President Olusegan Obasanjo of Nigeria once remarked that it would be intolerable for the children of Africa to grow up in a world where they would equate politics with corruption and the theft of the public's money, rather than with service for the public good. He also said he would fight for a cleaner world. He has done so, as have a growing number of courageous people; one of their accomplishments is the new UN Convention against Corruption.
Corruption's evil is well known to President Obasanjo and others like him who have gone to prison because they dared to challenge corrupt leaders. It was starkly apparent in recent years to the journalists, public prosecutors and other concerned citizens in numerous countries who were murdered as they tried to expose corruption. They all understood that corruption kills and adds to global insecurity and the risks of war; it increases poverty, curbs freedom, undermines human rights and distorts trade.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index shows that levels of perceived corruption are high in most nations of the world. The citizens of many countries can tell stories about how corruption in its worst form, notably the abuse of public office for private gain, takes a daily toll on their lives. But victims have found few allies; for years the international community ignored this issue. Now a new era might well be dawning, which can give hope to the millions of people in many poor countries who pay bribes to get their children into schools, who provide under-the-table cash payments to nurses and doctors to receive health care, who must deal with corrupt officials to obtain safe water, who know that only through corrupt practices can they win their cases in the courts, and who understand that many of their officials are vastly wealthy at the expense of the public they are meant to serve.
British historian Arnold Toynbee once remarked that our time will be remembered "as an age in which human society dared to think of the health of the whole human race as a practical objective". The new United Nations Convention against Corruption is a practical step towards that objective, and its purposes, as highlighted in Article 1, are to: promote and strengthen measures to prevent and combat corruption more efficiently and effectively; promote, facilitate and support international cooperation and technical assistance in the prevention of and fight against corruption, including in asset recovery...