Impact of Corruption on Development and how States can Better Tackle Corruption Under the Spotlight at UN Anti-Corruption Conference in Morocco
The Fourth Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption in Marrakech (24-28 October 2011)
More than one thousand delegates from 129 countries, as well as representatives of civil society, international organizations, parliaments, the media, anti-corruption authorities and the private sector attended the United Nation's Anti-corruption Conference held in Morocco from 24-28 October 2011. A large number of senior level company officials were present demonstrating their commitment to build strong corporate compliance cultures and acknowledging that the Convention is a key instrument for building a level-playing field for global competition, requiring action by multi-national enterprises and by Governments. Iranian's delegation lead by H.E. Mr. Valiollah Khobreh, Vice President of the General Inspection Organization and representatives of the Ministry Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Judiciary participated in the Conference. The Iranian Permanent Representative in Vienna also participated in the Conference as head of the Group of 77 and China.
The Fourth Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) met to review the implementation of the Convention and assess worldwide efforts to combat corruption. The First Session of the Conference of the States Parties was held in Amman, Jordan in 2006; the Second Session in Nusa Dua, Indonesia in 2008 and the Third Session in Doha, Qatar in 2009. The Fifth Session will be held in Panama in 2013.
In Marrakesh, the Conference has resolved the complex question of observer participation in the review mechanism and has taken steps towards ensuring that civil society can begin to effectively and appropriately contribute to the maximization of the benefits to be derived from the review mechanism. Addressing the opening session, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Mr. Fedotov stressed the importance of having governments, the private sector, parliamentarians, anti-corruption authorities, civil society organizations, young people and the media cooperating in rejecting corruption at every level of society.
The recovery of stolen public assets has also been widely discussed and the conference agreed to work to removing barriers to asset recovery. This is a particularly important issue for many developing countries where high-level corruption has plundered the national wealth and where resources are badly needed for reconstruction and the rehabilitation of societies.
Mr. Fedotov said that the Conference had established itself as the main event of the anti-corruption movement, as was shown by the well-attended 20 side events on the margins of the conference. At the general discussion, there were 84 speakers including high level representatives from more than 30 countries.
Various topics were addressed during the side events including the 10th principle of the Global Compact; the Open Government Partnership; the UNCAC and global competition; engaging citizens to counter corruption for better public service delivery and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals; the role of parliamentarians in the UNCAC; the impact of corruption on the environment; gender and corruption; estimating illicit flows from drug trafficking and other transnational organized crime; and human rights and the fight against corruption.
Corruption and development
Corruption is a global phenomenon found in all countries - but evidence shows it harms poor people more than others, stifles economic growth and diverts desperately needed funds from education, healthcare and other public services. An estimated one trillion US dollars get siphoned off through bribes every year according to the World Bank.
"Corruption is a global threat. It is a serious roadblock to economic development," said the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov. "Corruption aggravates inequality and injustice, and undermines stability, especially in the world's most vulnerable regions."
The General Assembly has also recognized that corruption is a barrier to development and diverts resources away from poverty-eradication efforts and sustainable development and has urged States which have not yet done so to ratify and accede to the UNCAC.
The UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC)
The UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) came into force in December 2005 and has been ratified by 155 States, more than two third of the United Nations Member States. It is the only international legal instrument to fight corruption. The Convention obliges States to prevent and criminalize corruption; to promote international cooperation; to recover stolen assets and to improve technical assistance and information exchange in both the private and public sectors.
The Convention introduces ground-breaking measures in four areas: prevention, criminalization, international cooperation and asset recovery.
An entire chapter of the Convention is dedicated to preventing corruption with measures directed at both the public and private sectors. These include model preventive policies, such as the establishment of anticorruption bodies and enhanced transparency in the financing of election campaigns and political parties. States must ensure that their public services are subject to safeguards that promote efficient, transparency and recruitment based on merit. Public servants once recruited should be subject to codes of conduct, requirements for financial and other disclosures and appropriate disciplinary measures. Transparency and accountability in matters of public finance must also be promoted and specific requirements are set up for preventing corruption in critical areas of the public sector such as the judiciary and public procurement. Preventing corruption also requires the involvement of non-governmental and community-based organizations and other elements of civil society.
Criminalization of corruption
The Convention requires countries to establish criminal and other offences to cover a wide range of acts of corruption, if these are not already crimes under domestic law. The Convention goes beyond previous instruments of this kind, criminalizing not only basic forms of corruption such as bribery and the embezzlement of public funds, but also trading in influence and the concealment and laundering of the proceeds of corruption. Private sector corruption is also covered as are money-laundering and obstructing justice.
Countries agreed to cooperate with one another in every aspect of the fight against corruption, including prevention, investigation and the prosecution of offenders. Countries are bound by the Convention to render specific forms of mutual legal assistance in gathering and transferring evidence for use in court, and to extradite offenders. Countries are also required to undertake measures which will support the tracing, freezing, seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of corruption.
Asset recovery is a fundamental principle of the Convention. This is a particularly important issue for many developing countries where high-level corruption has plundered the national wealth and where resources are badly needed for reconstruction and the rehabilitation of societies.
In the case of the embezzlement of public funds, the confiscated property would be returned to the state requesting it; in the case of proceeds of any other offence covered by the Convention, the property would be returned providing the proof of ownership or recognition of the damage caused to a requesting states; in all other cases, priority consideration would be given to the return of the confiscated property to the requesting state, to the return of such property to the prior legitimate owners or to compensation of the victims. Effective asset recovery supports countries' efforts to redress the worst effects of corruption while also sending a message to corrupt officials that there will be no place to hide their illicit assets.
Implementation Review Mechanism
States agreed to a mechanism to monitor the Convention's implementation at the Third Session in Doha, Qatar, two years ago. In the first year 26 countries have participated in the new peer review mechanism, the first of its kind for such a Convention. In the second year a further 41 countries will undergo review. The executive summaries of each country review reports once finalized, are published. All the States parties will be reviewed in two five-year cycles, covering all chapters of the Convention, to assess how they are living up to their obligations under the Convention.
The reviews aim to identify good practices and challenges in national anti-corruption laws and practices. This analysis will also enable more effective delivery of technical assistance to countries that need and request it.
Corruption in the private sector
Corruption is not just a problem in government. The private sector suffers too, where corruption erodes corporate identity, undermines confidence between business partners and can destroy the reputation of once-trusted companies. The contribution of the private sector in fighting corruption is essential.
There are four concrete steps businesses can take to proactively tackle corruption: firstly adopt anti-corruption policies in line with the UN Convention and put in place the checks and balances necessary for strengthening accountability and transparency; secondly establish their own credible review mechanism to audit businesses' probity, as States Parties are doing; thirdly invest in developing the public integrity infrastructure of developing countries by helping them implement the Convention; and fourthly create an environment so internal wrong-doing can be reported and whistle-blowers protected.
The message to the private sector is clear - it is good business to fight corruption, and business cannot expect governments on their own to create a level playing field - there is a role for business too.
UNODC's action against corruption
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) supports States in the implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption and provides technical assistance and training.
TRACK (Tools and Resources for Anti -Corruption Knowledge)
UNODC has a web-based anti-corruption portal known as TRACK (Tools and Resources for Anti-Corruption Knowledge) which includes an electronic database of legislation and jurisprudence relevant to UNCAC. The TRACK portal brings together legal and non-legal knowledge on anti-corruption and asset recovery enabling Member States, the anti-corruption community and the general public to access this information in a central location.
STAR - Stole Assets Recovery (StAR) Initiative
UNODC's work in the area of asset recovery aims at encouraging and facilitating systematic and timely return of assets stolen through acts of corruption, under the framework of UNCAC. For this objective, UNODC established a partnership with the World Bank Group under the joint Stolen Assets Recovery (StAR) Initiative. The StAR initiative is focusing on lowering the barriers to asset recovery; building national capacity for asset recovery; and providing preparatory assistance in the recovery of assets.
Corruption/integrity surveys carried out by UNODC target civil servants to capture their perceptions and attitudes towards work environment as well as their experiences with crime and corruption. Specific surveys are conducted within the judiciary and the police. Survey results help to assess needs and expectations of officers in terms of their relations with the public and job satisfaction, as well as their knowledge of codes of conduct, anti-corruption rules and reporting mechanisms.
Global Compact's 10th principle
UNODC contributes actively to the implementation of the 10th principle of the United Nations Global Compact, which states that "Business should work against corruption in any form, including bribery and extortion".