Business and Government
Joining Forces against Corruption
Paris, 27 April 2011
Monsieur le Ministre,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like first of all to thank the French Presidency of the G20 and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development for bringing us together. I expect this conference will generate innovative ideas and strategies and create new partnerships.
Corruption is a global threat. It is a serious roadblock to economic development.
Corruption aggravates inequality and injustice, and undermines stability, especially in the world's most vulnerable regions.
As recent events in North Africa and the Middle East have demonstrated, corruption has the power to shake the very foundations of society. But even in regions where peace and prosperity prevail, corruption takes a heavy toll.
Public-private partnerships are crucial to preventing corruption, so I am pleased to see such a diverse group here today, ready to share expertise and best practices.
The G20 is making rapid progress in tackling the challenge of corruption. The Seoul Summit adopted last November an Anti-Corruption Action Plan that recognizes the centrality of the UN Convention against Corruption.
The Convention is the first and the only all- inclusive anti-corruption instrument of international law, joined by 151 countries under the universal umbrella of the United Nations. As a legally binding document, it obliges States:
- to prevent and criminalize corruption,
- to promote international cooperation,
- to recover stolen assets, and
- to improve technical assistance and information exchange.
It applies to both the public and the private sectors.
I am proud that United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, guardian of the Convention against Corruption, helped to develop the G20 Action Plan.
The Plan provides a common approach and an opportunity for the G20 to lead by example in the global fight against corruption. It also recognizes that the private sector has an essential role to play.
The business community is one of corruption's major victims. But the private sector can also be a powerful agent for change.
Two years ago, 100 chief executives from some of the world's foremost companies took the unprecedented step of calling on Governments to implement the UNCAC. They asked the Secretary-General for the UN's good offices to introduce a robust mechanism for assessing their compliance.
In November 2009, the Conference of States Parties to the UNCAC agreed to establish a peer review mechanism, which is now in use.
The private sector's support for the U N Convention against Corruption and its review mechanism is crucial.
But now it's time for business to move beyond declarations to concrete policies.
The private sector has a part to play in enhancing accountability and transparency. This in turn will help foster development and strengthen the global economy.
So today I call on you to turn your anti-corruption commitments into action. UNODC stands ready to assist you.
So what can the business community do? I have four concrete proposals.
First . Adopt private-sector anti-corruption policies aligned with the UNCAC. Put in place the checks and balances needed to strengthen transparency and accountability. The Convention provides a common framework. Let's use it.
UNODC intends to develop model anti-corruption guidelines for business, and we are in discussions with the OECD on how we can work together to promote them.
Second . Establish a credible mechanism to review your own commitments to integrity.
The global business community pushed States to do this, and Governments have taken rapid action. Now the private sector needs to take inspiration from the same principles of accountability and transparency and develop a reliable and fair monitoring mechanism to assess its compliance with anti-corruptions guidelines that are consistent with the UN Convention.
Think of it as an integrity audit. I'm sure all your companies undergo financial audits to check accuracy and encourage transparency. An integrity audit can ensure responsible business practices. By creating a monitoring system of your own design and governance, you can assure your investors, employees, customers and the public that not only your words but also your deeds are clean.
Third . Invest in strengthening public integrity in developing countries. Businesses suffer because of public corruption. Developing countries often lack the capacity and resources to combat corruption, so providing technical assistance can help them implement the Convention. Think of the Convention as an insurance policy to protect your investments in countries where you do business.
UNODC can be a key partner in this effort through its network of regional and country offices.
What can the private sector do to help? You can support efforts to establish legal frameworks to prevent and combat corruption, as well as anti-corruption agencies and financial intelligence units that can give those frameworks teeth.
You can support integrity training for the judiciary. Although judges may be few in number, they have a wide-reaching impact on the administration of justice.
And you can support efforts to help Governments develop the legal expertise to repatriate public funds looted by corrupt leaders.
Let me assure you that individual companies can make a real difference. UNODC recently received a $3 million donation from a leading multinational to support anti-corruption programmes. This is a minuscule amount in terms of the corporate bottom line, but it will have far-reaching ripple effects in combating corruption.
Fourth . I urge you to invest in your own supply chain. Just as many corporations have pledged to keep coercive labour practices out of their supply chains, why not do the same with corruption? In both cases, it's good for business-and it's also the right thing to do.
More often than not, it is small businesses that are on the front lines in confronting corruption, especially in developing countries. Yet small companies often lack the ability and the resources to invest in their own integrity. But large corporations can help them.
You can share your anti-corruption knowledge and capacity and make your anti-corruption compliance services available to small companies in your supply chain.
And you can refrain from penalizing them if they experience delays as a result of refusing to give bribes.
In October, the Conference of States Parties to the Convention against Corruption will meet in Marrakech to take stock of global progress in preventing corruption. I hope that the private sector will use the months leading up to the Conference to develop specific policies and concrete steps to fight corruption.
By building a culture of integrity and transparency and strengthening the rule of law, the business community can help create stronger economies and more prosperous societies.
Development is good for business. But the most important beneficiaries are ordinary people. Your efforts to combat corruption and foster development help give people new opportunities and hopes for the future. By working together, you can make a real difference in the lives of women, men and children all over the world.