Harvard Law School Professor Matthew Stephenson ‘03 delivered the keynote speech at the 2nd annual Evidence-Based Anti-Corruption Policies Conference held on Jan. 11 and 12 in Bangkok, Thailand. The conference, sponsored by Thailand’s National Anti-Corruption Commission, in collaboration with the World Bank and Transparency International, focused on challenges for anti-corruption policy in achieving Millennium Development Goals.

In his keynote, Stephenson said the most effective anti-corruption enforcement efforts are not necessarily those that make the splashiest headlines.

“The most effective anti-corruption campaigns are likely to be those that are broad and sustained—that is, those that achieve the greatest degree of consistency across time and across targets,” he said. “Despite all the problems and challenges facing anti-corruption efforts, there’s strong evidence that straightforward anti-corruption enforcement—audits, investigations, and credible sanctions—can in fact be effective in reducing corruption. This is perhaps not all that surprising, but it’s worth emphasizing.”

Speaking to recent world events, Stephenson said, “Many of the pro-democracy protests that emerged over the last year in the Middle East—the so-called Arab Spring—emerged in large part from disgust with the rampant corruption of the incumbent governments. These pro-democracy protests, like the Tiananmen demonstrations, were also anti-corruption protests. So the idea that democracy is a potential antidote to corruption has widespread appeal and potentially enormous consequences.”

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Stephenson, who teaches administrative law, legislation and regulation, and political economy of public law, focuses his research on the application of positive political theory to public law, particularly in the areas of administrative procedure, judicial institutions, and separation of powers.

He wrote “Legislation and Regulation” with HLS Professor John Manning ’85 (Foundation Press, 2010) and is the author of many articles, including “Judicial Review as a Response to Political Posturing,” with Justin Fox, 105 American Political Science Review 397 (2011), and “Information Acquisition and Institutional Design” 124 Harvard Law Review 1422 (2011).

For more coverage of the conference, visit The World Bank website.