Corruption and human rights

Corruption compromises States’ ability to fulfil their obligation to promote, respect and protect the human rights of individuals within their jurisdictions. Human rights are indivisible and interdependent, and the consequences of corrupt governance are multiple and touch on all human rights — civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as the right to development.

In recent years, a number of relevant UN bodies and mechanisms have acknowledged the negative effects of corruption on the protection of human rights and on development. UN human rights bodies and mechanisms (i.e., Human Rights Council, its Special Rapporteurs, and the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, as well as human rights Treaty Bodies) are increasingly mindful of the negative impact of corruption on the enjoyment of human rights, and have addressed issues of corruption and human rights on numerous occasions.

Starting in March 2016, the URG is implementing a project that has the following three broad objectives:

  1. Turn the vague assertion that widespread corruption ‘has an increasingly negative impact…on the enjoyment of all human rights’ into hard-hitting, fact-based and objective research into the nature and extent of that impact, especially for the most vulnerable sections of society.
  1. Reflect on four country-specific case studies (Argentina, Guatemala, Honduras, and Tunisia) to highlight the ways in which corruption affects human rights, and to provide insight into the potential role of the international human rights system in helping to combat corruption at a national level.
  1. Develop concrete ideas, strategies, and actions to usefully leverage international human rights law, obligations, institutions, and mechanisms to support the global fight against corruption.

Policy Report

Corruption: a human rights impact assessment
By Angela Barkhouse, Hugo Hoyland and Marc Limon

Visit the report page

Marc Limon’s presentation at a side-event on ‘Using human rights and human rights based approaches to combat corruption,’ organised by the Permanent Missions of Switzerland, Austria, and Poland during HRC32 on 24 June 2016.

“Freedom from Official Corruption as a Human Right”,by Matthew Murray and Andrew Spalding, published by the Brookings Institution in January 2015.

“Anti-Corruption and Human Rights – How to Become Mutually Reinforcing”, by Raoul Wallenberg Institute, building upon the discussion, presentations, conclusions and recommendations drawn during a Roundtable 13-14 November in Lund.

Linking human rights and anti-corruption compliance, by Joanna Drewert and Kaustuv Banerjee. United Nations Global Compact.

Corruption as a violation of international human rights, by Anne Peters. The European Journal of International Law Vol. 29 no. 4 EJIL (2018), Vol. 29 No. 4, 1251–1287 doi:10.1093/ejil/chy070 © Published by Oxford University Press. Open Access article distributed under Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License.

The nexus between anti-corruption and human rights, by Raoul Wallenberg Institute.




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