Ladies and gentlemen,
I thank China’s National Commission of Supervision for inviting me to address this Conference on Integrity in the COVID Response and Economic Recovery by the Belt and Road Cooperation Partners.
This event to promote international cooperation to prevent and combat corruption is both timely and necessary.
The global pandemic has reversed development progress and plunged our world into the worst economic crisis in a century. Up to 150 million people may be driven into extreme poverty in 2021.
Governments are dedicating enormous resources to protect public health and safety, they are disbursing emergency funds and agreeing economic stimulus packages. In the COVID response and recovery, we cannot afford to let vital resources be stolen away by corruption and bribery.
Tomorrow the world is marking International Anti-Corruption Day, under the theme “recover with integrity”.
In this regard, I very much welcome the focus of this conference, as well as the appeal to establish a “Health Silk Road” by stepping up international aid and health projects to cope with the COVID crisis.
Preventing and combating corruption in public health sector cooperation represent urgent priorities for a healthy Silk Road.
As guardian of the UN Convention against Corruption, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has elaborated a number of resources which can support Belt and Road cooperation partner countries in these endeavours.
Our Office has produced guidance on “Accountability and the Prevention of Corruption” in the allocation and distribution of emergency economic response packages, based on good practices identified in Convention implementation.
UNODC also prioritizes targeted assistance to Member States requesting advice on strengthening financial and fiscal integrity frameworks in the COVID crisis, and we are supporting countries to take advantage of new technologies to increase transparency.
In the run-up to the first-ever UN General Assembly special session against corruption in June 2021, UNODC has also helped improve coordinated delivery of anti-corruption support through a new UN Common Position adopted under the leadership of the UN Secretary-General.
As the Secretary-General has highlighted, the five Belt and Road pillars - namely, policy coordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration, and people-to-people exchanges - have the potential to accelerate efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
To make the most of the opportunities of this large-scale initiative for maximum dividends, coordinated anti-corruption action is a crucial prerequisite.
Foreign investment and large infrastructure projects face heightened corruption risks, and the Belt and Road Initiative is truly ambitious in scale, with many countries involved in a significant number of long-term projects relying on close cooperation between governments and the private sector.
Belt and Road cooperation countries participate in the Implementation Review Mechanism of the Convention, which has identified gaps in anti-corruption regulatory and institutional frameworks, as well as resource and capacity constraints.
These include shortcomings in regulations and rules in public procurement; lack of anti-corruption preventive policies and bodies; limited monitoring of public sector personnel; insufficient enforcement of anti-corruption legislation and regulations; lack of participation of society; and inadequate compliance mechanisms in the private sector, among other issues.
To address these challenges, potential loopholes in project preparation, public procurement, financing and project delivery need to be closed, working with the private sector to strengthen integrity and transparency.
Such action requires a systematic assessment of relevant corruption risks and corresponding technical assistance needs; a concrete plan for both the public and private sectors to mitigate the identified risks; and sufficient enforcement measures.
UNODC has developed several tools to assess risks and help build stronger compliance, and we are pleased to see the progress achieved by China and its Belt and Road partners in anti-corruption cooperation through the Convention.
In October 2019, UNODC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Chinese National Commission of Supervision to enhance cooperation in combating corruption, including in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative.
This year, our Office co-hosted the 3rd Seminar on Business Integrity and Compliance for the Belt and Road with the Chinese National Commission of Supervision.
We also launched a project with the support of the UN Peace and Development Trust Fund on fostering sustainable development along the Silk Road Economic Belt, which aims to establish an anti-corruption network for practitioners and other stakeholders.
UNODC remains fully engaged in building capacities for effective Convention implementation, and we stand ready to enhance our work with China and the other Belt and Road participating States.
Corruption cannot be tackled by one country or one region or one sector alone. The UN Convention against Corruption offers a solid framework for cooperative action, bringing together governments with all stakeholders to address challenges of prevention, criminalization and law enforcement, international cooperation and asset recovery.
Over the course of the next year, we have the opportunity to further elevate and enhance these global anti-corruption efforts.
The support of all countries, including those represented here today, will be decisive in our success.
The UN General Assembly special session against corruption in June will be followed in December by the 9th session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Convention against Corruption, which will be held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.
The Sharm El-Sheikh conference will take forward the political declaration to be adopted by the GA special session. These two events will keep anti-corruption at the top of the international agenda.
I encourage you to actively support the ongoing preparations for the GA special session.
When we meet at the Sharm El-Sheikh conference in a year’s time, I hope the Belt and Road cooperation partners will have insights and good practices to share in safeguarding the integrity of major cross-border infrastructure projects in the pandemic recovery and beyond.
Let us work together to achieve these results in the 2021 year of anti-corruption, to get back on track to achieve the SDGs, for greater justice and prosperity for all.