Corruption: An Impediment to Development

Corruption is recognized as a crucial governance and security challenge in South Asia region. It is an impediment to effectively combat transnational organized crime as it diminishes the effectiveness of administration, national development efforts, foreign and private investments as well as of donor aid. It also adversely affects the countries' ability to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It has been estimated that corruption costs more than 5% of global GDP (US$2.6 trillion) annually with estimates of global money-laundering at around $500 billion annually.

Despite efforts by governments and stakeholders, corruption is still prevalent and widespread across the South Asia region. Of great concern is also the emergence of new forms and dimensions of transnational organized crime and corruption, in particular the potential links between terrorist groups and organized crime.

All South Asian Countries have ratified the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), the first-ever binding global anti-corruption instrument. The Convention obliges state parties to prevent and criminalize different corrupt practices, promote international cooperation, cooperate for the recovery of stolen assets and enhance technical assistance and information exchange across countries. Countries in the South Asia region have all taken efforts in building their legal and institutional framework pertaining to protection of reporting persons and witnesses. Corruption also affects the private and public sector entities in most countries. There is hence an evident need to enhance the capacity and skills of stakeholders and to address challenges in laws, regulations and procedures that allow for more effective response mechanisms.

As the secretariat of the Conference of Parties of the UNCAC and its guardian, UNODC works closely with Governments, private sector organizations and civil society to develop anti-corruption policies and legislation, as well as enhance the capacity of anti-corruption institutions.

What we do?

Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR)

The StAR Initiative (StAR) is a partnership between the World Bank Group and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) that supports international efforts to end safe havens for corruptly acquired assets. In January 2015, the Government of Sri Lanka formally requested StAR to provide advisory and technical assistance in its stolen asset recovery efforts. Furthermore, during the UK Anti-Corruption Summit held in London in May 2016, Sri Lanka was selected as one of the four focus countries of the first Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR), to be co-hosted by US and UK with assistance from StAR.

Engagement with Anti Corruption Bureaus

Over the last few years, UNODC has worked with anti-corruption agencies in South Asia. Many of them have a mandate to investigate offences of corruption. Both anti-corruption bureaus and law enforcement agencies have highlighted the need for capacity building in investigating complex crimes of corruption.

In the Maldives, UNODC has been working with the Anti-Corruption Commission to review and assess progress since 2008. In Sri Lanka, UNODC is working with the Anti-Corruption Commission to identify ways to build stronger relations within the region and to follow up on the UNCAC review. Similar efforts are underway in Bangladesh and Nepal.

Working with the youth

Youth in South Asia has expressed its interest in being part of the global and national anti-corruption efforts. During the last few years, UNODC hosted a series of training workshops for civil society organizations on the UNCAC, in which South Asian NGOs also participated.

Under the umbrella of the Art of Living Foundation, UNODC participated in an initiative called "Volunteer for a Better India". In the nationwide campaign, UNODC conducted workshops on countering corruption under the title "Know it to Fight it", in which young people were given a platform to discuss how corruption affects their day-to-day life and what measures they could take to contain it. More than 1000 youth participated in 4 workshops held in the states of Delhi, Gujarat, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

Anti-Corruption Referral

Bearing in mind the size and federal structure of India with 29 states 7 union territories, stakeholders pointed to the difficulties in identifying the relevant contact person or Government department to lodge a complaint on corruption. In response to this, UNODC commissioned a 'National Anti-Corruption Referral of key contacts in vigilance and anti-corruption desks across India'.

The referral provides contact information on vigilance desks in a variety of institutions, such as The Central Bureau of Investigation, Central Vigilance Commission and the Enforcement Directorate. It also includes data on government departments in 12 service areas which show a high level of interaction with the private sector, such as customs, health, highway authorities, land and property registration authorities, as well as credit institutions. The easy-to-use directory is structured by departments and states.

Past Successes

During 2014,UNODC provided training to 27 judges at the National Judicial Academy, India on UNCAC and international aspects of corruption; UNODC also delivered training at the Academy of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to 12 senior CBI investigators from numerous regional offices across India. The training focused on corruption and asset recovery and included a discussion of Indian laws and how to develop the Indian approach to asset recovery in corruption cases.

Within the global UNODC initiative (Siemen's Integrity Initiative) and considering the importance of procurement in the Indian economy, UNODC implemented two initiatives on 'Public-Private Partnership for Probity in Public Procurement' and 'Incentives to Corporate Integrity and Cooperation in Accordance with UNCAC' in India. Under these projects, ROSA developed and launched two studies: (i) Incentives for corporate integrity in accordance with the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and (ii) Transparency, objectivity and competition in private public partnership projects. Both studies assessed the compliance of existing and proposed legislation with the UNCAC.

UNODC also developed and disseminated two on-line sensitization modules on business integrity and probity in public procurement to over 500 officers from government, public and private sectors. A national anti-corruption referral of key contacts in vigilance and anti-corruption desks across India were developed and disseminated widely.  UNODC's anti-corruption work with the private sector (which concluded in September 2014) left a very positive impact and raised visibility on an important area like business integrity and probity, which is now increasingly being taken up by the business sector also at the state level.


For more details, connect with us on:

Bangladesh: Mr. Shah Mohammad Naheeaan, shah.naheeaan[at] 

Bhutan: Ms. Tandin Wangmo, tandin.wangmo[at]

India/Regional: Mr. Jayant Misra, jayant.misra[at] 

Maldives: Mr. Enrico Bonisegna, enrico.bonisegna[at]

Nepal: Ms. Reena Pathak, reena.pathak[at]

Sri Lanka: Ms. Anusha Munasinghe, anusha.munasinghe[at]

Communications/Partnerships: Mr. Samarth Pathak, samarth.pathak[at]