UNODC to launch Joint Action Plan to curtail corruption in South and Southeast Asia

Posted on 28 October 2016

According to the majority of governance indicators, efforts in the fight against corruption in the South Asian and Southeast Asian regions must be further strengthened. Corruption still represents a significant threat towards development in several countries.

There has been limited improvement in corruption perceptions since the mid-1990s (with few exceptions such as China and Indonesia). According to Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer 2013, only a third of the citizens in Asian countries say their government's efforts to fight corruption have been effective. Just a small number of countries in the region during the last five years signal a positive progress, with regard to the World Bank's Worldwide Governance Indicators Control of Corruption.

The impact of corruption is particularly detrimental to Asian economy. According to the World Bank, in Southeast Asia between 2010 and 2016, 38.9% of firms experienced at least one bribe payment request and 48.9% of firms were expected to give gifts to get construction permits. Although the region is committed to rapidly developing economic connections, attention is lagging towards the security impacts that accompany these developments. Regional integration expands licit economic opportunities, but illicit markets tend to develop at the same time.

Since many of the drivers of corruption in the region are international in nature, it is important that both national and regional responses to corruption are consistent and coordinated. The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) has been ratified by all countries in South and Southeast Asia and by the majority of Pacific Island States. UNODC is in charge of the Implementation Review Mechanism (IRM) of the Convention.

During the next four year UNODC with the support of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is going to implement a new anti-corruption project (Joint Action towards a Global Regime against Corruption) to address the corruption challenges in South and Southeast Asia. To launch the project UNODC and DFAT jointly organized a Roundtable on October 13 2016. The event gathered representatives of the Embassies of countries engaged in supporting anti-corruption initiatives in the region, National Authorities, UN Agencies, implementing partners and relevant NGOs.

The project has been designed to promote the fight against corruption supporting the efforts of the countries in the region for the implementation of the UN Convention Against Corruption, also in relation to the ASEAN Political Security Community priorities. The ultimate goal is to support the achievement of the objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in particular with reference to Goal 16; the project will be implemented in coordination and in support to the UNODC regional programmes, UNDP and national anti-corruption authorities in the region. 

All participants to the Roundtable agreed on the necessity of anti-corruption initiatives to address transnational organized crime challenges and enable foreign direct investments and economic growth in both South and Southeast Asia. They underlined also the relevance of engaging the private sector and civil society, without which tangible results cannot be achieved. With this in mind, UNODC will also seek to enhance the coordination of anti-corruption initiatives with its other areas of work, considering corruption as a key facilitator of other phenomena, such as human trafficking, drugs production and trafficking, environmental crimes and terrorism.

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