Director General/Executive Director
Panama City, Panama, 30 June 2011
Mr. Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Madam Executive Secretary,
Ladies and Gentleman,
I am delighted to be here in Panama City to sign the agreement that affirms UNODC's support for the Regional Anti-Corruption Academy for Central America and the Caribbean.
My sincere thanks to the Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Juan Carlos Varela. The support of his ministry was a key factor in turning this regional project into reality.
I would also like to acknowledge the leading role of Mrs. Abigail Benzadón Cohen, Executive Secretary for the National Council for Transparency against Corruption of Panama. Her professional experience was invaluable in developing the Academy.
Ladies and Gentleman,
A recent poll in Central America suggested that 70 per cent of respondents viewed corruption as commonplace among civil servants. More worryingly, 12 to 34 per cent of respondents believed that their governments did nothing to combat this crime.
I mention these figures because they indicate that corruption is seen as being widespread. The public appears to have little faith in their governments' commitment to preventing this crime. A crime that consumes countries from within, corrupting officials, police, judges, and finally, a nation's integrity.
I believe by opening the Academy's in the region we are sending a clear message that the public's perception is false. That, from today, we have shifted the status quo in favour of exposing corruption wherever it exists.
This is a welcome development. Governments need to recognise the destabilising effect that corruption has on societies.To counter this current of dissatisfaction within their own societies, governments need to implement the United Nations Convention on Anti-Corruption and strengthen their criminal justice systems.
The Academy is a Panamanian initiative fully funded by the national authorities and supported by UNODC.
In its initial phase, the Academy will focus on training for Panamanians involved in anti-corruption activities. However, the Academy's doors will later open to a selection of professionals drawn from Central America and the Caribbean.
To meet the Academy's goals, strategic alliances need to be forged. In particular, with the Organization of American States, the Central American Integration System (SICA), as well as key universities, think tanks and training institutes in Panama and Central America.
I also envisage that the Academy could maintain links with the International Anti-Corruption Academy in Vienna.
UNODC and the Government of Panama are also willing to work with private sector partners to assist the Academy.
From these activities, it is clear that Panama is firmly committed to combating corruption. A fact reinforced by Panama's organisation of the Conference of Parties of the UN Convention Against Corruption in 2013.
I should add that, in October, the Fourth Session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention against Corruption will meet in Marrakech. This will enable all states to come together to share their experiences and provide information on the ways in which they are combating corruption.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Starting from today, the Academy will take its place at the forefront of our joint anti-corruption activities in the region. I wish the Academy's staff and the professionals who use its facilities every success for the future.
In doing so, I feel assured that we have taken a positive step towards a brighter future. One where there is renewed faith in the rule of law and elected governments.
Working together, we must ensure that the heavy burden of corruption is lifted from the shoulders of ordinary people and that those who corrupt or accept bribes are prosecuted.