UNODC South Eastern Europe on Corruption
Corruption is a serious crime that undermines social and economic development and weakens the fabric of modern-day society.
- Hinders social and economic development and increases poverty by diverting domestic and foreign investment away from where it are most needed;
- Weakens education and health systems, depriving people of the basic building blocks of a decent life;
- Undermines democracy by distorting electoral processes and undermining government institutions, which can lead to political instability;
- Exacerbates inequality and injustice by perverting the rule of law and punishing victims of crime through corrupt rulings.
Fighting corruption is a global concern because corruption is found in both rich and poor countries, though evidence shows that it hurts poor people disproportionately.
Since the mid-1990s the General Assembly of the United Nations, through multiple resolutions, has expressed serious concern about the problems and threats posed by corruption to the stability and security of societies, undermining the institutions and values of democracy, ethical values and justice, and jeopardizing sustainable development and the rule of law. Corruption attacks the foundation of democratic institutions by distorting electoral processes, by perverting the rule of law, and by creating bureaucratic quagmires whose only reason for existence is the soliciting of bribes. Foreign direct investment is discouraged and small businesses within the country often find it impossible to overcome the "start-up costs" required because of corruption. Corruption corrodes government institutions and starves the economy.
The UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) provides a powerful tool to strengthen anti-corruption programmes in the region. However, while the UNCAC constitutes a major achievement in international law, its potential contribution to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals remains underutilized. The main challenge is thus to turn the Convention from a mere legal framework into an effective tool for the rule of law.
The countries/territories from the Regional Programme consider the fight against corruption to be their key priority from the perspective of joining wider European integrations. As an integral part of anti-corruption strategies of the countries/territories in the region, some progress has been made in harmonising anti-corruption legal framework with European and international standards; new legislation is being introduced, existing laws have been amended. Nevertheless, some of the countries/territories are still due to ratify some of the most important international anti-corruption legal instruments and change or amend their legislation accordingly. Additionally, with more or less success, institutional framework for fighting corruption in both private and public sector is being strengthened and some new institutions tasked to fight corruption are being established, However, despite the improved institutional and legal framework the number of investigations, prosecutions and convictions for corruption related cases remains to be rather low. This is usually explained by the fact that the newly introduced legal framework still needs to be improved. Additionally, newly established anti-corruption institutions are understaffed and the staffs already working are lacking adequate expertise, in particular in relation to financial investigations, asset forfeiture and recovery.
The fight against corruption requires effective inter-agency and international cooperation in line with the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), the relevant European instruments and a strategic partnership with the Regional Anticorruption Initiative (RAI). There will be two priorities in UNODC's assistance in this regard. The first is to support the implementation of anticorruption strategies, as well as to extend the scope of regional cooperation networks with anticorruption bodies serving as a forum for exchange of experience. The second priority is to establish more effective mechanisms of cooperation to combat corruption at the regional level, in particular with regards to asset forfeiture and asset recovery. In this respect UNODC will work closely with the Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) which is a joint initiative of the UNODC and the World Bank Group (WBG) in order to respond to this problem. UNODC will provide technical assistance to asset recovery Commissions and other relevant institutions in the region.