03/02/2014 08:03 GMT | Updated 03/02/2014 08:59 GMT

OECD Head Angel Gurria Compares Global Corruption Fight To Combatting Climate Change

ERIC PIERMONT via Getty Images
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Secretary General Angel Gurria delivers a speech during a press conference on November 19, 2013 to present the Economic Outlook at the OECD headquarters in Paris. Growth in advanced economies will pick up speed this year and next, but mostly at a slower pace than forecast as new risks loom, especially from emerging economies, the OECD said on November 19. AFP PHOTO / ERIC PIERMONT (Photo credit should read ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Ge

The fight against global corruption requires the same persistence from countries as combatting climate change, the head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation And Development warned.

OECD secretary general Angel Gurria said that continued international efforts were needed to deal with one of the most “perilous” and “systemic" issues of the modern era, comparing it to the fight against climate change as "you have to keep at it".

Speaking at a conference at Chatham House in London, Gurria warned that the bribery of foreign public officials by businesses was contributing to an "erosion of public trust".

He said: “Corporations need to stop bribing public officials, and that is going to help recover public trust and legitimacy, that is going to help markets work."

Gurria said that business used to treat bribing public officials in foreign countries as a "cost of doing business", adding that "governments have to make it a crime".

He warned that a number of emerging economies have yet to criminalise the bribery of foreign officials and lamented that over half of the countries already signed up to the OECD's Anti-Bribery Convention have yet to successfully prosecute a case of foreign bribery.

Gurria, who as head of the OECD monitors the progress among signatories in putting in anti-bribery legislation, suggested that they were are either not committed enough or not convinced enough.

"Our own countries don't always appear to be totally coherent," he said, adding that politicians may be "tempted to defend their companies" rather than hold them to account.

"[Global corruption] has to be combatted with all our strength, all our intelligence and with the help of… effective international treaties.”