African governments willing to tackle corruption but more needs to be done, UNODC chief says 

JOHANNESBURG, 4 April 2007 - The head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, said African Governments were showing real willingness to tackle corruption but more needed to be done. 

Speaking to Ministers at the Johannesburg Global Forum on Fighting Corruption and Safeguarding Integrity on Tuesday, Mr. Costa said Africa was doing better than most continents in adhering to the UN Convention against Corruption: 29 African countries out of 53 had ratified the instrument, of which UNODC is the custodian.

"But that means that 24 of you have not," the UNODC Executive Director said. "Adhering to the Convention is becoming a leading indicator of a Government's willingness to address corruption seriously."  

The Convention, the first legally binding international instrument against corruption,  came into force in December 2005. It contains tough new measures on asset recovery, overcoming bank secrecy and illicit enrichment. 

Mr Costa cited the example of Nigeria, which has recovered large amounts of stolen assets with the help of UNODC.

"We continue to work with the Nigerian Government to refine and strengthen their fledgling prevention and recovery systems. We proudly partner with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission - in a $30 million project - to ensure that the devastating effects of corruption will stop plaguing Nigeria". 

South Africa, too, had shown its commitment to implementing joint projects with UNODC on judicial integrity and the Ministry of Justice in Kenya had last month sponsored training on anti-corruption investigation and prosecution.

Mr Costa noted that companies were becoming increasingly vocal in complaining about the real costs which corruption imposed on them and their customers.  The Publish What You Pay practice adopted by certain mining and oil companies - disclosing instances in which they had been forced to pay bribes - should be universally applied.

He said investors should stop exploiting Africa's rich resources, polluting its environment, undermining the rule of law and fuelling conflict through corrupt practices.

"But there is an even more compelling reason to stop corruption - self-interest. I don't think anyone here needs to be convinced about the harmful impact of corruption. It stunts development. It discourages investment. It undermines democracy, breaks public trust, and enables organized crime. In short, it hurts everyone. This continent has suffered more than most.  Rooting out corruption can help break the cycle of poverty, disease, crime and conflict," the UNODC chief said.

Donor countries had a responsibility to practise what they preach - they should crack down on corruption at home instead of telling others what to do. Mr Costa urged aid donors and recipients to abide by the common blueprint of the UN Convention when introducing measures to strengthen integrity.

Donors would thus see the Convention as an insurance policy, while recipients could use it to leverage resources and establish partnerships that can stimulate development. "This is certainly a point that we are stressing in our growing partnership with the World Bank and major development banks" Mr Costa added 

The Executive Director invited countries to take advantage of UNODC's technical assistance.

"This is essential because many of the measures made possible by the Convention - like asset recovery, overcoming bank secrecy, and exposing illicit enrichment - are new to all States and require new skills and knowledge. If we do this well, leaders who turn into kleptocrats will find no safe haven for themselves or their money." 

He noted that Nigeria and Kenya had invited asset recovery and money-laundering assessments while Lesotho and Tanzania had expressed interest in a pilot project to develop a monitoring mechanism that scientifically measured progress within countries rather than relying on a perception-based index that ranked corruption.

So far, 140 countries have signed the Convention against Corruption and 91 have ratified it.

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