|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright|
Remarks at Conference on Fighting Corruption and Safeguarding Integrity Among Justice and Security Officials
Washington, D.C., February 24, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good morning, everybody. Mr. Vice President and distinguished counterparts, colleagues, friends from the NGO community and guests, welcome to the Department of State.
It is fitting that for this global forum on Fighting Corruption and Safeguarding Integrity Among Justice and Security Officials, a truly global audience has assembled. The surpassing breadth of this conference reflects a fundamental understanding that corruption is not just a private breach of ethics, but a matter of profound political and social consequence; not least for our efforts to strengthen democratic governments.
It reflects, as well, the realization that working together, governments and non-governmental institutions can help one another make corruption everywhere the exception, not the rule; and by so doing, contribute to the prosperity of our people and the justness of our societies.
Now, some would say that our effort this week, to come together to fight corruption, is doomed to fail; that wherever there is gold, you will find greed; that corruption is endemic to human nature; and that it's futile to try to do anything about it. To them, I would reply as Katherine Hepburn did to Humphrey Bogart in the movie, The African Queen: "Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we were put into this world to rise above."
The truth is we are making progress. The OECD convention entered into force this month, committing all signatories to adopt strong anti-bribery laws. The Inter-American Anti-Corruption Treaty has been signed by almost every country in this hemisphere and deserves prompt approval by the United States Senate.
The Council of Europe's convention opened for signature last month. Africa, among other regions, has begun discussing its own anti-corruption pact. Individual countries, ministries and even municipalities -- from New Orleans, Louisiana, to Hong Kong to Palermo, Sicily -- are moving ahead to strengthen justice systems, and build what several participants have aptly described as a "culture of lawfulness."
The advances of recent years reflect several important principles. One is that we must act against corruption on both the demand and the supply side. That means not only making bribery illegal, but also ensuring that border guards, for example, are made less susceptible to bribes by paying them sufficiently. A second is accountability. The border guards that we are now paying more must know that violations will cost them their jobs, and serious or repeated transgressions, their freedom.
A third is clarity in teaching, and maintaining, the line between public duties and private preferences. People everywhere, whatever their countries pass, must understand that corruption is not capitalism's natural product, but its perversion. And undergirding everything we do is the bedrock principle of establishing and reinforcing the rule of law.
That's why this forum's emphasis on integrity in the judiciary and security forces is so very, very well-placed. For however much we do to prevent corruption with stronger laws on the supply side, and a newfound accountability on the demand side, we won't have achieved much if, toward the end of the pipeline, the corrupt official or businessperson faces a compromised policeman or a crooked prosecutor or a judge who can be bought off.
The culture of lawfulness may not be easy to achieve; but we have recognized how to pursue it. We know that we must strive for an independent judiciary, a free press and a bureaucracy that is both streamlined and fairly paid. We know that corruption thrives in dark corners, and that exposure to sunlight can scorch it clean. And we know that religious and ethical leaders, as well as public officials and captains of industry, all have pivotal roles to play.
No country has a monopoly on wisdom in achieving such a culture. In the United States, it remains, after more than 200 years, a work in progress. And in this decade alone, governments in Europe, South America, Africa and South Asia have fallen, at least in part, because the people would no longer tolerate public corruption.
That's why the principle of mutual evaluation has been so valuable in our efforts to date. That's why this forum is -- speaking selfishly for the host country -- such a tremendous opportunity for us to listen and learn.
In the end, the failure or success of our efforts to combat corruption will determine whether we live in societies governed by individuals or laws; whether our firms and products and ideas rise and fall based on mendacity or merit; and whether we starve or nourish public confidence in democracy and economic freedom.
So it's a momentous mission on which we're embarked here this morning, and no one understands this better than the leader it is my welcome task to introduce to you now.
In America, in my experience, no one has done more to spread the gospel of good governance than Vice President Al Gore. From the day President Clinton asked him to improve and streamline our own government, Americans have witnessed a government that works better, costs less and delivers results. Of course, such far-reaching success is nothing new to the Vice President. Maybe it's because he's so tall, but throughout his career, Al Gore has been able to see further ahead than most. He has made a habit of identifying vital issues as they emerge, mastering their complexities and devising practical solutions while others are still struggling to make out the nature of the problem.
Whether the issue is the environment, or national security, or the relationship between cutting edge technology and ancient principles of fairness, Al Gore is a leader, and a thinker, and a teacher, and the man to go to get things done.
If there's any one message that Al Gore conveys, whether before a global audience or in a one-on-one session, it's that all of us -- as individuals or as nations -- are part of something much larger than ourselves. That understanding, I believe, must be central to any real solution to the problem of corruption. For corruption is based on the soul-killing illusion that happiness rests on the indulgence of the self, rather than service to one's community, country and faith.
I am privileged to work with this man every day on the most critical foreign policy and national security issues facing our nation. I can tell you from being with him that he has a mind that can delve into the most complex issues, a heart that is open to the respect of every single individual, and a desire to solve problems. In all these areas, his abilities are unparalleled; and I am very, very proud to call him my friend. I am both pleased and honored to introduce him to you now: the Vice President of the United States, Al Gore.
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