UNGASS 2021 highlights diversity and inclusion as agents for change, and businesses as influential allies in the fight against corruption

© UN Women/Amanda Voisard

2 June 2021 - While corruption is a global phenomenon, it affects men and women differently across the world. In many societies, women remain the primary caretakers of the family and are regularly confronted with corruption when dealing with education, health, and other public services. On the other hand, many of the gender dimensions of corruption are neither well understood nor sufficiently addressed worldwide.

Under the motto “A more inclusive society is a less corrupt society”, experts from UNODC, Germany, Sweden, and Kenya discussed how including under-represented groups in decision-making processes could lower corruption risks and ultimately benefit more diverse groups of citizens, as well as enhance progress towards Agenda 2030 following the principle to “Leave no one behind.”

“If anti-corruption measures are to be effective, the gender dimensions of corruption also need to be taken into account,” said Ms. Maria Flachsbarth, Parliamentary State Secretary in the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Ms. Carin Jämtin, Director General of the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) underscored that corruption is one of the biggest obstacles to poverty reduction and sustainable development, putting the achievement of the whole 2030 Agenda at risk.

“There are many concrete actions that Member States can take right now to reduce the negative impact of corruption and at the same time improve gender equality outcomes,” Ms. Jämtin said, with the most important being “To ensure that key gender equality aspects are included within anti-corruption policies and programming.”

Also speaking at the event was Ms. Mary Kimari from the Office of the Ombudsman in Kenya who shared her experiences on concrete efforts to ensure gender-sensitive reporting mechanisms and improving access to information for women in the country.

UNODC response

UNODC launched its call to action “The Time is Now – Addressing the Gender Dimensions of Corruption” in December 2020. In providing highlights of the publication’s findings, UNODC Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Expert Ms. Jennifer Sarvary Bradford spoke about the many ways this thematic area can be addressed in both the public and the private sector. UNODC is moving towards implementing the findings of “The Time is Now,” making it a priority area for the Office.

In a historical passage, the UNGASS political declaration was adopted today by which Member States commit to improving their “…understanding of the linkages between gender and corruption, including the ways in which corruption can affect women and men differently.” Member States will also “continue to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women, including by mainstreaming it in relevant legislation, policy development, research, projects and programmes, as appropriate and in accordance with the fundamental principles of domestic law.” 

Businesses: influential allies against corruption

Everyone has much to lose from corruption and the private sector is no exception. At the UNGASS 2021 High-Level Forum for the Private Sector, Business CEOs from around the globe discussed how businesses can become an influential ally and join forces with governments and civil society to better support anti-corruption efforts. As part of the discussions, panel members also addressed the questions and concerns sent ahead of the event by hundreds of businesses of all sizes from around the world.

“To emerge from the current crisis stronger, more transparent, more accountable and more resilient, we need clear commitment from the private sector in return,” said UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly, opening the event, and referring to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She called on companies to join forces to improve integrity in their respective industries and supply chains, and said that as integrity leaders, the private sector needed “to invest more in education and training” beyond their own companies, and include SMEs along the value chain. Ms. Waly emphasized that “businesses need to become more inclusive and diverse.”

In her speech, Sanda Ojiambo, CEO & Executive Director of UN Global Compact also emphasized that the COVID crisis “has added even greater urgency to our work” against corruption. She highlighted that ending corruption is the tenth of the UN Global Compact’s ten universal principles for responsible, sustainable business, which is based on the UN Convention against Corruption.

In the next three years, Ms. Ojiambo said “our strategic plan […] aims to scale up the positive social impact of business.” To succeed, she continued, “We must hold companies accountable and foster business ecosystems that enable transformational change — which includes removing corruption from the equation, once and for all.”

UNODC response

UNODC supports businesses in Africa, Asia and Latin America to engage in collective action against corruption. The Office also helps cultivate a culture of integrity by offering knowledge products (e.g. on Ethics and Compliance, Whistleblower Protection and on Gender and Corruption), educational resources and virtual tools in over 30 languages.

The event was moderated by Soji Apampa, Executive Director, Convention on Business Integrity, and speakers involved Benedicte Schilbred Fasmer, CEO, SpareBank1 SR-Bank and Member of the FACTI Panel, Bernardo Vargas Gibsone, CEO, Interconexión Eléctrica S.A. E.S.P. (ISA), Ashish Kumar Chauhan, MD and CEO of BSE (formerly Bombay Stock Exchange).