Ambassador Jean Elizabeth Manes
Wednesday November 29, 9:30 PM, Crowne Plaza
This morning El Salvador is taking an important step, in its battle against corruption.
Corruption is a worldwide phenomenon that is found in all countries, and evidence shows that it harms the poor more, slows economic growth and diverts funds from public services that are essential for development, such as education and health. As an omnipresent phenomenon, the question is not whether corruption exists, but rather, we must ask ourselves, what will the government and society do to combat it?
The World Bank estimates that one billion US dollars are diverted through bribes every year.
This is a problem that must be attacked from the root and from different sides; it is a problem that needs a united and strategic effort led by different sectors at the same time. The transparency and anti-corruption dialogue platform that we launched today is part of El Salvador’s efforts to achieve just this.
The prevention of corruption also requires the participation of other elements of civil society, such as non-governmental and community organizations, the private sector and, of course, academia.
Universities have historically been in the world, and also in El Salvador, agents that introduce new ways of thinking, and play a key role in the development and strengthening of social peace.
In this initiative, universities, political parties, think tanks, congressmen, public entities, civil society organizations and international organizations are united to jointly and constructively lay the foundations for a “Country Agreement against Corruption”.
Because a government, in order to recover the trust of its citizens, needs to take concrete steps that seek to guarantee that public services are subject to processes that promote efficiency, transparency and hiring based on merit. That public servants once recruited are subject to codes of conduct. That transparency and accountability be promoted in matters of public finances and that specific requirements be established to prevent corruption in critical areas of the public sector, such as the judicial system.
This initiative that we launch this day is in direct response to the insistence on behalf of citizens to make public institutions more transparent. Because we all know that corruption erodes institutions, endangers democracy and social peace, and disproportionately affects the most vulnerable. When taxpayer resources are diverted for personal purposes, like buying beach houses, luxury cars, or keeping accounts in other countries, or take unrelated trips, public programs aimed at children and young people, sick people and rural people become inefficient or, in the worst case, do not benefit these populations at all.
There is a long way to go in this field in El Salvador. But the Government of the United States will accompany the Salvadoran efforts and I am convinced that with all of us working together, allied governments, private and public sectors, change is a real possibility.
Each day is an opportunity to decide the path you want to take. Every day is an opportunity for public officials to win and deserve the trust of their citizens. Every day is an opportunity for all of us to build the countries we want, and each of you is someone important in the fight against corruption. Each of you represents hundreds, thousands of Salvadorans who are fed up with corruption, people who want to do something for their country. People who want public officials to have different standards and for impunity to not exist.
We need to support the institutions that are leading these efforts and everyone can do their part. We have to support every part of the justice system because we need each part of the chain to work in order to send a clear message to everyone that sooner or later, justice will come. To create an environment where public officials think twice before stealing people’s money and to create an environment where different standards really exist for public officials. We are all in this fight. El Salvador can win this battle and on behalf of the United States we will be by your side.