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From one of the earliest concerns of morality and political philosophy to the subject of the latest global treaty sponsored by the United Nations, corruption has had a fascinating role in human affairs. Corruption’s importance as a matter of law and policy has grown in recent decades, thanks to an increasing awareness of its devastating effects on development efforts, human rights, democracies, economies, and environmental protection efforts. Responding to that growing importance, this subject provides an overview of domestic, regional, and global approaches to corruption.
The domestic approaches examined in this subject include those undertaken by a sample of Latin American and Asian countries, as well as Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. The regional approaches targeted include those sponsored by the Organization of American States, the Asian Development Bank, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, Council of Europe, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the World Bank. Finally, at the global level, this seminar covers the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).
Entering into force in 2005 and obtaining 183 States Parties by 2017, the UNCAC has taken strides in implementing a comprehensive and partially binding global approach to corruption. This subject explores the five pillars of that approach—international cooperation, preventative measures, criminalization and law enforcement measures, asset recovery, and technical assistance and information exchange—and their linkages to domestic and regional initiatives. A major question at this stage will be the UNCAC’s ability (or potential) to supplement or improve upon those pre-existing initiatives.
At each of its three levels of legal inquiry (domestic, regional, and global), this seminar examines questions of substantive law (what conduct is targeted), procedure (how are suspected violations of the law exposed and addressed), institutions (how is each legal framework administered and modified), and effectiveness (under a number of metrics). Notably, this subject addresses the advantages and criticisms of anti-corruption law in its many forms.
Although this subject relies primarily on legal analysis, it also encompasses economics, history, and political science. That interdisciplinarity enables the consideration of the broader questions that inform anti-corruption law. Those questions include: How are definitions and patterns of corruption changing over time? What effects does corruption have on development, businesses, local economies, and global capitalism? What effects does it have on human rights, democratization, elections, and lawmaking? What lessons have been learned about the effectiveness of different legal approaches to corruption? How could domestic, regional, and international anti-corruption initiatives be improved?
Principal topics include:
- What is corruption? How is corruption defined by different legal regimes?
- How does corruption manifest in distinct environments, including campaign and party finance, elections, lawmaking, law enforcement, government procurement, business, international development efforts, and banking and finance? What are corruption’s economic, political, and social effects?
- What are the regulatory challenges involved in preventing, exposing, and punishing corruption in its distinct environments? To what extent have domestic, regional, and international legal regimes been successful in meeting those challenges?
- How could those laws and institutions be improved? In particular, what are the main successes and shortcomings of the UN system for preventing and combatting corruption? What are its prospects for improvement?
- What are the different roles that lawyers play in addressing corruption? What skill sets do they employ?
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject should have developed and demonstrated:
- A sophisticated awareness of the effects and challenges that corruption poses for contemporary concerns over poverty and development, environmental protection, human rights, capitalism, and democracy
- An integrated understanding of anti-corruption law at regional and global levels, including key questions of substantive law, institutional design and international collaboration
- An advanced ability to assess the strengths and limitations of such bodies of law and institutions—including ones that the student has not encountered before
- Specialised knowledge of the roles lawyers play in all of the above—including some initial experience applying the legal standards and navigating the legal institutions that seek to prevent and punish corruption-related offenses.
Last updated: 6 December 2019