NGOs take the Road to Marrakech: Active participation of civil society at the Conference of the States Parties

October 2011 - 200 NGO representatives participated in the fourth Conference of the States Parties (CoSP4) which took place from 24-28 October in Marrakech, Morocco, and contributed meaningfully to the various activities related to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). This year's Conference looked at ways to improve international cooperation to tackle corruption and strengthen integrity. Member States also addressed the issue of civil society participation in the Implementation Review Group (IRG). The Conference decided that civil society briefings shall be conducted on the margins of the sessions of the Group to further promote a constructive dialogue with NGOs and to draw upon useful contributions from them. Speaking about the role of civil society in his opening statement, the Executive Director stressed that as "fighting corruption is everyone's business, we need the assistance of civil society to resist corruption, build a culture of integrity, and deliver change."

CSO action during the CoSP 4

The UNCAC is the only legally binding universal anti-corruption instrument that devotes an entire article (Article 13) on participation of civil society. The Conference addressed key issues regarding the review of the implementation of the Convention, asset recovery and prevention, but also discussed the role young people can play in tackling corruption and the question of how to develop their knowledge of ethical standards. On the last day, the Conference adopted the " Marrakech Declaration on Prevention of Corruption", which calls on states to do more to prevent corruption. The Declaration recognizes that corruption is a serious impediment to reducing poverty and endangers the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Prior to the Conference, over 100 NGO representatives participated in the briefing session for CSOs - the Civil Society Preparatory Meeting - on Sunday 23 October, which introduced NGOs to the rules and procedures of the Conference. Numerous NGO representatives also took the opportunity to attend the daily briefing sessions. The UNCAC Coalition, UNODC's CSO partner umbrella organization (on issues related to the Convention), also organized a series of special events entitled " Best Practices in Implementation and Monitoring of UNCAC", which took place on 25, 26 and 27 October.

These special events addressed topics including transparency and CSO participation in the UNCAC review process; the right of access to information, including information required in the UNCAC review process;  the involvement of citizens and elected representatives in the fight against corruption; and best practices on the implementation of article 13 of UNCAC and on the protection of witnesses and whistleblowers. A further panel dealt with best practices on asset recovery and anti-money laundering. Panelists spoke on aspects of the two UNCAC Coalition statements submitted to the CoSP4, one on Article 13 and one on Asset recovery and anti-money laundering. All the panels highlighted the importance of civil society engagement in anti-corruption activities.