of the war is of course felt worst in Ukraine, but also across the entire world. And as is so often the case, the most vulnerable societies suffer the most, be it from global food and energy insecurity, from redirected development aid, or from the impacts on geopolitical stability.

Importantly, we cannot and should not ignore what this war is teaching us about corruption. It has never been more obvious that corruption is a fundamental threat to our societies, to national and international security, and to every citizen.

Corruption is not “just” an illegal means to do business or beef up a public servant’s salary. Corruption is a strategic weapon, used to buy geopolitical influence, to capture entire economies and to subjugate people. This corruption is often very subtle, employed strategically over a prolonged period of time. The links between money and effect are often so convoluted and remote that they are hard to see or prove.

If so many people had to die, had to flee, had to lose everything they ever owned, in Ukraine and in the many other corruption-driven wars, at least let us make sure that the world finally wakes up to this reality and starts acting for good. No more wilful blindness or tacit complicity; no more impunity in exchange for trade or political loyalty; and no more dominance of national interests over global goods.

At the Basel Institute, we are more committed than ever to do our part in what must be a global war – the only war that is ever justified – against corruption. We count on you, our donors, our partners, to work with us and pass the message on: that defeating corruption is fundamental to achieving a world of peace, prosperity, equality and dignity.

Read the Annual Report 2021

Gretta Fenner

Managing Director (2005–2008 and 2011–2024)

Mark Pieth