DEAD SEA, Jordan, Dec 14, 2006 (UNODC) - The Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, urged governments on Thursday to maintain the momentum in the global fight against corruption.
Speaking at the conclusion of the first Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, he said some progress had been made in key areas such as returning stolen assets to their countries of origin.
"An anti-corruption culture is taking hold. We have momentum," Mr Costa said. But he noted that fewer than half the countries in the world had ratified the Convention against Corruption, which came into force a year ago.
"I urge you to build on the momentum that has been generated at this inaugural meeting. To countries that have not ratified the Convention, I say 'it is time to do so.' To governments that have not yet established independent anti-corruption agencies, I say the same - give them the jurisdiction, resources and powers to do their job."
The UNODC Executive Director said the five-day conference in the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Centre on the Dead Sea, Jordan, had not produced a leap forward in making the powerful provisions of the Convention a reality, but some important steps in the right direction had been taken.
Nearly 150 countries have signed the Convention, the first legally binding international instrument against corruption, and 80 have so far ratified it. The Jordan Conference was attended by around 600 participants, including ministers, policy-makers, practitioners, parliamentarians and representatives of NGOs and the private sector.
Highlighting some of the decisions adopted, Mr Costa welcomed plans to establish an effective mechanism to review the implementation of the Convention. "This is an important step forward as it makes clear that such a mechanism it not optional," he said.
A new inter-governmental working group will help to develop mechanisms to locate, freeze, confiscate and return stolen assets to their countries of origin.
Mr Costa said the decision to address the criminalization of bribery of international civil servants, including United Nations staff, had his wholehearted support. "The United Nations should be seen to lead by example," he added.
He commended NGOs and business leaders for their commitment to fighting corruption." Their pressure will be important to nudge governments which have been less than whole-hearted so far in their enthusiasm for tackling corruption," he added.