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Corruption to be Central Theme of Upcoming UN Crime Commission Meeting
40-Member Body Will Hold 10th Session in Vienna from 8 to 17 May
VIENNA, 7 May (UN Information Service) -- Progress in fighting corruption will be the chief focus as 40 governments and observers convene here starting 8 May to review a number of issues facing the UN's world-wide crime control programme.
In debating the question, led by a panel, the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice is expected to set the stage for preparations to negotiate a legally-binding international treaty on corruption. That process would require a go-ahead from the General Assembly at its fall session.
The panel on corruption will include experts from countries engaged in pilot programmes with the Vienna-based UN Centre for International Crime Prevention. As background for the discussion delegates will have analysis of existing instruments on corruption, both binding and non-binding. Most of the agreements covered are regional, with many disparities in terminology, actions to be criminalized, jurisdiction, sanctions and other matters.
The Commission will also consider how best to promote the early entry into force of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and three protocols dealing with trafficking in human beings, smuggling of migrants and illicit manufacturing and trade in firearms. The Convention, along with the first two protocols, was adopted by the Assembly last November and has since been signed by 125 countries and the European Commission. The human trafficking protocol has 85 signatures and the migrant smuggling protocol 82. The instrument on arms trafficking, completed in March, will be submitted to the Assembly later this month and most likely opened for signature in June.
The treaty and its protocols will become international law once they are ratified by the parliaments of 40 nations.
Other issues to be addressed during the session include "cyber-crime", trafficking in explosives, follow-up to last year's UN Crime Congress and hands-on UN assistance to countries requesting help in upgrading their capacities to fight crime. The Commission will also review progress made under the Centre's newly created global programmes on corruption, transnational organized crime and trafficking in human beings, as well as the work of the Centre's Terrorism Prevention Branch.
The Commission was established in 1992 to set international policy on crime control matters. It replaces the Committee on Crime Prevention and Control, which was a body of individual experts rather than government delegations. The Commission's members are elected by the Economic and Social Council.
In recent years, the international community has demonstrated increasing awareness of the gravity of corruption, which governments see as driving away foreign investment, deepening poverty and undermining public confidence in public officials at all levels. Corruption is now viewed as multifaceted and affecting every society regardless of its level of development and sophistication.
According to the analysis before the Commission, corruption wreaks havoc on efforts to build or further develop democratic institutions and becomes more complex as the stakes get higher. As a result of recent developments in the political and economic spheres, the phenomenon is no longer confined within national borders and tolerance for it has greatly diminished. There are now "strong calls for action" against bribery and corruption at all levels.
Of the many measures reviewed in the report, only the Convention adopted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) -- with signatories from five continents -- has a wide geographic coverage. However, it tackles only the so-called "supply side" of the problem, namely bribery of foreign public officials. And, only the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which requires States parties to criminalize corruption among other things, was negotiated with the participation of developing countries from all regions.
In light of the General Assembly's recent recognition of the desirability of an effective legal instrument against corruption, the report notes "a unique opportunity" to develop an instrument that can fully address the international community's concerns and provide for its application at a global level.
The Commission's discussions on corruption will pave the way for an intergovernmental expert meeting to take place in Vienna from 30 July to 3 August.
The so-called "cyber-crime" raises major implications for human rights, commerce and social conditions, in addition to crime control. And, entirely new forms of harmful conduct have to be examined such as intellectual property problems, unauthorized copying of software and data and the question of what to do about "offensive content".
Another category of "cyber-crime" is the use of new technologies by criminals to organize, communicate and avoid getting caught. "Hackers" are gaining unauthorized access to computers and using that access to steal data, introduce "viruses" and sabotage whole computer systems.
With regard to content, the report notes that while most states now criminalize using the Internet to disseminate child pornography, there is less consensus on what other materials can be classified as obscene, pornographic or blasphemous, or on what constitutes hate propaganda. Attempts to limit such content raise the question of freedom of expression.
The report also touches on the use of computers in fraud, industrial espionage, gambling, money laundering and in support of entirely new forms of criminal organization.
The report recommends that computer-related crime be treated as a distinct subject and that developing countries be assisted in addressing the issue. It also suggests consideration of international, national and private-sector measures. Such measures, it notes, will work only with near-universal consensus.
The Centre for International Crime Prevention, says the report, should conduct a more detailed study of the problem for submission to the Commission at its 2002 session. That report should incorporate a survey of states' needs on the matter. A group of experts should, on the basis of that study, advise the Commission on whether it is feasible and desirable to draft an international instrument on computer-related crime. The authors also raise the issue of whether the Centre should establish a global programme on this type of crime.
Follow-up to Crime Congress
The following countries are members of the Commission: Algeria, Argentina, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chad, Colombia, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, France, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, United States, Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe.
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