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Opinion | With a sea of red and orange, annual corruption index signals alarming problem

Nicole's Two Cents

Editorial Editor

Published: Friday, December 6, 2013

Updated: Friday, December 6, 2013 10:12

For those who complain about the United States being corrupt, you might want to hold your breath because things aren’t as horrible as you think….at least compared to some other places in the world.

Transparency International, a movement with more than 100 chapters throughout the globe aimed to fight corruption, released its annual Corruption Perception Index and were right on the money with their findings.

Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia were tied for most corrupt while New Zealand, Denmark and Finland rounded out the top three for least corrupt. The U.S. came in at number 19, tied with Uruguay.

Corruption, defined by the United Nations Office On Drugs and Crime (UNODC), is “the improper use of a public or official position for private gain.” What comes first to mind to most, especially Americans, is that corruption typically involves political and public figures. But the worst kind of corruption is often hidden and tied within everyday life and can truly effect the way people live, such as those living in Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia.

In Afghanistan, corruption has been seared into common social practices often involving patronage and bribery. According to a 2013 UNODC corruption report on the country, 68 percent of citizens consider it acceptable for a civil servant to top up a low salary by accepting small bribes from service users, while 67 percent also sometimes find it acceptable for a civil servant to be recruited on the bases of family ties and friendship.

Education also suffers from corruption in Afghanistan, at first a seemingly unlikely place for it. The number spiked from 16 percent in 2009 to 51 percent in 2012 for those who had paid or bribed a teacher. This sort of corruption however is not limited just to the Middle East — I saw this same trend in Kosovo, where students had joked about how easy it was to pay off college professors, and some even admitting to knowing someone who did for a final term paper or grade.

As corruption is worsening in the world’s conflict areas, with Syria at the top along with Libya, Yemen and Iraq, there is no question that there may be a direct correlation to corruption and conflict. Just from last year, Syria dropped 24 places as it’s civil war rages on, essentially limiting normal government functions and making an easy transition for black markets to pop up throughout the country. It’s also no secret that President Bashar Assad has the system rigged to elect friends and family, a typical type of corruption in authoritarian governments.

Currently in Kosovo, ranked 111 out of 175 of the most corrupt nations, ongoing trials of accused organ trafficking plague the small country of 1.8 million, stemming back from the devastating 1999 war with Serbia where some former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) members have been accused of harvesting organs during the conflict.

The current Prime Minister of Kosovo Hashim Thaci is among the accused, and possibly could be the leader of a network of illegal activity involving prisoner abuse and organ trafficking during the war.

In 2008, Former Kosovo health secretary Illir Rrecaj and prominent Pristina urologist Lutfi Dervishi include some of the accused that face up to 20 years of prison in a scandal at a local health clinic in the capital.

No matter what type of corruption and how serious, the scariest thoughts may lie in that out of 175 countries, there are 55 that are highly corrupt, and 39 that are close to becoming highly corrupt according to the index.

As the ones that are rated the highest are plagued in civil war and widespread violence, I have to wonder if corruption will ever subside in these countries.

I look at Kosovo, a post war country where I lived for a summer, and instantly shake my head absolutely not.

Whether or not it is the United States’ problem to deal with in the case of helping crack down on corruption throughout the globe, I can’t help but still wonder what will happen to these countries in the next 10 years, and how it will effect our own country.

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