Fides is an intentional response to a need for values-based anti-corruption interventions.
Since the 1990s, the fight against corruption has been at the center of the global agenda. Numerous actions have been taken to combat corruption at the international, national and local levels. Yet, the track record for anti-corruption reform is lackluster. In spite of more than two decades of anti-corruption reforms, and an enormous amount of resources invested, the cancer of corruption persists—and even intensifies in many countries. Reform efforts have had limited impact and perceptions of corruption have changed little over time. Most countries are at least as corrupt today as they were before anti-corruption reforms.
Conventional anti-corruption reforms follow an “outside-to-inside” approach.
These reforms largely focus on the institutional machinery of a country – attempting to change social behavior through laws and policies, new institutions, and accountability mechanisms. While they stress control, monitoring and punishment, they do not actively cultivate the cultural foundations of public integrity.
Integrity in public life depends not only on the right institutional structures but most importantly on supportive values and norms. As one African observer put it, “culture is the mother, institutions are the children.” In many societies these supportive values and norms are weak. People grow up with codes of conduct that accept favoritism and expect disregard for the rule of law. Bribery is an everyday occurrence and offering preferential treatment is considered legitimate if done to favor the personally or politically connected.
Because cultural values and norms are tied to the practice of corruption, interventions that directly target the formation of values should be prioritized as the next anti-corruption reform focus.
Christian faith is a primary source of internalized values in societies that struggle with corruption, making it a key social change agent. The international development community has not only marginalized the value aspects of corruption, but also neglected the potential role of faith leaders and groups to fight it. In many countries, however, religion could be a much more pivotal element of public integrity, not simply in terms of organized institutions but in terms of the values permeating much more obviously through the daily ordering of society. The church is called to be “salt and light”.
Tapping the potential in these faith communities will demand profound changes within themselves as well.
Many Christians imitate the dominant cultural patterns of public dishonesty, disconnected from biblical principles of justice. In fact, most developing countries with majority Christian populations, throughout Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific, experience high levels of corruption. Additionally, Christian leaders and communities remain absent from civic efforts to improve the political and social problems in their societies.
OECD, Development aid rises again in 2016 but flows to poorest countries dip, 2017, http://www.oecd.org/dac/
Daniel Kaufmann, “Myths and Realities of Governance and Corruption,” Global Competitiveness Report 2005-2006, World Economic Forum, 2005, http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWBIGOVANTCOR/Resources/2-1_Governance_and_Corruption_Kaufmann.pdf