Southeast Asian anti-corruption network for civil society launched

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Bangkok (Thailand), 9 December 2023 – Today, on International Anti-Corruption Day, 13 civil society organizations from across ten Southeast Asian countries are launching a regional anti-corruption network, with the support of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The Southeast Asian Anti-Corruption Network for civil society organizations (CSOs) is chaired by the Knowledge Hub for Regional Anti-Corruption and Good Governance Collaboration (KRAC) under Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University. It aims to facilitate the sharing of experiences and lessons in advocating for reforms and greater transparency and accountability. It also seeks to support diverse voices in policy and decision making, identify commonalities in regional challenges, and work together to address them in line with article 13 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) — the article that highlights participation of society.

“Corruption undermines State accountability, diverts State resources intended for public service delivery, and erodes public trust, resulting in a cross-cutting impact on the region’s prospect for sustainable development and the rule of law,” said Ms Annika Wythes, UNODC Southeast Asia Regional Anti-Corruption Adviser.

Southeast Asia has experienced a slowdown in its countries’ achievement of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16, which encompasses indicators for ‘peace, justice, and strong institutions’. At an establishment meeting held in October this year in Malaysia, members of the network engaged in extensive discussions on a wide range of topics affecting corruption in their own countries. These included access to information, public procurement, whistleblower protection, and transparency in beneficial ownership.

“There is ample evidence that corruption represents a key obstacle to development. It keeps people in poverty, undermines democracy and the sustainable use of natural resources, and works against the respect for human rights and rule of law. It also reduces private sector productivity, and innovation tends to be deterred,” said Erica Villborg, a representative of the Embassy of Sweden, country that supported the establishment of the network. “We continue to remain a strong partner to UNODC in tackling these issues globally, and we welcome UNODC’s and KRAC’s collaboration in the Asia region.”

The role of civil society is integral in the fight against corruption, as highlighted in UNCAC. The Convention emphasizes the importance of corruption prevention by promoting transparency and holding public institutions accountable, for example, by protecting and ensuring the right to access information — UNCAC articles 5 and 10 — protecting persons including public officials reporting corruption — articles 8 and 33 — as well as the protection of witnesses, experts and victims — article 32 — and the role of civil society and the media in the prevention of and fight against corruption — article 13.

This year also marked a significant milestone in the global fight against corruption on 31 October: the 20th anniversary of UNCAC. The Convention is the world’s first and only legally binding universal anti-corruption instrument. All Southeast Asian countries are State Parties to it.

More information:

Click here to learn more about UNODC’s anti-corruption efforts in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Click here for further information on UNCAC.

Click here to access the UNCAC factsheets.