Transparency International 2021 Report Shows No Significant Improvement in Corruption Level Worldwide

Daniel Eriksson
CEO of Transparency International

The 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) report released by Transparency International (TI), the Berlin-based global coalition against corruption, indicates that corruption levels have shown no significant improvement but remain stagnated across the world.

The report says 131 countries have made no significant progress against corruption over the last decade, despite the commitments made on paper. The 2021 report shows 27 countries are at historic lows in their CPI score.

It pointed out that human rights and democracy across the world are also under assault as a result of the high level of corruption. Corruption is an enabler of human rights abuses, as rights and freedoms are eroded, democracy declines which in turn gives room to authoritarianism.

Respecting human rights is essential for controlling corruption because empowered citizens have the space to challenge injustice. The global COVID-19 pandemic has also been used in many countries as an excuse to curtail basic freedoms leaving behind important checks and balances.

According to the TI’s Chair, Delia Ferreira Rubio, “Human rights are not simply a nice-to-have in the fight against corruption. Authoritarianism makes anti-corruption efforts dependent on the whims of an elite. Ensuring that civil society and the media can speak freely and hold power to account is the only sustainable route to a corruption-free society.”

The global highlights show that countries with well-protected civil and political liberties generally control corruption better. The fundamental freedoms of association and expression are crucial in the fight for a world free of corruption.

The index ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and business people. It relies on 13 independent data sources and uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.

More than two-thirds of countries (68 per cent) score below 50 and the average global score remains static at 43. Since 2012, 25 countries significantly improved their scores, but in the same period, 23 countries significantly declined.

Meanwhile, the scores of several democratic countries that used to top the index and champion anti-corruption efforts around the world are deteriorating. Many of these high-scoring countries remain safe havens for corrupt individuals from abroad.

For 2021, Denmark, Finland and New Zealand, topped the rankings, with each country scoring 88. Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany complete the top 10. South Sudan, Syria and Somalia remain at the bottom of the index. Countries experiencing armed conflict or authoritarianism tend to earn the lowest scores, including Venezuela, Yemen, North Korea, Afghanistan, Libya, Equatorial Guinea and Turkmenistan.

Overall, the CPI shows that control of corruption has stagnated or worsened in 86 per cent of countries over the last decade.

The regional highlights indicate that corruption takes vastly different forms from country to country, 2021 scores reveal that all parts of the globe are at a standstill when it comes to fighting public sector corruption.

At the top of the CPI, countries in Western Europe and the European Union (EU) continue to wrestle with transparency and accountability in their response to COVID-19, threatening the region’s clean image.

In parts of Asia Pacific, the Americas, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, increasing restrictions on accountability measures and basic civil freedoms allow corruption to go unchecked, and even historically high-performing countries are showing signs of decline.

In the Middle East and North Africa, the interests of a powerful few continue to dominate the political and private sphere, and the limitations placed on civil and political freedoms are blocking any significant progress. In Sub-Saharan Africa, armed conflict, violent transitions of power and increasing terrorist threats combined with poor enforcement of anti-corruption commitments rob citizens of their basic rights and services.

The methodologies used in calculating the CPI include selecting data sources, standardizing data sources, calculating the average and reporting a measure of uncertainty.

Transparency International made the following recommendations in response to an urgent need to accelerate the fight against corruption so as to put a halt to human rights abuses and democratic decline across the globe.

  • Uphold the Rights Needed to Hold Power to Account – Governments should roll back any disproportionate restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and assembly introduced since the onset of the pandemic. Ensuring justice for crimes against human rights defenders must also be an urgent priority.
  • Restore and Strengthen Institutional Checks on Power – Public oversight bodies such as anti-corruption agencies and supreme audit institutions need to be independent, well-resourced and empowered to detect and sanction wrongdoing. Parliaments and the courts should also be vigilant in preventing executive overreach.
  •  Combat Transnational Corruption – Governments in advanced economies need to fix the systemic weaknesses that allow cross-border corruption to go undetected or unsanctioned. They must close legal loopholes, regulate professional enablers of financial crime, and ensure that the corrupt and their accomplices cannot escape justice.
  •  Uphold the Right to Information in Government Spending – As part of their COVID-19 recovery efforts, governments must make good on their pledge contained in the June 2021 UNGASS political declaration to include anti-corruption safeguards in public procurement. Maximum transparency in public spending protects lives and livelihoods.

        To download and/or read the full TI’s CPI report, please visit