Corruption: The Planet’s Most Talked About Issue

First appeared on Ctrl.Alt.Shift on Monday April 18 2011.

Corrupt governments, institutions and businesses make people angry and are often a major catalyst in getting them to take action. We are continually being told to behave ourselves and follow the rules, but when the people in power don’t do the same it can seem unfair.

Concerns about corruption around the world are reflected in a recent poll commissioned by the BBC, which states that corruption is the world’s most talked about issue. The World Speaks poll asked over 13, 000 people across 26 countries what issues they had been talking about most, and what were the problems they faced which they saw as most important.

While corruption was the most talked about issue, the people polled saw the most serious challenge facing them as extreme poverty. Corruption was the second most important challenge facing people. This was especially clear in countries including Brazil, Egypt, Colombia and Kenya.

The issue of corruption was one of the biggest triggers for the recent uprisings in Egypt, with the former president Hosni Mubarak being detained over corruption charges last week.

In Colombia corruption is often associated with widespread abuses of human rights, and journalists and lawyers who try to defend human rights are frequently stigmatised, threatened or murdered.

The world is facing uncertain and tough times economically, and climate change seems to be taking a back seat, despite the threat being as real as ever and a massive contributor to global poverty. According the World Speaks poll, public concern about the issue has lowered significantly in major industrialised nations since 2009, partly due to the disastrous Copenhagen summit in 2009.

Apathy towards climate change could also be because people in industrialised countries are not as yet affected by it, unlike people in developing countries. However, in emerging economies like Brazil and India people now see climate change as a serious problem, with deforestation, pollution and natural disasters being among the symptoms.

Unsurprisingly, the most discussed issue in Britain was the state of the global economy, with the perceived seriousness of this problem increasing significantly since 2009, as unemployment and public sector cuts begin to bite hard.

Public services are also a concern in Mexico, the only country to rank education as the most talked about issue. Although Mexico has almost achieved universal primary education, the education system has been described as corrupt, with only 45% of Mexicans finishing secondary school.

GlobeScan Research Director Sam Mountford said: “We shouldn’t be surprised that people are venting their frustration about a problem that often stops governments getting to grips with the raft of other serious challenges that they are now seen to be facing.”

People are feeling stretched in all directions and more clear links need to be made between issues. Corruption and climate change will increase poverty, as will unemployment. Educational problems are often symptoms of poverty and corruption. Working across areas of expertise and in solidarity with people across the globe will be the best way to combat these multiple issues: it seems the world is getting smaller, and more people than ever are opening their eyes to what’s happening to their planet.

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