Vienna, 7 November 2017- More than 1,600 participants are in Vienna this week for the world's largest anti-corruption gathering. The Seventh Session of the Conference of the States Parties (COSP7) to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) is being held from 6-10 November 2017.
The United Nations Convention against Corruption, adopted 14 years ago, is the only legally binding universal anti-corruption instrument. Every two years the States Parties to the Convention meet to review implementation of the Convention and discuss how States can better tackle corruption. More than 60 Government Ministers are attending the conference, as well as representatives from inter-governmental organizations, civil society, the private sector and the media.
Among the topics discussed are the role of the private sector in the fight against corruption, the progress achieved by the Convention's Review Mechanism and the recovery of illicit assets. Another topic focuses on how tackling corruption is vital to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal 16, Peace Justice and Strong institutions.
The UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC)
The United Nations Convention against Corruption has been ratified by 183 States, reaching almost universal adherence. The legally-binding Convention obliges States to prevent and criminalize corruption; to promote international cooperation; to recover and return stolen assets; and to improve technical assistance and information exchange in both the private and public sectors.
An entire chapter of the Convention is dedicated to preventing corruption with measures directed at both the public and private sectors. These include model preventive policies, such as the establishment of anticorruption bodies and enhanced transparency in the financing of election campaigns and political parties. States must ensure that their public services are subject to safeguards that promote efficient, transparent recruitment based on merit. Public servants once recruited should be subject to codes of conduct, requirements for financial and other disclosures and appropriate disciplinary measures. Transparency and accountability in matters of public finance must also be promoted and specific requirements are set up for preventing corruption in critical areas of the public sector such as the judiciary and public procurement. Preventing corruption also requires the involvement of civil society including non-governmental and community-based organizations.
Criminalization of corruption
The Convention requires countries to establish criminal and other offences to cover a wide range of acts of corruption, if these are not already crimes under domestic law. The Convention goes beyond previous instruments of this kind, criminalizing not only basic forms of corruption such as bribery and the embezzlement of public funds, but also trading in influence and the concealment and laundering of the proceeds of corruption. Private sector corruption is also covered as are money-laundering and obstructing justice.
Countries agreed to cooperate with one another in every aspect of the fight against corruption, including prevention, investigation and the prosecution of offenders. Countries are bound by the Convention to render specific forms of mutual legal assistance in gathering and transferring evidence for use in court, and to extradite offenders. Countries are also required to undertake measures which will support the tracing, freezing, seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of corruption.
Asset recovery is a fundamental principle of the Convention. This is a particularly important issue for many developing countries where high-level corruption has plundered the national wealth and where resources are badly needed for reconstruction and the rehabilitation of societies.
In the case of the embezzlement of public funds, the confiscated property is returned to the requesting State. In the case of proceeds of any other offence covered by the Convention, the property would be returned providing the proof of ownership or recognition of the damage caused to a requesting States. In all other cases, priority consideration is given to the return of the confiscated property to the requesting State, to the return of such property to the prior legitimate owners or to compensation of the victims.
Implementation Review Mechanism
The flagship of UNCAC is its Implementation Review Mechanism, which is a body that assists in the effective implementation of the Convention. The Mechanism assists States parties effectively implement the Convention by means of a peer review process. Each State party is reviewed by two peers - one from the same regional group and the party under review and one that is selected by a drawing of lots at the beginning of each year of the review cycle. So far, more than 150 States parties have been review. The review process promotes and facilitates international cooperation; and identifies successes, good practices and challenges.
Other events in Vienna
There are various special events taking place in Vienna on a range of topics including corruption and violent extremism; corruption and wildlife crime; integrity, transparency and preventive policies; role of citizen engagement in combating corruption; judicial integrity; good practices in civil society engagement in the UNCAC Review Mechanism; business integrity; corruption in sport; anticorruption measures in prisons; SDGs and combating corruption; role of financial intelligence units in combating corruption; role of academia in anticorruption efforts; integrity and public administration; economic cybercrime and corruption; illicit financial flows in developing countries; and corruption risk management.
UNODC's action against corruption
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) supports States in the implementation of the Convention and provides technical assistance and training. UNODC also provides direct training to private sector entities on ethics and compliance, and topics relevant to the interactions between the public and private sectors such as public procurement. UNODC has a web-based anti-corruption portal known as TRACK (Tools and Resources for Anti-Corruption Knowledge) which includes an electronic database of relevant legislation and jurisprudence. It has established a partnership with the World Bank Group under the joint Stolen Assets Recovery (StAR) Initiative, which aims to facilitate systematic and timely recovery of assets stolen through acts of corruption. UNODC also actively contributes to the implementation of the 10th principle of the United Nations Global Compact, which states that "Business should work against corruption in any form, including bribery and extortion".
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