All societies suffer from corruption to some degree. However, Mexico is paying a steep price for this problem.

Every year corruption reportedly costs Mexico between 2 to 10 percent of its gross domestic product, chases away foreign investment by 5 percent, and depresses employment by almost half a million jobs from small- and medium-sized businesses. Corruption in Mexico also preys on the poor, who often have to pay bribes to receive basic services. And it corrodes trust in governing institutions and democratic processes, which continue to be tested by high levels of drug- and crime-related violence.

Yet as we recognize International Anti-Corruption Day, we’d like to point out that Mexicans are doing something about the problem. With help from IRI, civil society partners in the states of Coahuila, Querétaro, and Nuevo León are informing citizens of the problems and helping them influence and participate in policymaking and implementation of measures to reduce corruption and increase transparency through access to information.

In Saltillo, Coahuila, IRI’s partner Consejo Cívico (Civic Council) conducted a lab where high school students talked about the corruption challenges their community faces. The students observed how corruption can affect school life, when teachers reward students without regard for merit, and how such behavior can repeat itself in the halls of power. This activity encouraged them to take a stand against corruption and become involved in helping to curb this problem in government and, more broadly, society.

In Querétaro, the Observatorio Ciudadano (Citizen Observatory) earlier this year presented the state congress several anti-corruption recommendations. November 24, the Congress approved two as part of a constitutional reform. The recommendations were to adjust the term of the state’s Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office and to strengthen the capacities of the state’s Citizen Participation Committee. Finally, in Nuevo León, the Consejo Cívico recently worked with citizens and representatives from the private sector to identify priorities and strategies for anti-corruption legislation, which they presented publicly.

Students in Saltillo discuss corruption challenges in their communities.

IRI is in a new cycle of anti-corruption programs in Mexico, having helped establish transparency or access to information offices in Morelos and Oaxaca states in 2013. Already there is significant buy-in, and not only among civil society and key members of the private sector; government officials at all levels have expressed interest in and support for these programs. This is good news. But perhaps more encouraging is that we are joining forces with civil society partners who are totally committed to the fight against corruption and who are in this fight for the long haul.
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