Panel Discussions

During the fifth session of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption in Panama City, Panama, 25 to 29 November 2013, the Secretariat organized panel discussions on four agenda items with a view to informing the deliberations of the Conference.

Under agenda item 2, "Review of the implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption", a panel discussion was held with representatives of Timor-Leste, the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Council of Europe.

Under agenda item 3, "Technical assistance", representatives of Sao Tome and Principe, the United Kingdom, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Global Compact and Transparency International were invited to participate.

Under agenda item 4, "Prevention", panellists from Brazil, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Malaysia and UNDP reported on their experience in preventive measures.

Under agenda item 5, "Asset recovery", representatives of Indonesia, Panama, South Africa, as well as the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) and the StAR Initiative shared their experiences on networking for asset recovery.

Under agenda item 6, "International Cooperation", representatives of Bangladesh, Canada and Peru as well as of the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR) and of the International Centre for Asset Recovery participated in a discussion on international cooperation in support of asset recovery.

The following documents give summaries of the content of the panel discussions. The plenary discussions following the panel discussions are summarized in the Report of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption on its fifth session (Panama, 25-29 November 2013) (CAC/COSP/2013/18).

Please click on the agenda item for more information.

Agenda item 2: Review of the implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption

Panellists: Timor-Leste, Organization of American States (OAS), Council of Europe

The representative of OAS provided an overview of the Mechanism for Follow-up on the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption (MESICIC) established by States parties to that Convention with a view to ensuring its effective implementation. Thus far, 31 out of the 33 States parties were taking part in MESICIC. In order to conduct its work, the mechanism had developed questionnaires, a methodology for the conduct of on-site visits and a standard format for the preparation of country reports. The work of the mechanism was organized thematically, with different parts of the Convention being covered through multiple rounds of analysis. Thus far, 98 reports had been adopted under MESICIC. All the reports, including their recommendations were publically accessible. As of the second round of analysis, the mechanism had also started to provide follow-up to the recommendations adopted in the reports issued during the previous round. The mechanism also provided for the active participation of civil society and the private sector.

The representative of the Council of Europe briefed participants on the review mechanism which had been established under the auspices of the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO). The review mechanism was organized thematically based on 20 guiding principles against corruption and the related provisions of the Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption. The mechanism was presently in its fourth round. Questionnaires and on-site visits were the two primary assessment tools. Reports were public and regularly translated into the language of the country under review. The mechanism also included a special compliance review procedure which ensured follow-up to the recommendations issued during the previous round. That had helped significantly in encouraging effective and timely follow-up by GRECO members, with an average 78 per cent compliance rate with all the recommendations issued during the lifespan of the review mechanism.

The panellist from Timor-Leste presented the Asian Development Bank-Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Anti-Corruption Initiative for Asia and the Pacific. The initiative had 31 members and an advisory group which was composed of a number of international organizations, bilateral development partners, civil society organizations and relevant professional associations. The peer review mechanism was intended to advance the implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption and to create a platform for peer learning and the exchange of experiences among its members. The review was organized thematically and in its first round had focused primarily on the criminalization and law enforcement provisions of the Convention. Reports were public and contained horizontal analysis as well as recommendations to the membership.

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Agenda item 3: Technical assistance

Panellists: Sao Tome and Principe, United Kingdom, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Global Compact, Transparency International

The panellist from Sao Tome and Principe presented his country’s experience in profiting from the detailed country review report to develop an action plan to enhance anti-corruption efforts. He also mentioned the importance of cooperation between the various national authorities and UNODC to identify technical assistance needs. The panellist further highlighted the importance of raising public awareness through engaging civil society and academia to make the best use of the Convention.

The panellist from the United Kingdom focused on the important role that the Convention should have in the post-2015 development agenda. He identified three main challenges in the delivery of technical assistance. The first challenge was to ensure a comprehensive approach in the identification and analysis of technical assistance needs, in contrast with a piecemeal approach covering only portions of the Convention. The second challenge was translating technical issues into political results. The third challenge was how to measure progress. The speaker concluded his presentation by noting that it was not possible to achieve the Millennium Development Goals without efforts towards the full implementation of the Convention.

The representative of UNDP noted that fighting corruption was a major development issue and implementation of the Convention needed to be included in the post-2015 development goals. He mentioned various options to that end, including having a stand-alone dedicated anti-corruption goal. The speaker also mentioned a major limitation regarding the inclusion of such a goal, which was the missing dialogue between those who were engaged in the dialogue on the post-2015 development goals and those engaged in the implementation of the Convention.

The representative of Transparency International (Mexico) reiterated the importance of including the fight against corruption in the post-2015 development agenda and called for the more active participation of civil society in the related dialogue.

The representative of the United Nations Global Compact recalled principle 10 of the compact, on the prevention of corruption, and also emphasized the need to include the fight against corruption in the post-2015 development agenda, in particular as relevant to public procurement in support of sustainable development. In that context, he further underscored the importance of corporate efforts to enhance corporate governance, innovative collective action and public-private partnership initiatives.

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Agenda item 4: Prevention

Panellists: Brazil, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Malaysia, UNDP

A panellist from Brazil reported on measures taken to enhance transparency in public administration and increase public access to information, including the establishment of a transparency portal to increase access to information on governmental expenditures, revenues, transfer agreements and public officials, which was increasingly popular following public education efforts. In particular, she noted that information on sanctions imposed against private sector entities for illegal, corrupt or improper acts was centrally compiled on that portal. She also referred to the access-to-information regime, which allowed members of the public to request the disclosure of government information.

A panellist from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia reported on recent initiatives aimed at introducing integrity and anti-corruption education into primary schools. The overall goal of the project was to implement an anti-corruption programme in schools that would explain what corruption was and how it threatened human rights, and described its negative effects on society. It was reported that, on the basis of the success of the project, in September 2013 the Ministry of Education and Science had approved anti-corruption education as an extracurricular activity in primary schools throughout the country, with plans to integrate the programme into the regular curriculum in the future.

A panellist from Malaysia reported on a corporate integrity pledge initiative that sought to improve the prevention of corruption in the private sector. Key principles of the pledge included upholding the values of integrity, transparency and good governance; strengthening internal systems that support corruption prevention; complying with laws and policies addressing corruption; fighting all forms of corruption; and supporting corruption prevention and investigation mechanisms in the country. He reported that the initiative had facilitated efforts by companies to self-assess their prevention mechanisms and noted that implementation of the initiative had, among other things, reduced the costs of business, enhanced the confidence of domestic and foreign investors and increased total productivity and sales.

A panellist from UNDP reported on the work of the organization in support of anti-corruption activities, particularly in the health, education and water sectors. Particular issues were addressed in the context of chapter II of the Convention, including access to information, protection of reporting persons, public sector administration and access to legal aid. It was emphasized that measures to prevent corruption should be aimed at the local level in cities and communities and extended to civil society, the private sector and development organizations.

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Agenda item 5: Asset recovery

Panellists: Indonesia, Panama, South Africa, International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR)

The panellist from South Africa presented the experience of the Asset Recovery Inter-agency Network of Southern Africa (ARINSA), a regional network for asset forfeiture linking law enforcement and prosecution contact points of nine countries. Its Secretariat was hosted by the Asset Forfeiture Unit of South Africa. Apart from establishing channels for rapid information exchange, the network engaged in exchange of good practices, training activities and partnership with other international bodies. A placement programme provided opportunities for short-term secondments of officials in the responsible authorities of Southern Africa.

The panellist from Panama provided information on the Asset Recovery network of GAFISUD countries (RRAG). RRAG connected the asset forfeiture focal points of 15 Latin American countries and Spain. Its Secretariat was hosted by the GAFISUD Secretariat. RRAG had received support of UNODC and organized regular meetings and training events. The Secretariat of RRAG had established channels with the Secretariat of the Camden Asset Recovery Network (CARIN), with a view to enabling direct coordination between the contact points of both networks. The RRAG contact points had at their disposal RRAG-Gafisud, a secure electronic information-sharing platform based in Costa Rica

The panellist from Indonesia outlined the process of establishing the Asset Recovery Interagency Network-Asia-Pacific (ARIN-AP). Motivated by the absence of a relevant asset forfeiture network in the Region, 21 countries were represented at the Inaugural General Meeting held in November 2013 in Seoul, Korea. The Supreme Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Korea offered to host the Secretariat of ARIN-AP. Apart from a contact point network, ARIN-AP aimed at establishing a center of expertise as well as promoting research and training. The planned next steps included extending an invitation to all countries of the Asia-Pacific region, establishing a Steering Group and a list of contact persons. Through its Secretariat, ARIN-AP should be linked to CARIN, ARINSA and RRAG. The First Annual General Meeting of ARIN-AP was scheduled to be held in Indonesia in the beginning of 2014.

The panellist from the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) spoke about the Global Focal Point Initiative supported by Interpol and the StAR Initiative, which aimed at creating a global network of asset recovery focal points for the exchange of information at the stage preceding official mutual legal assistance requests. To date, 100 participating countries had nominated 183 focal points. The Global Focal Point Platform and a secure e-mail system provided secure means of information exchange for the Initiative.

The panellist from the StAR Initiative provided information on the Asset Recovery Network for East Africa (ARIN-EA) recently established with the support of UNODC and under the auspices of the Eastern African Association of Anti-Corruption Agencies (EAAACA). The panellist further reflected on how to link the existing networks, on the one hand through the Global Focal Point Initiative which offered its global outreach and secure communication means, and on the other hand through links between the regional networks. Finally she highlighted the opportunities for case discussions and informal cooperation in other fora, such as the Arab Forum on Asset Recovery.

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Agenda item 6: International cooperation

Panellists: Bangladesh, Canada, Peru, Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR), International Centre for Asset Recovery

The panellist from Bangladesh, Shafique Ahmed, the Honorable Advisor to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, highlighted recent successes of his country in the recovery of stolen assets. In a case initiated by the authorities of the United States of America in January 2008 against a family member of a former high-level official, it was proven that the suspect had received bribes from several foreign companies. Further investigations revealed that the bribes had been channeled through Singapore. Bangladesh recovered over US$ 2 million from Singapore based on a request referencing the Convention. The Minister further reported that Bangladesh had also responded positively to mutual legal assistance requests received from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on the basis of the Convention and had subsequently returned US$ 500,000.

The panellist from Canada stressed the importance of pre-mutual legal assistance consultations to build trust and working relationships between practitioners in requesting and requested countries. Those contacts made it possible to explore all avenues of cooperation, with formal mutual legal assistance requests being only the last step in the process. He also stressed the importance of cooperation among relevant authorities at the domestic level.

The representative of the International Centre for Asset Recovery took stock of progress 10 years after the adoption of the Convention. She pointed out that the events in the Arab countries in transition had changed the political dynamics of asset recovery. As a result, public expectations had risen and had to be managed carefully. Moreover, owing to the work of the World Bank/UNODC StAR Initiative and the International Centre for Asset Recovery (ICAR), more knowledge about asset recovery was available today. Nevertheless, there was still a gap between the international legal framework and the implementation reality. Therefore, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, in collaboration with ICAR and StAR, was pursuing a project to identify best practices for the efficient recovery of stolen assets.

The panellist from Peru reported on his country’s successful experience in recovering assets held by former high-level officials, in particular from the Cayman Islands, Switzerland and the United States. The most important policy decisions in that regard had been in relation to: (a) dedicated, stable and adequately resourced authorities with well trained personnel, (b) mechanisms for smooth inter-agency coordination, (c) innovative national legislation on non-conviction-based confiscation and plea bargaining, (d) clearly identified focal points to facilitate direct information exchange with foreign authorities, including the spontaneous sharing of information. The speaker highlighted that asset recovery hinged on political will not only in the requested, but also in the requesting State.

The panellist from StAR launched the study entitled "Left out of the bargain: settlements in foreign bribery cases and implications for asset recovery" (http://star.worldbank.org/star/node/579). Based on a review of 395 cases, the study identified a welcome increase in enforcement actions against foreign bribery. While settlements originally had been used mainly by countries of common law tradition, the study found a growing number of civil law countries making use of similar procedures, allowing cases to be concluded short of a full trial. A total of US$ 5.8 billion in settlements had been imposed in cases where the settling jurisdiction was different from the country of the alleged recipient of the bribe. Yet, only US$ 197 million, or 3 per cent, had been returned to the countries where the bribe had allegedly been received. Reviewing that finding against article 57 of the Convention, the study concluded that the present practice of settlements did not appear to live up to the principles of the Convention. StAR therefore recommended that States parties devise legal frameworks to better regulate the practice of settlements, increase their transparency, share information on settlements proactively with other affected countries and, where appropriate, involve them in the negotiation of settlements. At the same time, the study called on affected countries to take action against both the givers and the recipients of bribes.

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