Independence is the cornerstone for effective anti-corruption agencies

Jakarta (Indonesia), 3 December 2012
- A two-day international conference of top corruption fighters from 30 countries ended last week in Indonesia with an urgent call to promote and strengthen the independence of national anti-corruption agencies. Conference participants issued "The Jakarta Statement on Principles for Anti-Corruption Agencies", which includes a set of core principles to guarantee the authority of such agencies, and safeguard their operational independence from outside interference.

The Indonesia Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) hosted the event in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The conference included high-ranking officials from several Anti-Corruption Agencies and representatives of regional anti-corruption networks from across Africa, Asia and Europe.

"Corruption eradication is a global agenda and its success must be ensured," said H.E. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of the Republic of Indonesia in his remarks to the gathering at the State Palace in Jakarta.

Shervin Majlessi, UNODC's regional anti-corruption adviser, explained that the conference is an initial effort "to deepen the discourse on what it means for an anti-corruption agency to be independent". The recommended principles emerging from the conference cover several areas that can help "develop a new kind of discourse that is more optimistic and promising, one that argues in terms of what's needed for anti-corruption agenciesto be more effective," added UNDP's Samuel De Jaegere, a Bangkok-based anti-corruption specialist.

The recommended principles from the Jakarta Declaration urge anti-corruption agencies to work collaboratively with state agencies, civil society, the private sector and others in order to avoid operating in isolation.

It also suggested that such agencies should be established by proper and stable legal frameworks, such as a Constitution or special laws. By operating within national legal principles, anti-corruption bodies can help to ensure permanence.

The Jakarta Principles state that the heads of anti-corruption should be appointed through a process that ensures an apolitical stance, impartiality, neutrality, integrity and competence. Also recommended are principles requiring accountability and ethical conduct from anti-corruption agency personnel, and a continuous effort to keep public trust and confidence through regular public reporting

Participants encouraged anti-corruption agencies to promote these principles, as they are of fundamental importance in order to guarantee the independence of anti-corruption agencies in exercising their functions.

"The UN Convention against Corruption requires States to establish anti-corruption bodies to prevent and combat corruption with the necessary independence to be able to carry out their functions without being influenced by politicians or other authorities," said Ms. Candice Welsch, Chief, Implementation Support Section, Corruption and Economic Crime Branch, UNODC.

"The efforts made here to advance our understanding of what conditions, practices and legal protections must exist to ensure this independence are critical to the success of anti-corruption agencies," said Ms. Welsch.