In an interesting discussion about the possibility of a “Global Integrity Standard,” a friend of mind offered the following touch of realism:
“Focussing on getting a better codification of an integrity standard is not without merit, especially when there are either – cultural issues which can confuse agreement on what are breaches of acceptable integrity, or, – cultural issues which can be dressed-up and co-opted to legitimise self-interested corruption. However, in many jurisdictions, having a better written document setting out standards of integrity will have little if any impact on behaviour.” Shane Cave
I am in agreement with my good friend, Mr. Cave.
Codification of an integrity standard as the result of reasoned agreement is a good start, but there are many and significant cognitive and cultural conflicts that prevent people from following through. I discussed this in Gradients in Anti-Corruption.
I am sure I am not alone in this, but I have run into many examples of government or business representatives that openly discuss the new and written rules and demonstrate apparent awareness of these required behaviors. However, these same officials will turn around and carry out behavior that is in direct violation of those rules.
These individuals can be found in the governments of developing countries. However, they are just as easily found in the government of “developed countries” and donor organizations.
It is an incomplete analysis to say that these individuals are corrupt or dishonest in their intentions. While they may be flawed human beings (like the rest of us), they are basically good and decent people. I believe the problem is more fundamental. I find lack of awareness and the inability to reconcile the integrity standards with cultural norms for acceptable behavior.
I have see this borne out when I have discussed the seemingly contradictory behavior and been met with confusion from the officials. They couldn’t see the contradiction. It was as if I had begun speaking in a language they didn’t understand. (For example the Anti-Corruption Official that provides his wife 100% personal use, including fuel and maintenance, of donor or government vehicle.)
Behavior that is acceptable within the cultural norms was cognitively “cordoned off” from evaluation of the behavior against the legal or newly codified integrity standards.
They were unaware of the contradictions and struggled with reconciliation of the evaluative criteria between culture and law.
Successful development and issuance of an integrity standard, whether a matter of criminal law or the softer notions of integrity, requires substantive attention to identifying and overcoming the “cognitive blind spots”, and reconcile personal and institutional behavior to alignment with the new standard.
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