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APEC ANTICORRUPTION AND TRANSPARENCY WORKSHOP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Statement by Akira Fujino

 

Representative

 

United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime

 

Regional Centre for East Asia and Pacific

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shanghai, 24 April 2006


Towards full implementation of

the United Nations Convention against Corruption

 

It is an honour and pleasure for me to address the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Anticorruption and Transparency Workshop, and to convey to you the best wishes for a successful meeting by the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Mr. Antonio Maria Costa

 

When the United Nations Convention Against Corruption was adopted in 2003, the United Nations Secretary-General stated that corruption

 

“… is found in all countries – big and small, rich and poor – but it is in the developing world that its effects are most destructive. Corruption hurts the poor disproportionately – by diverting funds intended for development, undermining a government’s ability to provide basic services, feeding inequality and injustice, and discouraging foreign investment and aid. Corruption is a key element in economic under-performance, and a major obstacle to poverty alleviation and development.” 

 

As long as corruption is not effectively addressed, our poverty reduction efforts in the Asia-Pacific region and elsewhere will not achieve their potential impact.  Corruption can silence critics, subvert justice and enable human rights abuses to go unpunished.  The resulting loss of confidence in institutions and the de-legitimization of government have destructive consequences that can span generations.

 

The United Nations Convention against Corruption is a landmark achievement responding to these concerns.  The Convention was drafted on the shared understanding that corruption was no longer a purely domestic issue, and that it affects all societies, all countries, developed and developing, alike.  This global Convention reflects the increased political will of States to counter corruption more effectively.

 

Considered by many as unrealistic and unachievable only a decade ago, the Convention has become a reality because of the vision, strong determination and commitment that all Governments displayed throughout the negotiation process.  Elaborated in record time, the Convention entered into force on 14 December 2005, only two years after it was opened for signature.  As of  21 April 2006, the number of signatories had risen to 140 and the number of Parties stood at 51.

 

This is quite an achievement.  However, there are important next steps:

 

(i) For the Convention to become the global standard that it was negotiated to be, we must secure the largest possible number of ratifications of the Convention within the shortest possible time.

(ii) It is essential to ensure the robustness of the implementation mechanism of the Convention, and its effective functioning. 

 

(Implementation)

Implementation rests firmly in the hands of States.  Only through the practical action of Governments will we see tangible results. This is why the Convention established its own implementation mechanism, the Conference of the States Parties, with a broad and challenging mandate.  With the entry into force of the Convention, the clock has started ticking for the activation of this mechanism.  Within this year, this body will be operational.  The first session of the Conference of the States Parties is expected to be held in Amman in December 2006 upon invitation by the Government of Jordan.  We need to present to the Conference ideas that would enable it to monitor implementation of the Convention efficiently and effectively, keeping in mind that the Convention is the first truly global instrument of its kind. For this body to function well the widest possible participation of, and an optimal balance between developed and developing countries from all regions will be important. So far, in Asia and the Pacific we are not yet seeing the number of ratifications and accessions to the Convention to be at a level comparable to other regions.  We should thus exercise all of our influence to ensure ratification is at the forefront of the domestic political agenda of all countries of the region.

 

The Convention is a remarkable achievement because it is innovative, balanced, strong and pragmatic.  These qualities make the new Convention a unique platform for effective action and an essential framework for genuine international cooperation. It is an operational tool that enables countries to fight corruption in both the public and private sectors.  With its detailed provisions obliging States Parties to carry out a wide range of anti-corruption measures, the Convention offers countries international standards against which to adapt their national legislation.  It further provides benchmarks that enable civil society to hold their governments accountable for anti-corruption activities.  The Convention also has a mechanism that provides for international cooperation in the recovery of assets illicitly acquired by corrupt officials, making it a unique international instrument.

 

This session is to address the core elements of a denial of safe haven strategy. We will hear in detail on this from the other speakers of this panel. Allow me to start with some general observations on measures to address the issue of corruption as provided for under the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

 

Establishing the institutional framework required by the Convention will be a continuing challenge for all Parties to the Convention.  Technical assistance has been made a key component of the new Convention.  Key United Nations bodies have asked that technical assistance is well conceived, addressing the needs of developing countries.

 

The General Assembly encouraged[1] all Governments to prevent, combat and penalize corruption in all its forms and to work for the prompt return of illicitly acquired assets, through asset recovery consistent with the principles of the Convention.  The G.A. called for further international cooperation through the United Nations system and in interaction with UNODC[2], and asked UNODC to provide to Member States technical cooperation, advisory services and other forms of assistance in the field of crime prevention and criminal justice.  The Economic and Social Council,[3] called upon Member States to continue to make voluntary contributions to the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Fund to provide developing countries and countries with economies in transition with the technical assistance they might require to implement the Convention.

 

          (UNODC actions)

A number of important steps have been made to facilitate an expeditious ratification and implementation of the Convention.  Among other things, in cooperation with the United Nations Interregional Crime and Criminal Justice Institute (UNICRI), UNODC has developed a legislative guide for the ratification and implementation of the Convention. A group of experts from all geographical regions and representing various legal systems was involved in the process.  We have also launched a project to develop a technical guide, the objective of which is to create a repository of best practices in building the institutional and operational capacity needed to implement the provisions of the Convention; we also issued the second edition of the Compendium of International Legal Instruments on Corruption.

 

We are organizing a series of high-level regional seminars to sustain and reinforce the political will and commitment that made the negotiation of the Convention possible.  We have so far held six regional seminars.[4]  One of the most recent ones was the high-level seminar for Asia and the Pacific region, held in Bangkok in January this year.  A range of key issues emerged during those seminars: 

 

(i)                             the importance of developing national anti-corruption strategies, including strong preventive measures;

(ii)                           central role of civil society and the media;

(iii)                         establishment of anti-corruption bodies with appropriate and adequate political, functional and budgetary independence;

(iv)                         methodology, including establishing objective indicators, for assessing progress in the implementation of the Convention;

(v)                           further mechanisms of international cooperation, especially in the field of extradition and mutual legal assistance; and

(vi)                         strengthening mechanisms for asset recovery.

 

At the same time, as part of its operational activities, UNODC has assisted several countries, including countries in this region, in the development of anti-corruption strategies, supporting prevention measures and the establishment and institution-building of anti-corruption bodies.  The activities we have already undertaken and plan for the future intend to promote the participation of society and reflect the principles of the rule of law, proper management of public affairs and public property, integrity, transparency and accountability.

 

Another critical area is the justice sector. With the judiciary constituting a relatively small group of individuals in many countries, for UNODC promoting judicial integrity constitutes a clearly targeted action with a potentially high impact. 

 

Given the primary importance of asset recovery, UNODC is also exploring the best means of helping Governments equip their systems to use the innovative provisions of the Convention and be successful in recovering looted assets.

 

          For UNODC as the custodian of the new Convention, nurturing, spurring and supporting cooperation with Governments and with international partners such as APEC is a key to success.  This workshop is one important building block.  And there is room for action far beyond:

 

- advocating for ratification and supporting countries in their ability to follow through with it;

- identifying country-specific needs where technical assistance might be required to increase capacity to fully implement the wide range of anti-corruption measures under the Convention that affect laws, institutions and practices;

- informing countries on measures successfully employed by other countries, in this region or elsewhere;

- forming working mechanisms and procedures for international cooperation in the recovery of assets illicitly acquired by corrupt officials.

 

The key will be sustained national implementation by all participating countries through legislation, and changes in policies and practices.  Governments, civil society, the private sector and international bodies, must all maintain the political will and momentum reflected in the negotiation and ratification of this Convention.

 

Thank you for your attention.

 



[1] Resolution 60/207 of 22 December 2005.

[2] Resolution 60/175 of 16 December 2005.

[3] Resolution 2005/18 of 22 July 2005.

[4] High level seminars were held for: West and Central African countries; Eastern Europe and Central Asian countries; Latin America and Spanish-speaking Caribbean countries; Arab region; the Asia and the Pacific region; and Southern and Eastern African countries..