Members of the IMCO team at the first ceremony to deliver signatures in favor of the 3de3 initiative to the Mexican Senate on March 19, 2016.
For the first time in the history of modern Mexican democracy a credible, relevant, and effective anticorruption legal infrastructure exists. It holds Mexican politicians accountable and keeps them honest from the get-go, all thanks to Instituto Mexicano para la Competitividad (IMCO)’s revolutionary “3for3” campaign. As of July 18, 2017, it is required by law that every politician must publish his or her declarations of assets, taxes paid, and possible conflicts of interest. This comes as the result of an intensive two-year campaign launched and led by IMCO, in which they raised 634,143 signatures – five times the number required – to introduce the “3for3” (3de3) framework to the Mexican Congress for consideration of its passage into law. As a result of IMCO’s project, for the first time, corruption is categorized as a crime in Mexico. Mexico’s brand is intrinsically linked to corruption, but IMCO’s successful “3for3” campaign has given the people of Mexico hope that this might actually come to an end.
Rule of Law in Name Only
Mexico has a long and troubled history with its government following its own laws, especially concerning graft and bribery. Businesses pay anywhere between 25 and 67 percent in corruption-related costs while the average Mexican family loses roughly 14 percent of its monthly income to corruption and 30 percent of the income of families living on minimum wage is spent on bribes, illegal fees, and other such graft.
With such an unacceptable status quo, in 2015 IMCO launched a coalition between academia and civil society to develop and publicize a new General Law of Administrative Responsibilities, or “Ley 3de3” (3for3 Law), which establishes a legal obligation for all public servants to provide annual declarations of their assets, taxes paid, and possible conflicts of interest. The government allowed them to proceed with this proposal as a citizen initiative but required that IMCO amass 120,000 signed citizen petitions.
The early initiative became a way for candidates for public office to showcase their accountability and transparency by volunteering to publish their 3for3 declarations, with a simple call-to-action of Mexican voters during election season on Twitter being: “If you want my vote I want your #3de3.” In the following two years nearly 3,000 candidates for public office and civil servants have registered their 3for3 declarations on www.3de3.mx, IMCO’s website for the project. On that platform Mexican citizens could view such declarations in addition to a list of those candidates who have not yet declared, complete with links to tweet at those candidates. It had become such an effective public accountability tool that the National Electoral Institute promoted the 3for3 initiative as a means to provide informed voting in 2015 in 2016. This massive success was achieved in large part due to IMCO’s savvy use of communications. The hashtag #3de3 made the 3for3 campaign a household name, and IMCO garnered more than 5,420 mentions in mainstream Mexican media outlets throughout the duration of the campaign.
IMCO initially raised only 2,000 signatures, so it pursued more partnerships – this time with David Noel Ramírez, then-head dean of Tecnológico de Monterrey, one of Mexico’s top universities. In a YouTube plea, Ramírez asked his students and the broader community to sign the petition. His plea gained traction as various groups flocked to join the campaign, including the business association COPARMEX, state-level partners, and small citizen groups, who all began gathering petitions. In the end, the total amount of verified petitions was 634,143, far exceeding the number required for submission to the Mexican Senate and becoming the first-ever citizen initiative to make it through the Senate. Within six months, the Mexican Congress passed seven laws, drafted by IMCO, that created the National Anticorruption System.
IMCO was heavily involved in the law-making process despite numerous institutional roadblocks, with members of its team offering Congressional testimony regularly. Floor proceedings discussing the anticorruption initiative were also conducted under “Open Parliament” principles resulting from popular demand and allowed civil society representatives to defend the initiative whereas they would typically be prohibited from doing so under normal procedures. The momentum of the massively supported 3for3 campaign created an urgency that dominated the legislative agenda.
The 3for3 framework enacts a handful of obligations for all public servants regardless of station – they apply to staffers of municipalities, autonomous bodies, and even the highest officers of the land, including Mexico’s president. This legal requirement will provide Mexican citizens access to a basic level of governmental transparency concerning the economic interest and holdings of its public servants and categorizes corruption as a crime for the first time in the country’s history.
"The 3for3 Law aims to spark a two-fold change: improving the efficiency of the body of laws that fights corruption, and channeling citizens' anger in a constructive way through the existing institutions," said Juan Pardinas, director general of IMCO.
Now backed by the full force of the law, the 3for3 framework defines 10 separate acts of corruption and spells-out accompanying punishments for each. It also establishes a collaborative group of government agencies with full investigative power to fight current instances of corruption and to prevent further corruption. Moreover, it implements a set of checks and balances in the investigation and prosecution processes with an emphasis on recuperating the lost resources and holds the private sector just as accountable for its active role in corruption. Furthermore, it inaugurates a new culture of accountability, simplifies the method of filing complaints, protects whistleblowers, and institutes a legal obligation on public servants to report corruption, among more initiatives.
Importantly, the body created to legally monitor the implementation of the new anticorruption system – the permanent Citizen Participation Council (CPC) – is composed not of bureaucrats but of citizens. Pursuant to the laws passed by the Mexican Congress, notable academics and leaders in civil society were nominated to participate in a selection process that was open for public application and were then appointed to be members of the National Anticorruption System’s Selection Committee. This Selection Committee then appointed all members of the CPC.
In another unprecedented departure from politics as usual, the selection process of the CPC was so transparent that it live streamed all candidate interviews, and the leading role of civil society throughout this entire reform movement was cemented by conducting the swearing-in ceremony of all members of the CPC at IMCO’s office, not in the Senate chambers.
A New Mexico
Three hundred and ninety-eight of over a thousand candidates published their 3for3 declarations in the 2016 elections, including over 40 percent of gubernatorial candidates. All governors who were elected in the same election have published their 3for3 documents and more than 10 percent of the elected Congressmen did the same.
The 32 Mexican states were given until July 18, 2017, to comply with the National Anticorruption System and IMCO drafted a model state law to act as a template, with 13 states adopting at least 70 percent of IMCO’s suggestions. It also set up an “anticorruption thermometer” watchdog tool, updated monthly, to track the progress of local legal frameworks and their degree of compliance with federal standards.
At the inception of the 3dfor3 campaign in 2015 there was no existing concept of a “conflict of interest” in Mexico, let alone a forum in which these conflicts could be publicized. Now, it is expected of each politician and civil servant to make such declarations. This project additionally represents an unprecedented popular mobilization of civil society organizations, academia, business, citizen action groups, and media to demand government accountability in Mexico and in other parts of Latin America.
IMCO first took up the cause of anticorruption reform after it determined how inhibitive corruption is to a country’s competitiveness. It hinders economic growth, discourages entrepreneurship, encourages rent-seeking and cronyism, among several other harmful effects – an estimated 2 to 10 percent of Mexico’s GDP is lost to corruption. It took an enormous undertaking of societal mobilization to achieve such monumental governmental reforms, but IMCO led its coalition to a resounding victory. Through dogged determination IMCO strengthened the rule of law in Mexico by building anticorruption institutions, opening up a new chapter in the country’s development and economic competitiveness by completely changing the rules of the game and realigning incentives.
"Ending corruption and fostering respect for the rule of law where it does not exist is exceedingly difficult -- and extremely important,” said Atlas Network CEO Brad Lips. “Congratulations to IMCO for creating popular demand for this change and seeing it through."
About the Templeton Freedom Award and the additional 2017 finalists:
Awarded since 2004, the Templeton Freedom Award is named for the late investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton. The award annually honors his legacy by identifying and recognizing the most exceptional and innovative contributions to the understanding of free enterprise, and the public policies that encourage prosperity, innovation, and human fulfillment via free competition. The award is generously supported by Templeton Religion Trust and was presented during Atlas Network’s Freedom Dinner on Nov. 8 in New York City at the historic Capitale. IMCO received a $100,000 prize, and five additional finalists received $25,000 prizes. The other finalists for the 2017 Templeton Freedom Award were:
- Beacon Center of Tennessee, based in Nashville, Tenn., for its Tackle the Hall Tax campaign
- Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO), based in Norcross, Ga., for its Prisoner Reentry Initiative
- IMANI Center for Policy and Education, based in Accra, Ghana, for its IMANIFesto
- Instituto de Estudos Empresariais (IEE), based in Porto Alegre, Brazil, for its Fórum da Liberdade
- Macdonald-Laurier Institute for Public Policy (MLI), based in Ottawa, Canada, for its Aboriginal Canada and the Natural Resource Economy project
For media inquiries about the 2017 Templeton Freedom Award, contact Daniel Anthony at Daniel.Anthony@AtlasNetwork.org or (202) 449-8441.