The regional conference on Fast-tracking Implementation of United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) for Economic and Social Development in Southeast Asia that took place in Bangkok from 31 January to 3 February came at a pivotal time, as ASEAN (the association of Southeast Asian nations) turns 50 this year. Built on the momentum generated by the UK Anti-Corruption Summit of May 2016, the conference provided an opportunity to create and foster partnerships and to establish a regional platform to fast track implementation of UNCAC in support of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, in particularly Goal 16. The event, organized by UNODC with the support of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (UK) was attended by over 180 participants, including 17 civil society representatives from eight Southeast Asian countries as well as national authorities and representatives from the private sector.
From left to right: Cynthia Gabriel, Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism, Gillian Dell, Transparency International, Kol Preap, Transparency International Cambodia, and Mirella Dummar Frahi, UNODC
During the conference, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) agreed on a set of proposals for action by states acting at ASEAN and national levels. Their recommendations reflect the following priorities: 1) Member States should join efforts within ASEAN to fight grand corruption and create a regional mechanism to receive and review complaints about cross-border corruption; 2) they should also commit to activating and resourcing the "ASEAN Integrity Dialogue" in order to hold joint discussions on follow up to the anti-corruption commitments in UNCAC and Goal 16, as well as those in the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the three Community Blueprints 2025, 3) promote passage and application of comprehensive freedom of information legislation, as well as 4) establish comprehensive and effective whistleblowing systems that include protection of witnesses and whistle blowers in both the public and private sectors.
At the national level, States were called upon to ensure political and functional independence and resourcing of anti-corruption institutions, establish in law and practice that a list of Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) and their asset declarations is made public in line with open data principles build the legal framework for public central registers of beneficial ownership and ensure adequate penalties against professional enablers of corruption and tax evasion.
Furthermore, CSOs highlighted the importance of establishing a transparent and comprehensive second cycle of the UNCAC review process. "States should ensure civil society participation in the fight against corruption in line with UNCAC Article 13, including through public consultation processes, inclusion in enforcement efforts and asset recovery processes and through making provision for private prosecutions and public interest litigation on behalf of victims. They should publicly commit to and, where required, adopt measures to guarantee protection of civil society space and media freedom as well as citizen's participation", noted Ms. Cynthia Gabriel, Founding Director of Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism in Malaysia.
In order to facilitate the implementation of the above recommendations, civil society representatives committed to building a regional network for sharing information about UNCAC review and ensuring CSO participation in the review process. These, among other outcomes of the conference, will contribute to the ongoing work of UNODC in the region.
Civil Society Statement can be downloaded here.