"I passionately believe that the new goals need to be simple, inspiring and relevant"

UK Prime Minister David Cameron's Remarks to the Transparency International Post 2015 High-Level event

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

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I’m delighted to co-host this event with two great partners in the fight against poverty.

President Mahama of Ghana who has led the way on extractives transparency in his country.

And Transparency International, who have been leading the fight against corruption across the world.

The task ahead of us is to replace the Millennium Development Goals.

I passionately believe that the new goals need to be simple, inspiring and relevant.

Simple means no more than 12 goals.

I appreciate the work that the Open Working Group has put in and I know from my own experience of the High Level Panel how difficult it is to balance all the competing demands of different nations.

But frankly the draft goals as they stand just don’t cut it.

17 is too many.

Too many to communicate effectively.

Too many to inspire and rally people.

And too many to use as a guide for prioritising action.

If we end up with 17 goals there is a real danger that they will just end up sitting on a bookshelf gathering dust.

So we need to simplify and prioritise.

Inspiring means eradicating absolute poverty by 2030.

This is why we are creating these goals…

…to see through our vision of a world without poverty.

Yes, it is ambitious.

But there is absolutely no point spending months and months negotiating a new set of goals…

…if what we are actually doing is finding reasons to water down the level of ambition we are all here to deliver.

$ 1.25 per day. That’s what absolutely poverty is.

We know how many people live in it.

We know how to beat it.

Now let’s pledge it – and do it.

Relevant means they have got to deal with the underlying issues keeping so many countries and people locked in poverty.

That means we have to take on corruption and work to establish what I call the golden thread of conditions that enable open economies and open societies to thrive.

These include the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary..

…free media and association…

…good governance and the presence of property rights.

In short, the foundations for the sustained economic growth that lifts countries out of poverty.

And the best way to destroy the pernicious culture of corruption that stifles growth and corrodes the contract between state and citizen.

Why do I say this?

Let me give you five reasons why we can’t ignore corruption.

First, it’s what people around the world are telling us really matters.

When I was Chairing the High Level Panel we sought views from all around the world.

4 million people told the United Nations that an “honest and responsive government” is one of their top development priorities.

Millions more have taken to the streets against corruption.

We should listen to them.

Second, the evidence is there for everyone to see.

On every indicator of poverty – whether it’s children dying before the age of 5, girls missing out on education or women dying in childbirth….

…the statistics are clear: the more corruption in your society, the poorer your people are.

Third, the broad sweep of history shows that a nation’s prosperity is not determined by its geography, its climate, its people’s ethnicity or its religion.

It’s determined by the openness and accountability of its government and the strength of its institutions.

Consider North and South Korea.

Two countries side by side, but who couldn’t be further apart.

South Korea a beacon of light, literally and metaphorically. The fourth largest economy in Asia. Its teenagers second in the world for reading. A hub for global business where average life expectancy is a staggering 81.

Just next door in North Korea, living standards are amongst the lowest in the world, disease is rife, almost a quarter of children are severely malnourished and average life expectancy is almost 15 years lower.

And we know why this difference exists.

South Korea is an open, vibrant market economy that is underpinned by an open, vibrant successful democracy. A place where people have a say in the future of their nation.

North Korea is a closed, backward economy, underpinned by a closed, corrupt, secretive dictatorship.

Decisions taken behind closed doors, mostly by the grandsons of those who were taking them 70 years ago.

Fourth, think about how many problems come back to the presence of corruption and the absence of justice.

Why do so many countries find their governments simply can’t deliver the things their people need? Corruption

Why did people in Afghanistan turn to the Taleban?

In large part, because they couldn’t get access to justice from their own government. Corruption.

Why in too many cases does aid not get through to the people who need it most?

The answer: corruption

Why do so many countries with massive mineral wealth have rich elites and large numbers in grinding poverty?

The answer: corruption

You don’t need to be a social scientist to see how important this is.

That’s why it’s so important that we have a specific goal on honest and responsive government.

Fifth, corruption is not just a problem for developing countries.

We know that in many cases it is lawyers and accountants in the West who collude in the corruption that holds developing countries back.

That is why at the G8 in Lough Erne last year I made transparency a central element of our agenda.

We’re working towards common global standards of transparency in extractive industries to help end the scandal of people in power looting billions of dollars.

And we’re demanding greater transparency over the ownership of companies to stop corrupt officials, oligarchs and money launderers from plundering a country’s wealth with impunity.

The UK is well placed to make this argument.

We have kept our promises on aid, meeting the commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of our GNI on aid.

So we have earned the right to talk about what is keeping people poor.

I say: just as denying people access to food causes starvation.

So denying them access to justice starves them of a future.

And I know that some people don’t want to include these issues in the goals.

I say: don’t let them get away with it.

Published 24 September 2014