UNODC is cosponsor of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS - UNAIDS
Mr.Gary Lewis addresses the Seminar on "Corruption: Perspectives & the Way Ahead"
8 December 2006,
Good morning friends,
In precisely 2 days, states parties to the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) are meeting in Jordan on the shores of the Dead Sea. From the lowest point on earth they will be deliberating on one of the highest achievements in international cooperation. They will deliberate upon the future of the UNCAC and also evaluate the progress achieved so far. This will be the First Conference of the states parties after the Convention was adopted in 2003.
Corruption is essentially a national issue. It has, however, acquired transnational proportions in the current globalised world. Like the issues of development, environment, human rights and organized crime, corruption too has of late emerged as a matter of great concern to the international community. In addition to the economic cost of corruption, which can be quantified, it carries with it a huge dead-weight loss to the society at large. "Corruption" in the words of the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, "undermines economic performance, weakens democratic institutions and the rule of law, it disrupts social order and destroys public trust, thereby allowing organized, terrorism and other threats to human society to flourish."
Internationally, there has been a response to the fight against corruption. International forums such as the United Nations, the World Bank and the IMF have taken the lead to put into motion national and global measures to curb practices that undermine transparency and accountability in government and business.
Corruption, as a vital ingredient to organised crime with its other twin element of money laundering, did find its way into the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) in the year 2000. However, it was felt that there was a need for a comprehensive set of measures dealing with the wide dimensions of corruption. So, three years thereafter, in 2003, an entirely new Convention exclusively dealing with Corruption was created. The UN Convention against Corruption came into existence in December 2003.
In his message on the eve of signing of the UNCAC, the UN Secretary General noted that efforts to counter criminals who have embraced the globalised economy and sophisticated technology had been fragmentary. He with satisfaction that the UNCAC along with the UN Convention against Transnational Organized crime, "gives us the tools to address crime and corruption on a global scale."
The UNCAC covers four important areas of anti-corruption: (1) prevention, (2) criminalisation and law enforcement, (3) asset recovery and (4) international cooperation.
Asset recovery is a fundamental principle of the Convention. It contains provisions to prevent, detect and deter international transfers of illicitly acquired assets. Measures to strengthen international cooperation in asset recovery are also provided for. Instances like the reported looting by the former President of Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko, of the treasury of some $5 billion-an amount equal to the country's entire external debt at the time-would be well covered under the provision of the UNCAC with countries having concrete recourse to get back their assets.
But governmental efforts alone will not suffice in the fight against corruption. UNODC's slogan: "with corruption everyone pays", makes this point with crystal clarity. And everyone ought to be concerned. Aspects of openness and transparency have been duly emphasized in the Convention. The right to information, public participation in preventing corruption, the need to address private sector corruption, international cooperation, mutual legal assistance, simplification of extradition processes are other significant areas covered by the convention. On effective monitoring mechanisms, technical assistance by agencies such as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has been provided for.
As on 10 November 2006, the UNCAC had been signed by 140 states and ratified by 80. I would once again reiterate that the State Parties to the Convention need to come forward to give effect to the anti-corruption mechanism prescribed therein both in word and spirit.
At the Summit of G-8 countries held in Gleneagles, Scotland in July 2005, the UN Secretary General emphasized, inter alia, that "what is required from each developing country: a national strategy, which must include stronger governance and an implacable war against corruption…"
India is a signatory to the UNCAC, and it is expected that the country will soon be ratifying the anti-corruption convention.
In terms of a formal mechanism to monitor and indict cases of corrupt and unscrupulous practices, India has robust institutions such as the CVC and CBI. The vigilance agencies of PSUs which many of you represent are also significant in this regard. Of special note is the Right to Information Act which came into force in the country in 2005. Never before have we seen, in this country, such heightened interest in and instances of enforcing accountability in the public sector domain. For the first time this year, India has reversed its downward slide on the Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index. The anti-corruption watch-dog ranks India No. 70 on its Corruption Perception Index out of 163 nations. It is a distinct improvement over last year, when India stood at No. 88.
However, we all know that there is much to be done. Therefore, we have gathered here today to find strategies and actionable ways to enhance transparency and accountability in the public sector and in improving corporate governance. We will, in the deliberations over the two days, be focussing on the use of technology, including e-governance, on combating corruption. Best practices from across the country and the world will be highlighted. Group discussions shall be conducted where you can participate and share your views and experiences. This shall give you an opportunity to strategise, network and forge partnerships to fortify your individual and organizational attempts to fight corruption.
I would like to thank Mr. Nandkeolyar from the Power Grid Corporation of India Limited at this juncture, who after having participated in the seminar at this time last year on the occasion of the International Anti-Corruption Day started efforts for this seminar. UNODC is very happy to be a partner in the event, and I would like to congratulate Mr. Nandkeolyar and Mr. Sudip Kar and the entire team from the Corporate Vigilance Department of the Power Grid Corporation for taking lead in organizing this event. I am also happy to be partnering with the Institute of Social Sciences, Mr. Shankar Sen, with whom we have had several fruitful partnerships. I also look forward to the proceedings of this seminar, which I believe will be brought in the form of a booklet soon after.
In concluding, I would like to share with you an extract from the speech of my Executive Director, Mr. Antonio Maria Costa on the occasion of this important day. "Momentum to prevent and combat corruption can accelerate if more states accede to and implement the United Nations Convention Against Corruption which came into force one year ago. As the sole global instrument for fighting corruption, it should be the backbone for all national and international anti-corruption initiative. I urge the inaugural session of the Conference of the States Parties meeting in Jordan this week to take bold steps to ensure that this Convention lives up to expectations."
Thank you all for coming and I wish this important seminar every success.