Corruption Is Major Obstacle in Anti-Poverty Fight, Says Church Group

Churches interested in eradicating poverty need to do more to fight corruption, an anti-poverty church network emphasizes in a new paper.

Micah Challenge's "Open for Service: A Case for Good Governance" paper appeals to Christians to hold the government, businesses as well as the global church to higher standards in the global effort to eradicate poverty. The network of Christian leaders committed to seeing the U.N. Millennium Development Goals fulfilled contends that corruption is left off the table in discussions about poverty even though it is a major roadblock.

"Corruption is like a tower block on a runway. It accounts for over a trillion dollars going missing, and is a massive barricade to the well being of the poorest people in the world," says Joel Edwards, international director of Micah Challenge. "It's difficult to define, complex in its treatment and entrenched in business and political systems. No wonder it has gone on underground for so long. Simply, corruption kills people."

In the paper, released Thursday, church leaders noted that in poor countries, career in government is often seen as the fastest way to gain personal wealth. Leaders in these low-income countries "have sold cheaply the birthrights of whole countries, shipping billions of dollars of wealth into foreign banks."

But corruption is not limited to the South, the paper says. If higher-income nations could have better governance then it would dramatically affect the well-being of millions of citizens elsewhere in the world.

Micah Challenge leaders conclude that the MDGs cannot be achieved with the continuation of governance failure in both high- and low-income countries.

The eight common characteristics of good governance include: accountability, participation of all members of society, rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, consensus oriented, equity and inclusiveness, effectiveness and efficiency.

"[W]e believe that God clearly has given governments an important role in protecting the oppressed, defending the weak, and ensuring that the poor have access to the means to survive and thrive," the paper states.

Micah Challenge is a network of religious leaders and development workers in more than 40 countries working in sustainable development and committed to achieving the MDGs by 2015. The parent bodies of Micah Challenge International are the World Evangelical Alliance and the Micah Network.