The conference aimed to strengthen national coordination and regional cooperation among anti-corruption investigating and prosecuting authorities, as well as to build the capacity of law enforcement authorities to investigate complex corruption cases. The event looked in particular at the need of enhancing cooperation among Financial Intelligence Units (FIU) as well as between FIUs Anti-Corruption Agencies and other anti-corruption authorities.
The event attracted more than 200 participants from law enforcement, prosecutors, FIUs, and central authorities for Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) involved in anti-corruption efforts, including heads of anti-corruption agencies and high-level officials, who discussed challenges and solutions to tackle corruption in the region.
Pol. Gen. Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit, President of ONACC, said that he anticipated the event would provide new networking opportunities and expected to see communication channels established between agencies and practitioners while enhancing knowledge essential for effectively tackling corruption. He also emphasized that corruption has become a transnational crime (i.e., moving stolen assets overseas or fugitive offenders). Therefore, he said “without international cooperation, it will be difficult to trace both assets and fugitive offenders alike”. He added that Thailand is trying to improve collaboration through MLA to rapidly solve these cases.
Ms Noh Kong LEE, Vice Minister of Justice of Korea, shared that corruption crime damages not only the national economy, but also the most fundamental areas of public services such as health and education. Ultimately, corruption greatly affects a country’s credit ratings. With the development of ICT and social media, corruption is occurring in a more organized manner and has become a global risk. Corruption knows no borders in this time of globalization, therefore, no country can effectively battle crimes alone. Ms Lee highlighted that the Regional Conference was going to facilitate law enforcement agencies’ ability to cooperate more effectively at a global level to root out corruption.
Mr. Shervin Majlessi, Chief of UNODC Corruption and Economic Crime Branch, shared that corruption cases have become increasingly complex and involve a transnational component - both people and money are moving rapidly across borders. Cooperation both at global and regional levels and Southeast Asia is becoming increasingly important and regional countries have to work together to tackle corruption. Mr. Majlessi mentioned that the conference would be an opportunity to reflect on what needs to be done to enhance cooperation and produce recommendations in the form of an outcome document. This can be used as a roadmap in the region for preventing corruption and working more effectively with law enforcement.
As one of the first in-person regional meetings after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the conference was very well-received by participants, not only for the large number of participants it attracted, but also for providing substantive discussions and networking opportunities.
The conference adopted a set of recommendations as a roadmap to inform anti-corruption efforts in Southeast Asia and align anti-corruption stakeholders along shared visions and goals.
Also, on the margins of the conference, multiple bilateral meetings between participating states were conducted on a voluntary basis, allowing for more in-depth discussions regarding ongoing cases or common challenges.
Lastly, the conference showcased the Korean project, ‘Strengthening Regional Cooperation and the Capacity of ASEAN Countries to Counter Corruption and other Serious Crimes (2020-2023),’ in the context of which this conference took place, and outlined its key achievements and activities.
The conference consisted of both high-level and working-level segments consisting of three individual working groups designed to focus on various anti-corruption issues.
The high-level segment of the conference included three-panel discussion sessions at the plenary.
The first session, “Corruption challenges and anti-corruption practices in Southeast Asia,” gathered heads of anti-corruption agencies in the region to discuss the current state of affairs in the fight against corruption in the region. This included the main challenges that the Anti-Corruption Agencies face and possible ways forward to improve anti-corruption efforts at national and regional levels.
The second session, “Criminal justice responses to corruption,” discussed barriers to successful investigation and prosecution of corruption cases, such as coordination between different authorities, and presented solutions and best practices from the region, including successful cases of international cooperation.
"The third session, “Tackling Corruption: Lessons from other regions,” discussed best practices in anti-corruption techniques learned from other regions around the world. The session featured speakers from North Africa and South America, who spoke on issues including bribery and other economic crimes."
Following the high-level segment, participants were divided into three working groups focusing on three critical areas:
The working groups were comprised of three panels of four to six speakers from the participating countries and UNODC, who discussed cross-cutting issues in Southeast Asia. Each panel featured insightful and comprehensive presentations from the representatives of each participating country, who shared recent developments in anti-corruption efforts in each state and discussed key challenges and possible solutions.
The panels were followed by group discussion sessions to develop recommendations in each thematic area. Country delegations actively participated in the discussions and contributed to each country’s own experience and perspectives.
On the final day of the conference, the draft recommendations were introduced for general discussions at the plenary by the rapporteurs of each working group. The suggestion was made to develop the conference into a more regularly occurring platform. In response, the conference Secretariat committed to creating a more detailed concept and background note.
A set of 59 recommendations was adopted by the participating states at the conclusion of the conference and will function as a roadmap for further anti-corruption activities in the region.
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