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Corruption is the thief of economic and social development, says UNODC Chief at anti-corruption opening in Panama

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On 25 November 2013, the President of the Republic of Panama, His Excellency Ricardo Martinelli, and the UNODC Executive Director, Mr. Yury Fedotov, inaugurated the fifth session of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which will be hosted in Panama City, Panama, from 25 to 29 October 2013.

In his opening speech, H.E. Ricardo Martinelli emphasized the importance of confronting corruption, noting that "The UN Convention against Corruption allows us to work together to confront one of the greatest challenges we face as a global community."

Mr. Fedotov, in his own address, emphasized connections between corruption and sustainable development, highlighting that corruption was not simply a crime, but also the instigator of other criminal activities such as transnational organized crime and drug trafficking. "Without corruption and bribery," Mr. Fedotov explained, "millions of women, children and men cannot be trafficked as slaves; thousands of small arms cannot reach their violent destinations; and tonnes of illicit drugs cannot reach their consumers."

Corruption has a devastating impact across the world. It is estimated by the World Bank that, every year,  between US$20 to US$40 billion dollars are lost from developing countries due to corruption and bribery. The environment also suffers: Costs of water infrastructure are increased by corruption by as much as 40 per cent which equates to an additional US$12 billion a year needed to provide worldwide safe drinking water and sanitation.

The UN Convention against Corruption is the bedrock for the fight back against corruption. Only UNCAC has the broad sweep to confront corruption in all its varieties and to ensure that national anti-corruption laws are fully in line with the Convention; that a willingness to cooperate and share information across borders exists; and that there is a strong commitment to confront corruption. The UNODC Chief emphasized, however, that it would take everyone's voice raised against corruption to bring true success and stated that "We need a robust and strong coalition of governments, business community, civil society, academia and media to resist corruption, and build a culture of prevention and integrity."

The Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption is the world's largest biennial anti-corruption event drawing together over 1,500 participants from Member States, civil society, private sector academia and the media to discuss best practices and successes in the fight against corruption under the umbrella of UNCAC.

The convention now has 168 states parties and has gone further than any other UN Convention through its unique Review Mechanism that, after four years, has trained more than 1,400 anti-corruption experts and provided assistance to 35 States to amend their legislation.