United Nations Convention against Corruption

The United Nations Convention against Corruption was opened for signature on 9 December 2003 in Mérida, Mexico, just over one year ago. Since that time, 113 countries have signed the Convention and 12 have ratified it (30 ratifications are needed for the treaty to enter into force). The Convention offers a framework to enable States to work together against corruption - an issue that has been recognized as one of the most significant impediments to sustainable development.

Corruption in all its forms corrodes both rich and poor nations, deterring investment and undermining competitiveness. Corruption on a large scale can sabotage a nation's economy. Examples abound: former President of Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko, accused of plundering US$ 5 billion from the country's treasury; allegations that the late Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha took US$ 2 billion from the National Bank in addition to stashing away US$ 2-3 billion from bribes; reports from Bangladesh that corruption cost the nation an estimated 50 per cent less in foreign investment in 1999. Estimates indicate that corruption in all its forms costs society more than a trillion dollars per year.

On a smaller, petty scale, everyday graft can drive citizens with low or subsistence incomes into poverty, re-routing money needed for food, housing and other basic needs into the pockets of corrupt police and local officials. It is time for the routine "surcharges" people pay to obtain a simple driver's licence, a building permit, or any one of countless other ordinary documents or services to disappear. It is time to acknowledge that bribery, kickbacks, fraud, and all other corrupt practices that allow public officials and government leaders to "live in style" also force the poor - those least able to absorb the high cost of corruption - to live in conditions no civil society can accept.

The United Nations Convention against Corruption sends an important message to citizens in countries around the world that corruption, large and small, must no longer be tolerated.

Governments who are really serious about pursuing peace and prosperity must act now. The time has come to join forces to stop corruption by ratifying and implementing this new universal instrument.

This text is based on an op-ed by
UNODC Executive Director
Antonio Maria Costa

Around the globe, people are demanding accountability
from their governments; citizens are clamouring for the
removal of corrupt leaders; and businesses are
looking for level playing fields