Everywhere in the world, corruption casts a long shadow over COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, with the potential to prolong and exacerbate the current health, social, economic and human crises.
Corruption exploits critical areas, from public health procurement to economic stimulus packages, and undermines good governance when we need it most, all while siphoning away desperately needed resources.
Illicit capital flight out of Africa amounts to some 88.6 billion dollars annually, or 3.7 per cent of the continent’s GDP, according to UNCTAD – just about matching the sum of annual official development assistance and foreign direct investment.
In addition to its economic impact, corruption carries a social and political cost. The lack of a level playing field and unequal opportunities are a major cause of youth frustration and instability worldwide.
Last month, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres issued an urgent warning that corruption in the time of COVID-19 could send us even farther off-track from achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
To accelerate the COVID recovery, at this critical time we need to do more to prevent and detect corruption, and return stolen assets. All stakeholders have to redouble their efforts to safeguard integrity and promote justice, with the UN Convention against Corruption as their guide.
As custodian of the Convention, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime is proud to be supporting its Parties to effectively prevent and combat corruption in all contexts. To date, UNODC has assisted 179 countries in strengthening their legal, policy and institutional anti-corruption frameworks.
The Memorandum of Understanding signed between UNODC and INTOSAI in 2019 is an integral part of this work.
The agreement lays the foundation for cooperation between our two institutions. It notably provides a valuable framework for joint work on the implementation of the Abu Dhabi Declaration on enhancing collaboration between the supreme audit institutions and anti-corruption bodies to more effectively prevent and fight corruption, adopted at the 8th session of the Conference of States Parties (COSP 8) to the Convention in December 2019.
The Declaration was a milestone in reaffirming the essential role that oversight bodies, in particular supreme audit institutions, play in combating corruption.
COSP 8 also determined the modalities for the first-ever UN General Assembly Special Session against Corruption (UNGASS), to be held on 2-4 June 2021.
As we work towards the Special Session, with UNODC supporting the preparations, there is very strong momentum to keep anti-corruption action at the forefront of the global agenda.
UNODC will continue supporting Member States in shaping the future of global anti-corruption efforts in 2021, when the next session of the Conference of the States Parties, COSP 9 in Egypt, will take forward the strategic actions outlined in the political declaration set to be adopted at the UNGASS next year.
An extremely encouraging initiative in this respect was revealed during the first-ever G20 anti-corruption ministerial meeting, convened last month under the Saudi Presidency. The meeting witnessed the announcement of the Riyadh Initiative for Enhancing International Anti-Corruption Law Enforcement Cooperation through the creation of a Vienna-based, global network, with UNODC as its secretariat.
Working with partners like INTOSAI, we have an important chance to bring another set of key constituents into the fight against corruption, the supreme audit institutions. Through collaboration with anti-corruption agencies, your members have a crucial role to play in ensuring accountability and oversight.
INTOSAI’s engagement will be essential in helping us make the most of upcoming opportunities to translate ambitious international commitments into effective action.
I look forward to continued fruitful cooperation with INTOSAI, and I invite you to join UNODC’s International Anti-Corruption Day campaign on 9 December, which encourages all of us to remain united against corruption, in order to recover better from COVID and build fairer, more resilient societies.