Unequal society, unequal elections

Latin America is the most unequal region in the world. The richest 20% of the population have almost 20 times greater per capita incomes than the poorest 20%, according to UN data published last year. This concentration of resources is often reflected in the funding of elections; companies put large sums of money in the hands of a few candidates and heavily influence the election process.

Kevin Casas-Zamora, Secretary for Political Affairs at the Organization of American States (OAS), says that the principle of “one man, one vote” is often subverted in the continent due to this inequality. When the elections are over, it affects the government itself, when many elected candidates respond only to the richest in society.

“This ultimately impacts the legitimacy of the political system itself. If we let income inequality effect the political arena, we are harming democracy,” says Casas-Zamora. “We have to push for governments that follow the will of the voters and not the will of the people who fund the election campaigns of candidates.” For him, another significant problem of how campaigns are financed in the region is the influence of narcotics trafficking. Organized crime is strong in Latin America, so institutions need to ensure that they have no influence in elections.”

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¿Son tan malos los lobbies?

¿Es lo mismo hacer lobby para conseguir recursos para investigar el cáncer que para obtener más permisos de prospección de petróleo? ¿Hay que valorarlos de forma diferente? Elija un público al azar y la respuesta será: NO. Pregunte a Karl Isaksson y dirá SÍ sin pestañear.

Karl Isaksson comanda la European Public Affairs Consultancies Association (EPACA). Una entidad que representa los intereses de 42 grupos de lobby en Europa, desde empresas manufactureras a compañías del sector financiero.

Hay quien se sorprendió de que Isaksson aceptase la invitación de participar en la 15th IACC: defender la influencia de los lobbies en las politicas públicas ante un auditorio, en ese sentido, hostil, no es fácil. “Es importante explicar lo que hacemos, si la gente tuviese más consciencia de nuestro trabajo, entenderían lo importante que es para la democracia”, explica Isaksson.

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Portal Transparencia, Brazil’s Corruption watch

One of the leading tools in the war on corruption in Brazil is the Portal Transparencia, an initiative by the Brazilian government where all government departments publish daily expenditures. Young journalist Andrew Ochieng pored through the website and filed this report with an interview from the Executive Director of Transparency International, Kenya Chapter Samuel Kimeu giving insights from a Kenyan perspective on how the website can be emulated by the Kenyan government to promote openness and allow for public scrutiny.

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Survey: World Cup host cities failing transparency test

When Brazil won the right to the World Cup, officials vowed a commitment to transparency in the lead up to the event. But a new report says local governments are not living up to that promise.

“The 12 host cities are not currently accountable,” said Paulo Itacarambi, Vice President of the transparency watchdog Instituto Ethos. “This was supposed to be a moment of unity. This was an opportunity for mobilization.”

Felipe Saboya (left) and Paul Itacarambi during the Municipal Transparency Indicators press conference. Photo: Peter Malavolta/Ethos

At a Friday press conference at the 15th IACC, Itacarambi released the results of an Ethos survey that found host cities are doing a dismal job disclosing information on how resources are being spent, which raises the risk of corruption.

The Local Administration Transparency Indicators, part of Ethos’ “Clean Games Inside and Outside the Stadiums” project, measured the availability of public data and the proper operation of the public’s participation channels regarding the investments. A score was reached by answering 90 questions that assess the transparency level in two dimensions: transparency and participation.

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The Next Step: Dirty Money

Throughout the International Anti-Corruption Conference, we’ll post exclusive interviews about what happens after the workshops and panels are over. We’ll look at what was accomplished and what strategies participants can actually take back to their countries to fight corruption.

One of the major obstacles to fighting corruption is dirty money and illicit financial flows. How do institutions restore people’s trust? And what key measures are needed to make sure transparency is rooted in the world of money.

After their panel, Patrick Alley, co-founder of Global Witness and Nicholas Shaxon, investigative journalist and author, joined me to talk about the next steps needed to curtail the flow of dirty money.

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