Why Do We Desperately Need a Culture of Integrity in Ukraine?

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According to Tony Dungy, “integrity is a choice between what is convenient and what is right”. Let’s be honest, many Ukrainians tend to “cut the edges” to avoid complications, delays, or inconveniences in their daily lives, be it a payment for avoiding queue in a clinic, a small bribe to avoid ticket for speeding, or a facilitation payment to facilitate obtaining certain authorizations. Even these practices might seem insignificant in comparison with big corruption cases, this, I believe, is a foundation corruption is standing on. 

Broken windows theory sees serious crime as a result of a lengthier chain of events, theorizing that crime emanated from disorder, which causes crime, and crime causes further disorder and crime; and that if disorder were eliminated, then serious crimes would not occur. Naturally, I believe that we should develop a culture of complete intolerance to corruption offenders, as well as a courage to disclose any requests for bribe. Businesses and individuals must unite in refraining from having any dealings with the corrupted individuals.

Winston Churchill once said “courage is what it takes to stand up and speak”. We will be morally entitled to demand integrity and transparency from others when we are persons of moral and integrity ourselves. I have no illusion – it won’t happen overnight. Besides, we will not be able to change it by means of revolutions, in anti-corruption courts or by other means, except for permanent and persistent education aimed at changing the Ukrainian society and fostering complete intolerance for corruption.

Everyone should understand that it is beneficial to be a person of integrity. It is much more sustainable in the long-term. I particularly like this advertising illustrating my thought with a slogan “it is beneficial to be a person of integrity”.  

Theodore Dreiser in his famous Novel “the Financier”, where a main character has been prosecuted for misappropriation of public finance, expressed the thought that “the public is much to blame for your offense and others of a similar character. Heretofore, official fraud has been regarded with too much indifference. What we need is a higher and purer political morality—a state of public opinion which would make the improper use of public money a thing to be execrated. It was the lack of this which made your offense possible.”

It is painful to say, but in Ukraine there is still a great number of people who does not believe and cannot understand how it is possible to conduct business in Ukraine without giving bribes. Can you imagine the depth of such deformation of the perception of reality? How much time do you think it will take to turn it bottom up, so that people do not believe and cannot understand how it is even possible to pay a bribe? 

This is what Mahatma Gandhi, a symbol for freedom and non-violence, said about relations between our culture and our life:

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,

Your thoughts become your words,

Your words become your actions,

Your actions become your habits,

Your habits become your values,

Your values become your destiny.”

Peter Drucker said “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. If you extrapolate it on the anti-corruption battlefield, in a very practical sense it means that no matter what anti-corruption strategy or strategic plan Ukraine is trying to implement, its success and efficacy are going to be held back by the Ukrainian society in general and people implementing the plan in particular.

It is definitely not a bad thing that we have a number of newly established anti-corruption bodies in place, even though they are still not meeting our high expectations. However, I am convinced that their activity will be efficient and meaningful only once the culture of Ukrainian society shifts to zero tolerance to corruption. 

Little strokes fell great oaks. You can complete a large, intimidating task by steadily doing small parts of it. To achieve great things, small actions are required. Those small actions, if done consistently, can change everything. Great changes do not come overnight.

It all starts with you and your actions. Let’s be the change we want to see in the world! Let’s lead by example and be an example for your business partners, clients, colleagues, family and friends. This is the best way to influence people. People follow examples, not advices. Actions speak louder than words. Be persistent and speak up.  

In the meantime, stay tuned and promote ethics and compliance!

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Volodymyr Grabchak is a legal counsel with an international FMCG company, responsible, inter alia for anti-corruption compliance issues in Ukraine and Moldova. He got his law degree in Ukraine and LL.M. degree in the Netherlands. 

Volodymyr is attorney at law admitted to Ukrainian Bar and a member of the International Bar Association (IBA).