Good afternoon. Thank you all for coming. I really wanted to take the opportunity today to recognize, and celebrate, you, your work, and your achievements, on International Anticorruption Day. I’ll have more to say about that in a moment.
First, I want to emphasize how central the fight against corruption is to the United States. Corruption is a cancer within the body of societies—a disease that eats at public trust and the ability of governments to deliver for their citizens. The deleterious effects of corruption impact nearly all aspects of society. It exacerbates social, political, and economic inequality and polarization; impedes the ability of states to respond to public health crises or to deliver quality education; degrades the business environment and economic opportunity; drives conflict; and undermines faith in government. Those that abuse positions of power for private gain steal not just material wealth, but human dignity and welfare.
On December 6, the White House released the first-ever United States Strategy on Countering Corruption. The Strategy outlines a whole-of-government approach to elevating the fight against corruption. It places particular emphasis on better understanding and responding to the threat’s transnational dimensions, including by taking additional steps to reduce the ability of corrupt actors to use the U.S. and international financial systems to hide assets and launder the proceeds of corrupt acts. The Strategy organizes our approach under five mutually reinforcing lines of effort:
- Modernizing, coordinating, and resourcing U.S. Government efforts to fight corruption
- Curbing illicit finance
- Holding corrupt actors accountable
- Preserving and strengthening the multilateral anti-corruption architecture
- Improving diplomatic engagement and leveraging foreign assistance resources to achieve anti-corruption policy goals
Today and tomorrow, December 9-10, President Biden will host a virtual, leader-level Summit for Democracy – the first of two Summits for Democracy – convening world leaders, governments, civil society, and the private sector to advance an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal and tackle today’s greatest threats facing democracies. The Summit will invite multiple stakeholders to engage in a “year of action” on three core themes:
- Strengthening democracy and defending against authoritarianism
- Addressing and fighting corruption
- Promoting respect for human rights at home and abroad.
The Summit for Democracy is a touchpoint for the world to build back better from the global pandemic and address the global decline in democratic institutions through real commitments and tangible outcomes. We will work together to promote inclusive political participation, transparent and accountable governance, an enabling environment for civil society, respect for freedom of expression, and an independent media—all of which are key to strengthening democratic institutions and defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Now, let me come back to the reason we are all here today. You are leaders — the tip of the spear — in your fight against corruption. You are doing the hard work of exposing it, reporting on it, tracking it; formulating ideas, policy options, and dialogue among citizens; promoting reform, transparency, and accountable leadership. That dedication is not easy, and it comes at times with great personal risk. In my book, that makes all of you heroes.
I would like to recognize your work today by giving special recognition to Riad Kobeissi, head of the investigative reporting unit of Al Jadeed TV. Yesterday, Secretary Blinken recognized Riad’s achievements as one of only 12 Anticorruption Champions in the world, global leaders in the fight against corruption. Riad was the only awardee from the Middle East. Riad’s award citation reads:
The Department of State recognizes Riad Kobeissi as an Anticorruption Champion for his integrity, leadership, and courage in confronting corruption in the public sector and exposing bribery and smuggling through his “accountability journalism” in Lebanon.
Let me conclude by saying that this award represents all of you. The United States believes in you, supports you, and wants to engage with you in the global fight against corruption.