Annual Report 2018

Foreword: A dream of fools?

As every year when the time comes to write the foreword for our Annual Report, we are filled with pride, gratitude and a sense of satisfaction. It is a privilege to work with passionate people, committed partners and supportive donors, and to work toward a goal that helps make this world a better place.

This may make some of you roll your eyes. And we get that. It can sound naive, and today more so than in a long time. Working for the good of the world is not trendy in many quarters, and it seems particularly rare among those who are elected to do exactly that. The geopolitical context also seems to indicate that the quality of governance is declining. Systems are infested with corruption and captured by individualistic interests that are far removed from the voters’ voices.

Yet it is so important to remember that there is a broader objective to our daily grind, the frustrations and setbacks that all of us in the anti-corruption community experience. And to be proud of it. Because not all is doom and gloom. The rising climate change youth movements, for example, are showing us that energy can be mobilised when we show credibly and based on facts that the collective good matters for all of us, individually and collectively. 

This idea of collective responsibility – and collective gain – and of the broader societal relevance of our work is what has been driving our team since the Basel Institute’s establishment, now 15 years ago. 

In our work with the private sector, we feel strongly that the Collective Action approach to anti-corruption is now practised more frequently and recognised as a critical means to achieve lasting change in our economy-driven societies. In the coming years, we will work with partner companies to firmly enshrine this principle as an international anti-corruption norm so that it can attain its full potential. 

Similarly, through our work with law enforcement, other public sector accountability institutions and non-state actors, we find increased readiness to join forces across institutions, borders and sectors. By that, we mean truly join forces, not just go to conferences together. By way of example, in practice this is enabling us to carry the governance and anti-corruption drive into new sectors, as we have started doing in the area of illegal wildlife trade. And it means that law enforcement is showing increased interest in what prevention departments do, for example understanding drivers of corruption and how this can feed into intelligence-led enforcement. 

The multi-sector and multi-disciplinary approach of the Basel Institute is well placed to support these developments, and we are happy if we can play a small role in fostering such thinking. So yes, we are proud. We are also humbled by the challenges that continue to lie ahead. And we are highly motivated to work with all of you to continue putting hurdles in the way of those who think that making the world a better place is a dream of fools.

To those we say that we gladly side with the fools.

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Basel Institute on Governance