Icelandic Corruption Blemishes Nordic Record

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    Stockholm (NordSIP) – Transparency International (TI), a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) focusing on monitoring good governance and political accountability has published its Corruption Perceptions Index for 2021.

    The Nordic region continues to dominate the ranking, providing the world’s top 5 least corrupt countries. According to the NGO, Denmark (1), Finland (1), Norway (4) and Sweden (4) all ranked among the top 5 countries in 2021, together with New Zealand and Singapore. However, Iceland stands out as an exception.

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    Iceland’s Fishrot Files Scandal

    Iceland ranked further back in 13th place, following a loss in score vis-à-vis it 2020 performance. This was in no small part due to concerns that Samherji, a fisheries company, used dirty tactics to intimidate journalists and citizens who were reporting that the company bribed foreign officials in Namibia and Angola in what is known as the  Fishrot Files scandal, first reported in 2019. In the aftermath of the scandal, Iceland dropped six points on the 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index.

    “Companies that want to prove their integrity do not employ dirty tactics against those who report on facts, and do so in the public interest,” said Daniel Eriksson, Chief Executive Officer of Transparency International Secretariat. “It is incomprehensible that Samherji collected personal information to smear the reputation of Transparency International Iceland and other independent voices. Iceland needs a vibrant and protected civil society to hold power to account, wherever that power lies.”

    The Danger of (European) Complacency

    TI’s main concern for Europe is that the region’s momentum has stagnated. “A worrying new normal is fast being established, as accountability and transparency measures neglected or rolled back during the COVID-19 pandemic remain unrestored, and public trust falls in the wake of procurement scandals,” the report warns

    The problem is not exclusive to Europe. According to TI, 86% of the countries have made almost no progress over the last decade. “Human rights are not simply a nice-to-have in the fight against corruption. Authoritarian approaches destroy independent checks and balances and make anti-corruption efforts dependent on the whims of an elite,” Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of Transparency International, said.

    Ensuring people can speak freely and work collectively to hold power to account is the only sustainable route to a corruption-free society,” Rubio concludes.

    Image courtesy of pbat34 via Pixabay
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