December 16, 2013

Dear Colleagues,

This installment of Worth Reading features three publications focusing on the challenge of corruption. First is the release of Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index, a widely-used ranking of perceptions of corruption around the world; also included are a research paper by ANTICORRP focusing on comparative anti-corruption efforts in historical perspective; and a discussion paper released by the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption calling for the international prosecution of “grand corruption.”

Transparency International recently released its 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index, which ranks government corruption in 177 countries and territories. Because empirical data on corruption is not usually publicly available, the Index measures perceptions of corruption through surveys of country experts and members of the business community. Denmark and New Zealand were found to be the least corrupt, while Somalia, North Korea, and Afghanistan were found to be most corrupt. The index also includes “perspective” briefs by anti-corruption experts providing detailed analysis of corruption issues, including the role of civil society, challenges facing anti-corruption initiatives, and the importance of rule of law. Infographics demonstrating the Index’s findings are available here; a question-and-answer sheet explaining the Index, its findings, and its methodology can be found here.

ANTICORRP, an extensive joint research project consisting of twenty-one partner institutions in sixteen EU countries, recently published “Fighting Corruption in Modernity: A Literature Review” as part of a larger project on the same topic. Written by Mette Frisk Jensen and James Kennedy, this paper provides a literature review of anticorruption efforts from the late seventeenth century onward through five case studies. The first three case studies—Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands—show “a parallel course in the development of ‘universal’ ethics in respect to good government.” The final two cases—the Dutch East Indies and the late Ottoman Empire—took different routes leading to mixed results. The final project will draw on analysis from historians and political scientists to create a series of case studies which “[challenge] each other’s claims and assumptions,” providing a historical perspective to modern anti-corruption efforts. This and other ANTICORRP publications can be found here.

In November of 2013, the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC) released a discussion paper entitled “Prosecuting Grand Corruption as an International Crime.” Noting that “the worst perpetrators of corruption can be the least likely to face national justice,” GOPAC calls for the adoption of international mechanisms to prosecute and sentence perpetrators of grand corruption. GOPAC defines grand corruption as an act that is not merely illegal, but one that “distorts and undermines” the rule of law. The paper then outlines four options through which the international community could pursue grand corruption: universal jurisdiction for national courts, the creation of regional anti-corruption courts, prosecution of corruption through the International Criminal Court, and the creation of other new international mechanisms for combating corruption. These new mechanisms might include additional efforts through the UN Convention against Corruption, incentives for better private enforcement of anti-money laundering laws, and better use of information communication technologies to capture evidence of grand corruption.

Worth Reading is a list of featured readings on democracy disseminated semi-monthly by the International Forum for Democratic Studies at theNational Endowment for DemocracyWorth Reading is grateful to Transparency International, ANTICORRP, and GOPAC for their continuing efforts to highlight the challenge of corruption. If you have materials you would like featured in Worth Reading, please send us an email

With best wishes, 


Melissa Aten-Becnel
International Forum for Democratic Studies
National Endowment for Democracy
1025 F Street, NW, Suite 800 
Washington, DC 20004
Phone: 202-378-9675