Posted Monday 21 November 2016
What is the definition of corruption? How does this definition vary from country to country? How do we create and enforce laws on a concept that is often veiled in secrecy?
Corruption is often seen as one of the most devastating forms of criminality. Much broader than mere bribery, it covers any abuse of power that satisfies personal interests in either the public or private sector. In direct contrast to the barriers that often surround this topic, Kingston University Law School's recently established Integrity Research Group aims to raise the veil and bring the discussion out in to the open.
Established in May 2016, the new research group brings together academic researchers and professional experts to debate and dissect this complex subject in the hope of positively contributing to improved, international anti-corruption policies. The group's membership encompasses experts and academics from every corner of globe working alongside staff and students from a broad range of subject specialisms across Kingston University.
Director of the Integrity Research Group senior law lecturer Dr Lorenzo Pasculli said one of the main issues the group was tackling was the fact that corruption was too often narrowly interpreted by lawmakers and courts. "Our members recognised that in order to acquire a full understanding of what constitutes corruption and anti-corruption, it was necessary to move away from the law to a wider international framework that involved all disciplines," Dr Pasculli explained.
The Integrity Research Group was officially launched at its inaugural symposium in September. Entitled 'Conversations on corruption: an interdisciplinary and comparative reflection on a globalising phenomenon', the event was attended by renowned experts in journalism, sociology, law, legal philosophy and economics.
Dr Pasculli said this first conference had been marked by a high degree of audience participation. "We had hoped for some useful and unique discussions to take place but were especially impressed by the level of dialogue that was reached," he said. "I was particularly pleased when Transparency International – a global movement that gives voices to victims and witnesses of corruption – accepted our invitation to take part in a panel which explored the legal responses to corruption and the challenges faced in society to promote transparency and integrity."
Discussion panels at the day-long event addressed the many faces of corruption in such diverse areas as banking, healthcare and publishing. To give real-world context to the debate, journalists presented case-studies on notable corruption cases. The Guardian's Luke Harding discussed Edward Snowden and the inside story of the world's biggest leak while Kiev-based journalist Maxim Tucker from The Times, explored the politics of corruption in the Ukraine. President of the Association of Journalists of Veneto Gianluca Amadori, meanwhile, presented on the so-called 2014 ‘Mose' scandal in Italy in which 35 politicians and businessmen were arrested on suspicion of giving or receiving bribes in connection with the Venice Mose flood prevention project.
The symposium culminated in a final plenary session during which the audience were able to take part in setting the agenda for the group's future focus and projects.
Following on from this exercise, the Integrity Research Group recently launched its inaugural research seminar series. These seminars will provide a platform for both existing as well as new group members to identify activity that will make a concrete impact on the policies surrounding corruption. "We want to share our knowledge and work with businesses, government and public bodies to promote corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, transparency and accountability," Dr Pasculli said.
The first seminar took place on Wednesday 23 November when Dr Debora Provolo from the University of Padua, in Italy, presented her research outcomes on the use of criminal law to protect the environment in the fight against eco-mafias. This will be followed on 14 December by an analysis of the effects of EU Timber Regulation in the UK by Kingston University PhD candidate Nainesh Patel.
The Integrity Research Group's 2017 activities will kick off with a presentation on compliance programmes and integrity on 25 January by Professor Maria Antonella Pasculli from the Italian University of Bari.
Membership of the group is open to any academics or professional experts, from the United Kingdom and abroad, who are interested in making a difference to legislation and policies surrounding corruption and anti-corruption.