17 February 2021
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to join you for the Annual Parliamentary Hearing.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime cooperates closely with the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and I welcome this opportunity to further strengthen our engagement with you.
I thank the President of IPU and the President of the General Assembly for leading this important discussion on a key priority under UNODC’s mandate, namely preventing and fighting corruption, and how we can advance efforts to restore trust and achieve the SDGs.
UNODC sees parliamentarians as essential partners in promoting more effective anti-corruption laws, institutions and oversight, and in strengthening implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption, which is the subject of this session.
Together, we have come a long way since the Convention entered into force in December 2005.
Now, in 2021, corruption is recognized as a crime in most countries. The Convention has near-universal adherence, with 187 parties.
Combatting corruption and recovering stolen assets are explicit targets under SDG 16, and the international community has recognized anti-corruption as key to achieving the whole of the 2030 agenda.
The Convention and its peer review mechanism have raised awareness and kept corruption high on the international agenda.
Seventy-one per cent of the States participating in the Implementation Review Mechanism reported that the review process has helped them identify gaps in their national anti-corruption frameworks.
As the guardian of the Convention and the secretariat of the Conference of the States Parties, UNODC trained over 450 officials from more than 75 countries in the past two years on the requirements of the Convention and on how to participate in the implementation review process.
From the start of 2019 until mid-2020, UNODC helped review over 50 pieces of legislation and policies in 35 countries, supported more than 25 public institutions in 20 countries, and trained around 1,200 officials from more than 70 countries in prevention, investigation and prosecution of corruption offences.
So we have a solid foundation for global anti-corruption action, built on steady progress.
Now the urgency to step up our efforts has never been greater, as the COVID crisis and economic downturn have ramped up corruption risks.
People are losing jobs and social protection in the crisis. Women, minorities and marginalized groups have suffered most, and they suffer disproportionate and compounded impacts of corruption through exclusion from economic relief and access to justice and services.
The pandemic has reversed development progress for the first time in two decades, and the World Bank estimates that there were up to 124 million “new poor” last year due to COVID.
A world made poorer and more fragile by the pandemic is also more vulnerable to transnational organized crime. These crimes, including human trafficking and migrant smuggling, drugs and firearms trafficking, are further enabled and facilitated by corruption.
Now more than ever, governments need to use the tools provided by the UN Convention against Corruption to further strengthen anti-corruption bodies, improve oversight over stimulus investments, and increase transparency and accountability.
In support, UNODC has fast-tracked assistance to Member States requesting advice to strengthen financial and fiscal integrity frameworks in the pandemic.
We have published guidelines on accountability and the prevention of corruption in the allocation and distribution of emergency economic response packages, as well as guidance on the manufacturing, allocation and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Even as the crisis has heightened vulnerabilities and corruption risks, global momentum has been gathering to improve anti-corruption responses.
We need to seize this moment and make 2021 a year of anti-corruption action.
UNODC is supporting Member States to elaborate an ambitious political declaration for the first-ever UN General Assembly special session against corruption in June, which will set out a strategic and comprehensive approach to the future fight against corruption.
The UNGASS declaration will be taken forward at the ninth session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Convention against Corruption in Sharm El-Sheikh in December.
In the lead-up to UNGASS, the Secretary-General has spearheaded efforts to improve UN system-wide coordination. We have adopted a Common Position on Corruption, which was developed by the Global Task Force on Corruption led by UNODC, along with the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and UNDP.
UNODC has also increased its focus on two important areas of anti-corruption action.
Firstly, we are addressing gender dimensions of corruption. Diversity, equal representation and gender equality are powerful protective factors against corruption; women also suffer specific impacts of corruption and responses must take their needs and voices into account.
And second, UNODC is sharpening its focus on the role of technology. The use of cryptocurrencies to launder money, for example, presents new challenges to law enforcement.
At the same time, big data, artificial intelligence machine-learning, blockchain, cloud-based platforms, biometrics and “fin-tech” offer new solutions for preventing and detecting corruption.
Digitalization and automation of procurement and compliance processes can increase transparency while reducing the human factor contributing to corruption risks.
We need to invest more in supporting governments, particularly in developing countries, to take advantage of technology, while building law enforcement capacities to stay ahead of the criminals.
UNODC will be further strengthening such operational support through the Riyadh Initiative for Enhancing International Anti-Corruption Law Enforcement Cooperation.
Launched under the G20 last year, the initiative will create a Vienna-based global network to build and enhance direct, informal contacts between law enforcement practitioners, to support them in pursuing complex, cross-border corruption and money-laundering cases.
Moreover, UNODC has a new strategy for 2021 to 2025, which will guide our field offices and global programmes in scaling up support to counter illicit financial flows and corruption, and address linkages with terrorism and transnational organized crime.
The new UNODC Strategy further highlights the importance of prevention. Parliamentarians, through developing and enacting effective anti-corruption legislation, can play a key role in strengthening preventive action.
The Strategy puts special emphasis on partnerships, with governments, civil society and the private sector, and with partners such as IPU.
Engaging young parliamentarians is also a priority for UNODC. We look forward to strengthening cooperation with IPU’s Forum of Young Parliamentarians, building on the work we have done with the Africa Young Parliamentarians Network, among others.
Together, we can encourage and strengthen the role of young people, of society and communities in anti-corruption as an investment in their future.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We have the opportunity in 2021 to reinforce anti-corruption action in the pandemic response and recovery, and to build resilient societies able to withstand the threats and challenges of tomorrow.
UNODC looks forward to working with you and supporting you. My thanks once again and I look forward to our discussion.