Young people and corruption

19 September 2015
Knowledge Base

by Evert-Jan Lammers

Last week Transparency International (TI) has announced its global Strategy 2020. One of the focal points of the strategy is “More prevention”. TI Greece’s representative was serious when he joked: “More prevention until 2020 is not enough for Greece. I need two generations to achieve real change.” He hit the nail on the head. A non-governmental organization better spends its time and money on the next generation than on the current one.

The founders of TI knew this very well, back in 1993, but they didn’t want to wait that long for results. Corruption is here and now, and it costs money, ruins lives, violates fundamental rights of journalists and kills opposition. Corruption is the trick that facilitates various types of crime as well as impunity. Crimes and impunity that have fueled TV News shows around the world for many years.

TI has drawn our attention to the human suffering behind corruption. Human suffering is an unstoppable well, but the formula was gradually wearing out. In the meantime corruption grew, not the least due to the growth of the world population. So: “more prevention”. Will that do the trick? I do think so, yes. TI knows what is going on in society: indignation. And who are the most indignant people in society? The young people who get employed or go to university after secondary school discovering how bad corruption really is: exclusion, exploitation, hopelessness. Social media bring this message as close as it can get.

What does Transparency International do for young people?

I see small steps, for example TI Lithuania has launched a Summer School Integrity, TI Thailand focuses on Kindergarten (!) and TI Mauritius visits secondary schools and universities. Small scale, fragmented, but a good start.

TI Belgium is calling young people to come to Brussels on the 29th of September 2015 and start a youth movement: Young TI (18-35 years). Registrations are coming from all walks of life. It looks promising.

I hope that they will start a Summer School Integrity, like in Vilnius. Democratically priced, affordable to all. Immediately next year, just because good things must come fast. I also hope that they will not only focus on students but also on young people of their age in working positions. Working youngsters can, more than they often think, have a positive influence on colleagues (managers, directors and politicians) to change.

Leading organizations are effectively mobilizing their young people and are setting-up Young-groups with their own agendas and budgets. Like Young Shell, Young TMG and Young Professionals in Foreign Policy. A powerful undercurrent is coming to the surface.

Leaders, their Change Managers and Ethics Officers can benefit from such movement to make change more effective and also make it happen faster: new values, standards, political culture, etc. The future belongs to the young. Companies and public sector organizations should make a start mobilizing their youngsters. Transparency International has already started.

The author, Evert-Jan Lammers is a Partner at EBBEN Partners, Board Member at Transparency International Belgium, and President of the national professional federation Institute of Fraud Auditors.

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