Opening Special Session on Corruption, General Assembly Adopts Political Declaration with Road Maps to Help Countries Tackle Bribery, Money-Laundering, Abuse of Power
Spotlighting the devastating cost of corruption to economies, societies and individuals around the globe — in particular during times of crisis and painstaking recovery — the General Assembly today adopted a sweeping Political Declaration with blueprints to help countries tackle bribery, money‑laundering, abuse of power and a raft of related crimes.
The landmark Political Declaration, titled “Our common commitment to effectively addressing challenges and implementing measures to prevent and combat corruption and strengthen international cooperation” (document A/S-32/L.1), was adopted by consensus at the outset of the 193-member Assembly’s thirty-second special session, which runs until 4 June.
By its terms, Member States expressed concern about the serious threats posed by corruption to the stability and security of societies, as well as the phenomenon’s potential to undermine the institutions and values of democracy and jeopardize sustainable development and the rule of law. They recognized the negative impact corruption can have on access to basic services and human rights, while noting that it may also exacerbate poverty and inequality and disproportionately affect the world’s most disadvantaged people.
The Assembly noted that the loss of resources caused by corruption may constitute a substantial proportion of State resources — with a particularly negative impact on developing countries — and that those challenges have been exacerbated by the ongoing effects of COVID-19 pandemic. Reaffirming support for the United Nations Convention against Corruption and the bodies created under it, as well as for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it committed to preventing and combating corruption and strengthen international cooperation to fight it, while respecting the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter.
Pledging to step up efforts to promote and implement global anti‑corruption obligations and commitments, and to demonstrate the necessary political will, Member States also made a series of commitments in seven key areas: prevention; criminalization and law enforcement; international cooperation; asset recovery; technical assistance; anti-corruption as a driver of sustainable development; and advancing a forward-looking anti-corruption agenda.
Among other things, they committed to fostering a culture of accountability, transparency, legality, integrity and fairness in the public sector, including by applying codes of conduct and other ethical standards for all public officials. They stressed the role of supreme audit institutions and other oversight bodies, pledged to promote transparency and committed to identify and manage conflicts of interest — as well as address the root causes, vulnerabilities and risk factors leading to corruption. They also agreed to take measures to prevent financial systems from being abused to hide, move and launder assets stemming from corruption.
By other terms of the Political Declaration, the Assembly urged States parties to the Convention to establish as criminal offences the bribery of national, foreign or international public officials. They committed to helping build the capacity of law enforcement and judicial authorities for the successful investigation, prosecution and adjudication of corruption and related offences, and to provide a safe and enabling environment to those who expose, report and fight corruption. They also encouraged States parties to remove barriers to the recovery of assets and ensure that domestic legal frameworks allow States parties to initiate legal proceedings to claim property acquired through the commission of an offence established by the Convention.
Reiterating the central role of the Convention and its Conference of the States Parties in helping to boost States parties’ capacity to combat corruption, the Assembly encouraged the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to develop and share a “comprehensive, scientifically sound and objective statistical framework”, grounded in methodological work and reliable data sources, to support States in those efforts. Member States also committed to ensuring that corruption safeguards are integral elements of their efforts to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, and that measures are in place to prevent and combat corruption when responding to or recovering from future crises.
Opening the special session, Volkan Bozkir (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, said corruption corrodes public trust, weakens the rule of law, seeds conflict, destabilizes peacebuilding efforts, undermines human rights, impedes progress on gender equality and hinders efforts to achieve the targets of the 2030 Agenda. It also hits the poor, the marginalized and the most vulnerable the hardest. For all those reasons, the world cannot — and will not — allow corruption to continue. “Corruption thrives in a crisis,” he said, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic put unprecedented strain on supply chains, systems and infrastructure around the world. Gaps inadvertently created as countries mobilized to save lives have been exploited by the most corrupt actors. Against that backdrop, he urged leaders take concrete steps against corruption and prevent it in the inevitable next global crisis.
Amina J. Mohammed, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, said recent popular protests have sent the clear message that people will not tolerate cynical, corrupt practices. Stressing that corruption in public service delivery increases costs, lowers quality and distorts the allocation of resources, she said the vulnerable bear the brunt, as bribery makes basic services available only to those able to pay. Inadequate oversight and transparency during the COVID-19 crisis has led to the diversion of funds from those most in need. Describing today’s special session as a chance to chart a different path forward, she said the United Nations System Common Position on Corruption — designed to coordinate the Organization’s support for Member States — sets out measures to that end. “Expectations are high,” she stressed, urging Governments to lead by example.
Ghada Waly, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, agreed that bold global action against corruption is needed more than ever. “The COVID-19 crisis has derailed development progress, while corruption, bribery and illicit financial flows have stolen away resources when we can least afford it,” she said. In every region of the world, corruption has compromised emergency responses, health care, education, environmental conservation and job creation, leaving countries less equipped to recover and leaving ever more people behind. The Assembly’s Political Declaration acknowledges both the pervasive nature of corruption and the need for greater political will to step up the fight against a phenomenon that shows little sign of retreating. “As our still-fragile societies take steps towards a more resilient future, we must reject cynical profiteering and exploitation of public trust,” she emphasized.
Munir Akram (Pakistan), President of the Economic and Social Council, said corruption stifles opportunities for the poor, condemning them to a life of misery and inequity. An estimated $2.6 trillion — or 5 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) — is lost annually to corruption. Developing countries alone lose $1.26 trillion, which is nine times all official development assistance (ODA). “Allowing corruption and illicit financial flows to continue in these circumstances is nothing short of criminal,” he said, calling for robust national and international action to stop the bleeding. Among other things, penalties should be imposed on lawyers, accountants and all those enabling such behavior, safe havens must be eliminated, and a moratorium should be imposed on all investor-State disputes where in corruption is clearly visible, he said.
Also delivering opening remarks was Serena Ibrahim, Youth Forum Representative and Founder of Youth against Corruption, who described herself as “a girl born in a world where systemic corruption is a constant threat”. Corruption has hampered the dreams and aspirations of youth living in countries which are most vulnerable to it, forcing some to put their integrity up for sale in order to survive. Speaking on behalf of the hundreds of young people who took part in the 2021 special session Youth Forum, she said they came together to discuss the devastating effects of corruption on the young generations, consider ways that youth can be more engaged in preventing and combating corruption and identify recommendations for the special session’s discussions. Among those, she spotlighted the need to give youth a greater role in fighting corruption and ensuring a safe environment for them to act as whistle-blowers.
Harib Saeed al Amimi, President of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, also took the floor to report on that body’s preparatory process in the lead up to the Assembly’s special session.
Taking up a range of procedural matters, the Assembly took note of information concerning the participation in the thirty-second special session by Member States currently in arrears (document A/S-32/3) and decided to allow those States to take part and vote in the session. It decided that the Holy See and the State of Palestine would participate in the special session in their capacities as observer States, and the European Union would participate as an observer. It also adopted the provisional agenda for the special session (document A/S-32/1).
Members elected Volkan Bozkir of Turkey as President of the thirty-second special session by acclamation and decided that the Vice-Presidents of the special session would be the same as those of the Assembly’s seventy-fifth regular session. Similarly, it decided that the Chairpersons of the Main Committees of the seventy-fifth regular session would serve in the same capacity at the special session.
The special session also began its general debate. Participating were Heads of State and Government, ministers and other high-level officials from Peru, Honduras, Guatemala, Zimbabwe, Colombia, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Liberia, Mauritius, Serbia, North Macedonia, Latvia, Belgium, China, Germany, Albania, Mexico, Morocco, Singapore, South Africa, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Sweden, Portugal, Switzerland, Guyana, Brazil, Austria, Iran, Croatia, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Monaco, Italy, United Kingdom, Cyprus, Mauritania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Malta, Romania, Netherlands, Armenia, France, Belarus, Cuba, Angola and Paraguay, as well as the European Union.
The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 3 June, to continue its thirty-second special session.
VOLKAN BOZKIR (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, said corruption corrodes public trust, weakens the rule of law, seeds conflict, destabilizes peacebuilding efforts, undermines human rights, impedes progress on gender equality and hinders efforts to achieve the targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It also hits the poor, the marginalized and the most vulnerable the hardest. For all those reasons, the world cannot — and will not — allow corruption to continue. Calling on parties to redouble their efforts and build upon progress already achieved, he said United Nations Member States have adopted the Conventions against Transnational Organized Crime and against Corruption and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development. They also convened the High-Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity for Achieving the 2030 Agenda.
The Political Declaration to be adopted today builds upon that existing architecture, he said, noting that it will provide the international community with a road map for countering corruption in the future. It will also help guide countries as they work to fight money-laundering and illicit financial flows — which derail progress on sustainable development — and in critical efforts to recover assets. “Corruption thrives in a crisis,” he said, noting that the COVID‑19 pandemic has put unprecedented strain on supply chains, infrastructure and systems around the world. As the number of COVID-19 positive cases increased, Governments responded rapidly, efforts which undoubtedly saved lives. However, they inadvertently led to gaps in compliance, transparency, oversight and accountability, which were exploited by the most corrupt actors. The Assembly’s special session comes at a critical moment as humanity works to roll out a complex global vaccination programme.
Against that backdrop, he urged policymakers to leverage the special session to take concrete measures to prevent and address corruption, emphasizing that recovering from the present global economic downturn will require concerted efforts and vigilance to end corruption. “We must learn from this experience, because the next crisis will come, and we will need to be prepared to meet it when it does,” he stressed.
AMINA J. MOHAMMED, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said the international community is beginning the Decade of Action for the Sustainable Development Goals behind on its promise, as inequalities and injustices laid bare by the pandemic are further compounded by corruption. “This special session acknowledges the need for Member States to restore public trust and faith in the social contract by taking concrete action to eliminate corruption,” she assured.
Recent social protests have sent the clear message that people will not tolerate cynical, corrupt practices, she said. They are demanding transformation of legal, political, economic and social structures that have long been indifferent to accountability and transparency. Stressing that corruption in public service delivery increases costs, lowers quality and distorts the allocation of resources, she said the vulnerable bear the brunt, as bribery makes basic services available only to those able to pay. Corruption also disproportionately impacts women, limiting their access to public resources, information and decision-making. It fosters organized crime and the exploitation of natural resources.
Moreover, she said inadequate oversight and transparency during the COVID-19 crisis has led to the diversion of funds from those most in need, while those who unveil corrupt practices risk retaliation and reprisal. The special session is an opportunity to chart a different path forward through a transparent, inclusive and accountable approach to governance that will strengthen the social contract between State and people. The United Nations System Common Position on Corruption — designed to coordinate the Organization’s support for Member States — sets out measures that will integrate anti-corruption in national, local and sectoral work more effectively. “Expectations are high,” she said. “I encourage you to lead by example, by realizing the commitments you have made in the draft declaration, with the support of the United Nations system.”
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan), President of the Economic and Social Council, said corruption, which leads to massive outflows of illicit finance, is among the main reasons for the economic underperformance of developing countries and for rising inequalities across the world. Stressing that corruption stifles opportunities for the poor, condemning them to a life of misery and inequity, he said an estimated $2.6 trillion — or 5 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) — is lost annually to such behaviour. Developing countries lose $1.26 trillion — nine times all official development assistance (ODA).
Noting that the pandemic has pushed millions into extreme poverty, resulting in the loss of 250 million jobs, he said “allowing corruption and illicit financial slows to continue in these circumstances is nothing short of criminal”. Robust national and international action is needed to stop the bleeding of developing countries. Emphasizing that corruption must be addressed by the perpetrators, as well as the enablers, he said the establishment of global beneficial ownership registry would help identify perpetrators. While corruption must be tackled at the national level, it is equally important to impose penalties on the lawyers, accountants and all those enabling such behaviour, with global standards agreed and imposed to ensure this end. The absence of effective mechanisms to secure the return of stolen assets also has created a sense of impunity, he continued, and led to the parking of $7 trillion in safe havens.
Going forward, he said these secrecy jurisdictions must be eradicated, and new legal instruments agreed to facilitate the obligatory return of stolen assets. Standards for international extractive companies meanwhile must be devised, including inter-State agreements that allow for nullification of corporate contracts should corruption be discovered. A moratorium should be imposed on all investor-State disputes, in which corruption is clearly visible, and a trust fund created to help developing countries pursue the often lengthy administrative and legal proceedings for the return of their stolen assets.
He went on to stress that corruption related to tax fraud, evasion and avoidance represents a major portion of the overall volume of illicit financial flows, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reporting that curbing corruption could deliver $1 trillion annually in tax revenues across the world — or 1.2 per cent of global GDP, money that could be used by Governments to support health, education and infrastructure. A minimum global corporate tax would be a good first step to end tax crimes. Noting that the current institutional environment of international tax cooperation is dominated by voluntary forums and bilateral tax treaties, with no universal tax convention to compare with the Convention against Corruption, he called for the work of the United Nations Tax Committee to be made completely intergovernmental, with negotiations initiated for devising a global United Nations tax convention. And as collective action to stem illicit financial flows is impeded by disparate entities with narrow mandates and restricted representation, he underscored the urgency of establishing an inclusive, legitimate global coordination mechanism at the United Nations. Indeed, corruption and illicit financial flows are systemic problems. Fighting them requires global efforts, he said, stressing: “International cooperation is indispensable.”
HARIB SAEED AL AMIMI, President of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, reported on progress achieved during the Conference’s preparatory process leading up to the special session. Among other things, three intersessional meetings were convened with the participation of a wide range of stakeholders, focusing on law enforcement, criminalization, international cooperation, asset recovery, beneficial ownership and the role of the private sector. They also considered measures to tackle impunity and ways to harness the full potential of education and technology in preventing and combating corruption.
Emphasizing the inclusive and open-ended nature of the preparatory process — which included contributions from Member States, United Nations system entities, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental groups and the private sector — he said participants drafted and approved by consensus the Political Declaration before the Assembly today. In addition, the Conference held its eighth session from 16 to 20 December 2019, adopting 14 resolutions and 1 decision. Those covered a diverse range of areas including asset recovery, safeguarding sport from corruption and enhancing the effectiveness of anti-corruption bodies. The Conference adopted the Abu Dhabi Declaration, which focused on enhancing collaboration between the supreme audit institutions and anticorruption bodies to more effectively prevent and fight corruption. In that vein, the United Arab Emirates recently committed $5.4 million to support the work of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to implement the Abu Dhabi Declaration, he said.
GHADA WALY, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, said bold global action against corruption is needed more than ever. Welcoming the firm commitment demonstrated by Member States at the first-ever General Assembly special session against corruption, she declared: “The COVID-19 crisis has derailed development progress, while corruption, bribery and illicit financial flows have stolen away resources when we can least afford it.” In every region of the world, corruption has compromised emergency responses, health care, education, environmental conservation and job creation, leaving countries less equipped to recover and leaving ever more people behind.
“Now, as our still-fragile societies take steps towards a more resilient future, we must reject cynical profiteering and exploitation of public trust,” she stressed. Rebuilding must be done with full transparency, accountability and integrity in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The comprehensive and forward-looking approach enshrined in the Political Declaration before the Assembly acknowledges both the pervasive nature of corruption, and the need for greater political will and practical action to step up the fight “against an enemy that shows little sign of retreating”. Pledging the support of UNODC, she welcomed the Political Declaration’s recognition of the United Nations Convention against Corruption as the universal instrument against corruption, as well as the need for research and better measurement of the phenomenon and its impact.
Spotlighting a decisive new tool in the global anti-corruption arsenal, she said the newly launched Globe Network — for which UNODC serves as secretariat — will link up various anti-corruption law‑enforcement authorities to pursue more agile cross-border cooperation and proactive information‑sharing. “We have the opportunity to reinvigorate and innovate, to strengthen good governance and the rule of law, so we can tackle present problems and equip future generations to meet the challenges to come,” she said, expressing her hope that 2021 will be remembered as a turning point when Member States and their partners rose together to combat corruption, restore trust and generate real change for a fairer world.
SERENA IBRAHIM, Youth Forum Representative and Founder of Youth against Corruption, described herself as “a girl born in a world where systemic corruption is a constant threat”. Corruption has hampered the dreams and aspirations of youth living in countries which are most vulnerable to it, forcing some to put their integrity up for sale in order to survive. Speaking on behalf of the hundreds of young people from 93 countries and 93 civil society groups who took part in the 2021 special session Youth Forum, she said they came together to discuss the devastating effects of corruption on the young generations, consider ways that youth can be more engaged in preventing and combating corruption and identify recommendations for the special session’s discussions.
“We call upon you, our world leaders, to prioritize the fight against corruption and ensure that citizens’ well-being and equal access to basic services are top priorities in your national agendas, strategies and visions,” she said. To that end, she urged leaders to prioritize education on integrity and anti‑corruption; give youth a greater role in the intergenerational fight against corruption at the global level; invest more in innovative anti-corruption solutions, including through emerging and innovative technologies; and ensure a safe environment for youth to act as whistle-blowers, watchdogs and national monitors.
Among additional recommendations, she called for efforts to create youth agencies to enhance collaboration; ensure judicial independence and effective separation of powers; strengthen transparency and accountability in health care procurement, including on COVID-19 vaccines; guarantee media independence and strengthen civil society; and restore broken trust in elected officials. Finally, she underlined the need for more transparency in the United Nations Conference against Corruption Implementation Review Mechanism, stressing that publishing full country review reports is crucial to hold Governments accountable to commitments they have made.
FRANCISCO RAFAEL SAGASTI HOCHHAUSLER, President of Peru, said that the fight against corruption is a priority for his country and its foreign policy. Peru and Colombia promoted convening the special session and cofacilitated the negotiations on the Declaration. The anti-corruption Convention adopted 18 years ago introduced principles, norms, commitments and a follow-up mechanism. However, the evolution of corruption has made it necessary to design new and complementary measures. Peru has multiplied efforts in this direction, among them, the Lima commitment to democratic governance, adopted at the eighth Summit of the Americas in 2018. Corruption continues to expand its size and amount, and national initiatives are not enough. It requires a renewed, concerted and cooperative multilateral response. That is precisely what the Declaration intends to achieve, he said, encouraging State Parties to the Convention to implement their commitments in the Declaration as there are situations not contemplated in the Convention.
JUAN ORLANDO HERNÁNDEZ ALVARADO, President of Honduras, said that, 10 years ago, it was unthinkable that those accused of corruption would be behind bars, but upon assuming the presidency, he declared that the party is over for these criminals. In 2016, the Organization of American States established a support mission to combat corruption in Honduras. UNODC opened its office in Honduras. This demonstrates the country’s determination to eradicate corruption. It has not been easy, he said, outlining national measures against those who wanted to maintain the status quo and use Honduras as a paradise for their criminal acts. Today, his country continues to build a national anti-corruption system and fight for transparency. It created the position of Secretary of State for Transparency in the Cabinet. It is working jointly with multilateral organizations, such as IMF, World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. Honduras began the process of incorporation into the OECD Global Forum and adopted fiscal transparency. The Political Declaration will step up the fight against corruption and efforts to create a culture of transparency.
ALEJANDRO GIAMMATTEI FALLA, President of Guatemala, said corruption constitutes one of the greatest threats to the comprehensive and equitable development of all States. In Guatemala, an inter-institutional anti-corruption cooperation agreement was signed among the executive branch, all its ministries, the Office of the Attorney General, the General Comptroller’s Office, Superintendency of Tax Administration and the Banking Superintendence. In addition, he, along with cabinet members, established the Presidential Commission against Corruption, which acts with absolute impartiality. The Commission has submitted 14 complaints related to acts of corruption, which will be presented before the courts of justice. Guatemala is making efforts to implement an electronic and open Government through the existence of transparency and anti‑corruption mechanisms, providing citizens with the necessary tools to exercise an effective social audit. His country has many challenges in the fight against corruption, but “we have the will to build a transparent and democratic State based on the rule of law”.
EMMERSON DAMBUDZO MNANGAGWA, President of Zimbabwe, said that the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission and the National Prosecuting Authority are both now fully operational, while an anti-money‑laundering act is now in force. The implementation of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy for the period 2020 to 2024 is in full swing. It seeks to strengthen the structures for deterrence, detection, adherence and enforcement of the integrity management obligations across sectors. It further protects whistle-blowers and victims of corruption. In addition, Zimbabwe has established specialized courts for handling corruption and economic crimes throughout the country. Zimbabwe continues to deploy information and communications technology to enhance efficiencies and reduce human interference in service delivery. His Administration is reorienting all sectors of the economy including the public, private and non- governmental institutions towards a culture of honesty, accountability and transparency. The Political Declaration elaborates on the need to stop the increasing levels of illicit financial flows, including from Africa, estimated to be over $80 billion per year, he said, welcoming its increased focus on the recovery and return of confiscated assets.
IVÁN DUQUE MÁRQUEZ, President of Colombia, said corruption is one of the most perverse impediments to democracy, the rule of law and sustainable development. According to the World Bank, companies and legal persons pay more than $1 trillion in bribes each year. Noting that the pandemic exposed corrupt practices in the health systems of various countries, he said preventing corruption is a moral imperative. In Colombia, the fight is under way against trafficking in drugs, humans and weapons, with a greater focus on the crime of corruption, he said, recalling that his country, along with Peru, promoted the resolution that led to the convening of the Assembly’s special session today. He called for making best possible use of the Convention against Corruption and engaging in debate on the strengths and weaknesses of the current normative framework. Today’s Political Declaration offers tools, such as asset‑recovery processes, beneficiary registries and a distinction between licit financial flows and those that might be linked to criminal activities, which will help guide State efforts. Among other efforts, Colombia, in October 2020, presented a draft bill on corruption to help build a culture of equality and foster the efficient use of public resources, allowing the Government to more easily punish companies that promote corrupt practices. He called on the international community to use the Political Declaration as a compass to guide its work in the coming years.
JULIUS MAADA BIO, President of Sierra Leone, said that, since 2018, his country has moved up 12 places in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. According to the Afro Barometer, corruption prevalence has reduced from 70 per cent before 2018 to 40 per cent in 2020. With conviction rates of over 90 per cent, the Anti-Corruption Commission of Sierra Leone has also recovered billions of leones in non-conviction asset-based recoveries, higher in the last three years than at any time in the 18-year existence of the Commission. His Government has adopted progressive laws and institutional reforms. The reviewed anti-corruption law increases minimum punishment for major corruption offences, protects whistle-blowers, shifts evidential burden for offences involving offering or receiving an advantage, and allows the Commission to appeal sentences that are deemed lenient or disproportionate. Sierra Leone has acceded to the anti-corruption Convention and developed a comprehensive national anti‑corruption strategy with a view to strengthening the anti-corruption regime, implementing actions for preventing and controlling corruption, and establishing legally enforceable mandatory minimum standards.
UHURU KENYATTA, President of Kenya, said his country’s fight against corruption has been a battle of hope, courage and triumph. Indeed, Kenya has seen an upsurge in investigations, prosecutions and convictions for corruption. Assets worth millions of shillings have been frozen and are in the process of being recovered. Whistle‑blowers, the media and citizens themselves can all report cases of corruption, a testament to the prevailing atmosphere of open Government. Kenya has adopted a multi-agency approach to fighting corruption, featuring a multi-agency team dedicated to such efforts. In addition, Kenya recognizes the importance of nurturing values, ethics and integrity in children, and has undertaken a strategy that will lead to “citizenry of integrity and honour”. Through a revised competency-based curriculum, children learn about patriotism and diligence as part of their basic schoolwork. He also highlighted Kenya’s framework for the return of stolen assets, stressing that the Government will implement its Convention obligations, strengthen its service delivery and raise the bar on integrity and ethical behaviour. Indeed, good governance interventions will ultimately yield full results, he assured.
GEORGE MANNEH WEAH, President of Liberia, recalled that the United Nations Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption were adopted in 2003, 18 years ago. “Since that time, the dangerous effects of corruption have been widely documented in various forms across the globe,” he said, adding that it has proven to have long-term effects that undermine the vibrancy of governance, the stability of economies and the primacy of the rule of law. Having long declared corruption unacceptable under his Administration, he spotlighted the work of the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission, which found the legal framework against corruption to be in need of reform. In response, several new legal instruments have been submitted, seeking to drastically improve Liberia’s anti-corruption legal framework. Outlining its various elements — which include a whistle-blower’s law and fast-tracking for the prosecution of corruption cases — he recalled that, when local media outlets reported $16 billion in funds stolen through corruption, Liberia promptly invited the Government of the United States to help investigate those allegations. “We are proud that the result of that investigation […] found that these allegations were false, and that no acts of corruption had occurred,” he said, while pledging to re-intensify Liberia’s efforts counter corruption, including at the global level.
PRAVIND KUMAR JUGNAUTH, Prime Minister, Minister for Defence, Home Affairs and External Communications, and Minister for Rodrigues, Outer Islands and Territorial Integrity of Mauritius, described corruption as a global problem which knows no boundaries. Its tentacles have corrosive effects worldwide, with huge societal costs, and its pernicious impacts are seen in both developed and developing countries. “However, the economic loss, as well as the burden of blame, is always higher on the poorer countries,” he said. Cross-cutting issues such as illicit financial flows and organized crime must therefore be addressed in a comprehensive and coordinated manner, along with the return of stolen assets. Welcoming the adoption of the Political Declaration — which represents a forceful commitment by States to take effective measures to prevent and combat corruption — he underscored his country’s commitment to root out corruption and outlined various efforts already taken at the national level to do so. Mauritius has also completed both the first and second cycles of the United Nations Convention against Corruption review mechanism and has been found to be largely compliant with its provisions, he said. Listing several next steps, he said Mauritius will implement a Declaration of Assets Regime governing declaration of assets by all senior public officials and create a Financial Crimes Division in its court system, among other important changes.
ANA BRNABIĆ, Prime Minister of Serbia, said that corruption is a global challenge all countries face and are committed to fighting. It is a major roadblock to sustainable development. This must be addressed by the whole‑of‑society approach, involving all stakeholders, including civil society and media. Explaining how successful Serbia’s e-Government is, she said making services online was a foundational reform measure. It increased transparency and curbed corruption. E-permitting and e-procurement cut physical space for corruption. Serbia today is among the world’s top 10 in construction e‑permitting. Expressing appreciation for the European Union, United Nations and other organizations for supporting her country’s progress, she said fighting corruption is not just about transparency, but the quality of life and sustainable progress for all.
LJUPCO NIKOLOVSKI, Deputy Prime Minister for the Fight against Corruption and Crime, and for Sustainable Development and Human Resources of the Republic of North Macedonia, recalled that his country ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption in 2007. Its provisions became an integral part of the country’s legal order, sending a clear message that the entire international community is committed to a “no-compromise fight against corruption”. North Macedonia introduced a new position to lead those efforts at the national level, which he now holds. Outlining the country’s “Action 21” agenda and its first-ever Anti-Corruption Plan, he said it comprises systemic measures for crucial reforms and is based on digitalization, digital transformation, mechanisms for checking the origin of property and capital and the confiscation of illegally acquired property. It also centres on transparency, integrity and high ethical standards for public office holders and seeks to raise citizens’ awareness of how to report corruption. However, he said, as corruption and crime recognize no boundaries, the international community must stand committed to building a better world for all.
JANIS BORDANS, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Justice of Latvia, underscored his country’s strong commitment to fighting domestic and international corruption, while also acknowledging that it is only through strong international cooperation, based on effective and binding legal frameworks, that such efforts can succeed. “A corruption crime in one State can have a serious impact on other States,” he said, as well as the global environment. It is therefore the responsibility of States to coordinate and cooperate on all possible levels. For its part, Latvia is undergoing the second review cycle of the Convention and he urged other countries to step up their cooperation with the Implementation Review Mechanism. Latvia is also a member of the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Working Group on Bribery. Its Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau, an independent authority established 18 years ago, meanwhile has increased its knowledge and capacity to investigate such crimes. Indeed, democracy, good governance and the rule of law are important factors in preventing conflicts and sustaining peace and development.
SOPHIE WILMÈS, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium, said her country has a long‑standing commitment to defending values such as respect for the rule of law. Noting that the mechanisms for tracking and suppressing corruption are manifold in the European Union, she said Belgium has been a member of the OECD working group focused on transnational corruption since its establishment in 1999. Belgium’s efforts are centred on repressing corrupt activities by businesses, officials and individuals themselves, she explained, underscoring the need to instil a sense of ethics and integrity in children through the education system. The fight requires vigilance by all stakeholders — Government, the private sector, civil society and citizens themselves — as corruption is a transnational crime. Belgium favours the secret transfer of information among relevant agencies, along with coordination with the police, notably through European Union Agency for Law Enforcement and Cooperation (Europol). She welcomed the launch during the special session of the first global network for exchanging information. Stressing that corruption cannot be separated from the political context, she went on to stress that Belgium pledged €3 million for UNODC programmes against corruption linked to environmental crimes. In addition, as corruption in sport has been spotlighted as never before in recent years, Belgium established a sports fraud team in partnership with its federal police.
ZHAO LEJI, Member, Standing Committee of the CPC, Central Committee Political Bureau, and Secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of China, said his country was among the first to sign and ratify the Convention against Corruption. Stressing that the Communist Party and Government of China stand “unequivocally” against corruption, he described efforts to improve oversight and identify ways for the Party to purify itself. These efforts have won overwhelming support by the Chinese people. Noting that China has strengthened its central leadership and fought corruption with great resolve, he said all corruption cases are addressed with zero tolerance through a people-centred approach. According to national statistics, 95.8 per cent of people are satisfied with China’s anti-corruption endeavours. He went on to stress that China has deepened reforms to its disciplinary and supervision systems and adopted a holistic approach to address both the symptoms and causes of corruption. It has stepped up international cooperation in the area of asset recovery. Urging the international community to take a zero-tolerance approach to corruption and cautioning States not to provide safe havens for corrupt individuals, he went on to stress the importance of promoting mutual learning, respecting the legal systems of each country and fostering international partnerships in that area based on respect. States also must oppose interference in the internal affairs of others in the name of fighting corruption. He also urged States to conclude extradition treaties in order to remove barriers to cooperation in asset recovery and other areas.
YLVA JOHANSSON, Commissioner for Home Affairs of the European Union, said corruption endangers the stability and security of societies, undermines public trust and institutions, facilitates organized crime and threatens sustainable development. Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic created opportunities for corruption to grow, she said strong governance and international cooperation are now more important than ever. Voicing the European Union’s support for the Political Declaration adopted today, she said combating corruption is also high on the bloc’s own agenda. Its legislation protects the European Union’s financial interests against fraud and corruption, while the independent European Public Prosecutor’s Office is tasked with fighting crime against the bloc’s budget. Funds supporting the COVID-19 recovery have built-in mechanisms to prevent any kind of fraud, corruption and conflict of interests. Calling for stronger efforts to uphold the rule of law around the globe, including effective crime prevention and criminal justice responses, she added that asset recovery is also crucial. Confiscating criminal assets is therefore a central element of the newly adopted European Union strategy to tackle organized crime. In addition, the bloc supports a strong role for civil society, non-governmental organizations, academia and media outlets, and provides a safe and enabling environment for whistle-blowers, she said.
CHRISTINE LAMBRECHT, Federal Minister for Justice and Consumer Protection of Germany, said a community of nations will be successful in the fight against corruption only if they take determined action. Corruption must be prevented, and when it occurs, it must be uncovered. It is also vital to address money laundering. Illegitimate financial flows must be returned to their legitimate owners. Civil society and the press make significant contributions to the fight against corruption, she said, stressing that the community of nations must ensure that they enjoy freedom and are able to carry out their work. She welcomed that the Political Declaration has highlighted the gender dimension of corruption, which was previously overlooked. Her country will tirelessly advocate for ending corruption both internally and internationally, she said.
ETILDA GJONAJ, Minister for Justice of Albania, recalled that her country has suffered from corruption over past decades, which has challenged its democratization, economic growth and the quality of its public services. To address this issue, the Government has worked to reform the judicial system over the last five years to restore public trust and tackle endemic corruption in the judiciary. This reform includes the establishment of a system to vet judges and of institutional architecture to fight corruption and organized crime, which enables the expulsion of corrupt judges and prosecutors. For the first time, high-profile officials have been prosecuted and punished for corruption, assets have been seized and criminal cases have been reopened. Further, the Government has fully digitized public services, implemented accessible whistle-blower mechanisms and established a meaningful exchange with civil society and businesses. Pointing out that corruption has become increasingly complex and international, she stressed that domestic efforts must be complemented by international cooperation to identify and fight illicit financial flows and other organized crime.
IRMA ERENDIRA SANDOVAL, Minister for Public Administration of Mexico, expressed her country’s determination to stamp out corruption. Mexico has employed technology to fight against corruption, democratizing processes such as asset declarations and tenders. It approved austerity legislation and implemented measures to protect whistle-blowers. Her country’s efforts are bearing fruit. Citizen’s trust in Government has increased over the past two years, with the rate of those who experienced bribery declining. Indeed, Mexico moved up 14 places in the Global Corruption Perception Index. However, this is not time for celebration. Welcoming the adoption of the Declaration, she said her country will step up efforts to punish corruption. It has also improved audits for procuring medical equipment and vaccines.
MOHAMED BACHIR RACHDI, President for the National Assembly for Integrity, Prevention and the Fight Against Corruption of Morocco, said his country has ratified the Convention and since adopted related policies. Among other measures, Morocco has introduced structural reforms to accelerate development and improve the business environment. It has strengthened the separation of powers, with the judiciary and prosecution now separated from justice bodies. Oversight also has improved through enhanced constitutional powers, while a specific law now provides strategic anti-corruption guidance to the State. Morocco similarly has made progress in preventing corruption at various levels, notably seen in the harmonization of national legislation and in the accumulation of related knowledge. Stressing that corruption has become highly sophisticated, with corrupt individuals at every level of Government now exploiting international financial networks, he said global efforts require unity around the need to fight corruption. He urged States to implement all provisions of the Convention, emphasizing that without genuine State engagement, coupled with participation by the public sector, politicians, the private sector, the media and civil society, success will remain elusive. In that context, he drew attention to the Marrakech Declaration on the Prevention of Corruption, adopted in 2011.
CHAN CHUN SING, Minister for Education of Singapore, said that his country upholds the rule of law and combats corruption through strong political will, robust anti-corruption laws, an impartial Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau and an efficient public service. These measures give businesses confidence that their investments will thrive in Singapore because national rules and processes are fair, coherent and transparent. While his country has had some success in combating corruption, the threat is always evolving. For example, the international financial system can be abused to launder corrupt proceeds through technological advances — and he stressed the need to leverage science and technology to prevent and combat the crime’s sophisticated forms. Corruption has also become increasingly borderless, and Singapore — as an international financial hub — believes that international cooperation is essential in addressing this issue. For its part, Singapore shares intelligence to assist countries suffering from great corruption and works to seize and return illicitly acquired assets to States.
SENZO MCHUNU, Minister for Public Service and Administration of South Africa, associating himself with the African Group and the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said corruption robs States of the resources needed to improve social well-being. South Africa has not been spared from the scourge. Guided by the Convention, the Government has enhanced measures to prevent corruption in law enforcement and introduced initiatives through its national anti-corruption strategy, adopted in November 2020. Noting that anti-corruption institutions responded in a coordinated manner to investigate claims of fraud during the pandemic, he said the immediate response by Government was to establish a fusion centre to deal with such issues, involving all major Government players. The centre registered 148 corruption cases, with 104 cases under criminal investigations. Twenty-two cases were closed. It is currently working on 10 matters with the possibility of recovering 400 million ZAR. He welcomed the adoption of the Political Declaration, as it advances a forward-looking framework in the context of the 2030 Agenda.
MÁRIA KOLÍKOVÁ, Minister for Justice of Slovakia, associating herself with the European Union, detailed Government measures to strengthen her country’s anti‑corruption legal framework, including aligning certain criminal offenses with international requirements, adopting new legislation on property seizure and reinforcing the independent judicial system. Noting recent corruption cases involving high-level public officials in Slovakia, she underscored the importance of ensuring the integrity of such individuals through national efforts such as refining codes of conduct and protecting whistle-blowers. It is also important to promote a culture of transparency and accountability in the public financial sector and, to this end, all contracts involving public authorities in Slovakia must be published in a central registry. This disclosure allows for public scrutiny and helps discover unlawful conduct in public procurement. As sophisticated technologies, cross-border criminal networks and the COVID-19 pandemic all present new corruption risks to the international community, she expressed support for the Global Operational Network of Anti-Corruption Law Enforcement Authorities.
MARIE BENEŠOVÁ, Minister for Justice of the Czech Republic, aligning herself with the European Union, said that her country has successfully completed the first cycle of the United Nations Convention against Corruption review mechanism, is undergoing the second and has served as a reviewing State in two other second-cycle reviews. Pursuant to the mechanism’s recommendations, the Government has proposed several legislative measures, including creating a registration system for lobbyists and protecting whistle-blowers. Further, it launched a project in 2020 designed to counter corruption by increasing public awareness of relevant international recommendations and standards, focusing on conflicts of interest, whistle-blower protection and codes of conduct for judges and prosecutors. Noting corruption’s far-reaching and disproportionate impact on the poor and most vulnerable, she welcomed the special session’s Political Declaration.
MORGAN JOHANSSON, Minister for Justice and Migration, Ministry of Justice of Sweden, endorsing the European Union’s statement, said his country ranks among those with the lowest prevalence of corruption, thanks to its focus on transparency. Empowered and protected by constitutional rights to access official documents, Sweden’s media has exposed misconduct, allowing the Government to act forcefully. Transparency also relies on the legal freedom of citizens to communicate with the media without fear of penal consequences, he explained, also pointing to the right of employees to report misconduct as an important part of a free and democratic society. “No one should be afraid of being terminated from work for being a whistle-blower,” he assured. On a global scale, he called for working together at all levels, citing coordination between the European Union, the Group of States against Corruption, OECD and the United Nations as pivotal to Sweden’s efforts. He also welcomed the commitment to gender equality and empowerment of women outlined in today’s Political Declaration as a first step towards addressing the gender-differentiated impact of corruption.
FRANCISCA VAN DUNEM, Minister for Justice of Portugal, aligning herself with the European Union, endorsed the special session’s Political Declaration and said that her country has enacted many legislative, organizational and management measures over the last 30 years to prevent and fight corruption and related crimes. Such measures include the ratification of all international instruments on preventing and fighting corruption and money-laundering, the incorporation of the same into domestic legislation and the criminalization of general and specific forms of corruption. Further, the Government promotes public policies designed to better governance and prevent corruption, including raising awareness among the citizenry and digitizing public services. Noting the recent approval of the first-ever national anti-corruption strategy for 2020-2024, she said that this strategy — supported by political parties and civil society — aims to allow the State to act ex ante, thereby reducing the need to resort to criminal prosecution.
IGNAZIO CASSIS, Federal Councillor, Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, described his country as one governed by the rule of law, accountable to its citizens and enjoying public trust. “This trust is an invaluable asset,” he said, noting that a single corruption scandal is all it takes to jeopardize this status. Noting that the Government recently adopted its first anti-corruption strategy, which he commissioned, he said Switzerland has a long democratic tradition and a clear separation of powers. Its Constitution and political culture avoid a concentration of power where possible, as this can lead to corruption, he said, adding that where democracy is strong, citizens can criticize — even rectify — mistakes committed by elected leaders. While welcoming progress in implementing the Convention, he nonetheless said the review process shows that States parties are far from realizing its full potential. Stressing that the poorest are most affected by corruption, he said people who do not pay bribes cannot enrol their children in school or access health care. “Corrupt dictators will not find a safe haven in our country,” he assured.
ASHNI SINGH, Senior Minister in the Office of the President of Guyana, said corruption leaves lasting harmful effects on public institutions, the functioning of markets and overall economic performance. It undermines the rule of law and is often linked to crimes, including terrorism. Its tentacles are global, affecting advanced economies and fragile States alike. Against that backdrop, he welcomed recognition of the need to safeguard respect for the electoral process, as subversion of democracy is a sign of corruption — and typical behaviour for corrupt individuals. Since resuming office in 2020, the current Government in Guyana has worked to strengthen public accountability, transparency and good governance. Legal frameworks cover parliamentary oversight, the integrity of public office, public financial management and anti-money laundering. More broadly, he said success will require grappling with emerging realities. Stressing that Guyana will uphold the Santiago Principles for sovereign wealth funds, he went on to underscore the importance of coordination among national and regional anti-corruption bodies, which is particularly pertinent for small countries with limited human, technical and financial resources.
WAGNER DE CAMPOS ROSÁRIO, Minister for the Office of the Comptroller General of Brazil, said preventing corruption is even more urgent against the backdrop of today’s unprecedented human and economic crisis. “This has jeopardized some fundamental elements of our aspects to combat corruption,” he said, citing the misappropriation of funds in some cases. Brazilian authorities took swift measures to address the impact of corruption on its COVID-19 response and promote public and private integrity. Among those were civilian awareness-raising and the creation of new channels for complaints, grievances and suggestions. Describing the use of cutting-edge technology amid the pandemic, and its potential to avert fraud, he said Brazil paid out some $55 billion in emergency funds to 68 million in 2020, all while preventing losses that fraud could have caused. Underlining the importance of international cooperation, he called on States parties to the Convention against Corruption to strengthen their commitment to swift, nimble cooperation to broaden options to punish corruption and recover assets.
ALEXANDER SCHALLENBERG, Federal Minister for European and International Affairs of Austria, said that corruption remains “an insidious pandemic” that disrupts societies, destroys economic opportunities, undermines democracy and the rule of law, violates human rights and galvanizes organized crime. It is high time to tap the full potential of the Convention against Corruption, but States parties must practice what they preach. Education is the best vaccine against corruption, he said, noting that the International Anti-Corruption Academy is based in his country, alongside UNODC. He went on to say that a new freedom of information act for Austria, once adopted by Parliament, will mark a paradigm shift for the country’s public administration. A similar paradigm shift is needed on a global scale, he added.
SEYED ALIREZA AVAEE, Minister for Justice of Iran, said the current session is an expression of the international community’s renewed commitment to combat the crime of corruption. Describing the Political Declaration as a result of Member States’ strong political will, he said two decades have now elapsed since the adoption of the Convention against Corruption, which has been ratified by most Member States. Among other things, the text of today’s Declaration emphasizes the need for that Convention’s more effective implementation, spotlighting such critical areas as prevention, criminalization and international cooperation. However, just as every measure aimed to strengthen cooperation should be applauded, every measure impeding such cooperation must be condemned. The proceeds of corruption cannot be accumulated in another geographical area, nor can its repatriation be declined. In that vein, he reiterated that exploiting the wealth of one society in favour of another is “despicable”.
IVAN MALENICA, Minister for Justice and Public Administration of Croatia, said preserving the rule of law and the legitimacy of democracies requires combating corruption at the national, regional and international level. Croatia has established all the necessary legislative and institutional framework in the scope of repressive action against corruption, as well as its prevention. Nevertheless, it continues to strengthen the capacity of its institutions to more effectively implement their objectives, including by increasing the budgets of key institutions. By the end of 2021, a new Strategy for the Prevention of Corruption (2021-2030) is expected to be adopted, placing special emphasis on raising public awareness of the phenomenon’s harmfulness and the need to report it. Prevention of corruption was recognized as a key measure in the Croatian National Development Strategy and the National Recovery and Resilience Plan until 2030, he said, while also voicing strong support for the Political Declaration adopted today.
DOMINIQUE HASLER, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein, said corruption has slowed progress throughout living memory, with devastating effects on people and the planet. Welcoming the adoption of the Political Declaration, she said countering corruption is one of Liechtenstein’s top priorities. “There is no doubt that corruption is one of the biggest impediments of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” she stressed. Effective, accountable and transparent institutions are critical and all the more relevant in times of crisis, such as now. Recalling that Liechtenstein was the first country to be reviewed in the second cycle of the Mechanism for the Review of Implementation of the Convention against Corruption, in 2017, she said the review concluded that the country has in place a far-reaching legal and regulatory framework for prevention and a well-established regime for asset recovery. It has successfully engaged in the recovery and return of stolen assets and returned more than $230 million, and it contributes to United Nations, regional and non-governmental projects that foster good governance and tackle corruption. Meanwhile, too little attention is still paid to exploring — let alone prosecuting — corruption related to modern-day slavery, she said.
KRIS FAAFOI, Minister of Justice of New Zealand, drew attention to a key concept in Te Ao Māori known as kaitiakitanga, which loosely translates as guardianship. Striving to build a better world is central to that concept, but corruption prevents that. “It is my view that having a clean and transparent Government helps to build trust and support among our people,” enabling States to act with confidence in delivering policy and making positive change. However, clean Government requires ongoing work and constant vigilance, he said, explaining that legislation now before Parliament will strengthen New Zealand’s whistle-blowing laws and its ability to target and seize illicit assets. He went on to highlight his country’s support for country-led anti-corruption initiatives in the Pacific region, including through the pooling of resources.
LAURENT ANSELMI, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Monaco, said today’s special session is essential for upholding the rule of law around the globe. Agreeing with other speakers that corruption flourishes in times of crisis, he drew attention to the massive surge in public spending to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, asking: “What could be more immoral than to divert funds from people when they need it the most?” Describing corruption as the ultimate betrayal of public trust, he said the liberalization of trade and the flow of funds spurred on by new digital technologies has opened up new avenues for money to be targeted by criminal groups. The need for resources to build back after the pandemic, and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, requires all parties to take strong action. In that regard, he proposed that artificial intelligence could be leveraged to help States analyse financial flows and identify and counter corruption. Monaco has signed onto many international conventions and regional agreements to counter the phenomenon, and submits regularly to inspections. It has also adopted a new series of laws to punish the financing of terrorism, combat money‑laundering and ensure the impartiality of judges, he added.
MARTA CARTABIA, Minister for Justice of Italy, said that today’s Political Declaration “will provide many inputs” for the preparation of the Group of 20’s Anti-Corruption Action Plan for 2022 to 2024 that will be adopted later this year during its Italian presidency. She emphasized young people’s determination to oppose corruption in all its forms, adding that Italy’s anti-mafia code and its social reuse of confiscated assets aims to return to society what organized crime has taken from it. She noted that the Group of 20’s Anti-Corruption Working Group is seeking to improve the way in which corruption is measured, given that it has become more complex and sophisticated in the past two or three decades.
DOMINIC RAAB, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs of the United Kingdom, said corruption “is the acid burning away the rule of law, democracy and public trust in their institutions”. More than 2 per cent of global GDP is lost every year to corruption, which also adds 10 per cent to the cost of doing business around the world. The United Kingdom is a global leader in the fight against corruption, with the National Crime Agency’s International Corruption Unit freezing, confiscating or returning more than £1.1 billion of assets stolen from developing countries. Its status as a global financial centre means that it must redouble efforts to combat money laundering, sanctions, asset freezes and travel bans. He also stressed the role of the media in exposing corruption. As President of the Group of Seven this year, the United Kingdom is working towards more open societies, shared values and a rules-based international order, with a meeting of Group of Seven interior ministers to take further action on corruption when they meet in September, he added.
EMILY YIOLITIS, Minister for Justice and Public Order of Cyprus, said corruption causes uncertainty and usually leads to additional costs for businesses, making countries less attractive for investment. It also erodes the confidence of citizens towards institutions and Government agencies. She reaffirmed the Government’s political will for national reforms to tackle corruption effectively and holistically, notably legal reforms, emphasizing the need for efforts by civil society, non-governmental organizations, academia and the media. For its part, Cyprus devised a national horizontal action plan as the primary reference point for actions in the areas of prevention and education, legislation reform, suppression and monitoring. She called for greater international cooperation, calling UNODC an indispensable platform for collaboration and support in that regard.
MOHAMED MAHMOUD OUD CHEIKH ABDOULLAH OULD BOYA, Minister for Justice of Mauritania, said corruption threatens democracy and the rule of law, with significant consequences. The Government has redoubled its efforts to create a calm political climate, with efforts focused on reforming financial laws and the public procurement system, as well as promoting transparency and oversight, and rationalizing relevant mechanisms. It reviewed national ethics rules with a view to modernizing them, efforts that led to the development of an anti-corruption strategy. At the global level, Mauritania has ratified international and regional agreements and domesticated them into national legislation. It also has completed the first review cycle of the Convention. He cited Law 017 recently enacted to fight money laundering and terrorism, while more broadly noting that Mauritania also protects whistle blowers and established an office to deal with confiscated assets. It also created an anti-corruption authority whose board is comprised of actors from the public and private sectors, and civil society, in line with Decree 102 of December 2020. At the Parliamentary level, he pointed to a team focused on transparency and a commission of inquiry. “Honesty and competence are the only guarantees of genuine independence,” he stressed.
MICHAELIA CASH, Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations of Australia, said that the international community must embed integrity in its response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. “A strong response to corruption promotes stability and trust, supports democratic institutions and fosters clean, open and efficient markets for economies and societies to thrive,” she said. Australia greatly values the central role of the United Nations in setting standards and demonstrating international leadership in the fight against corruption. There is always scope for improvement, but that can best be achieved if States stay focused on implementing the Convention against Corruption. She emphasized the role that civil society and the private sector can play in detecting and fighting corruption, as well as the disproportionate impact that corruption can have on women and girls.
KAMRAN ALIYEV, Prosecutor General of Azerbaijan, said that fighting corruption can be compared to fighting a virus, as both require solidarity and resources. He underscored the many reforms that his country has put into place in recent years which have generated more economic growth and less poverty. Much work has gone into judicial reform, while large-scale anti-corruption operations have led to the arrest and prosecution of some top-level Government officials. He explained that international cooperation is at the heart of Azerbaijan’s reform policies, enabling innovative tools and solutions to be folded into its anti-corruption efforts.
EDWARD ZAMMIT LEWIS, Minister for Justice, Equality and Governance of Malta, said that the fight against organized crime, money laundering and corruption is never-ending for any advanced democratic State. He drew attention to a series of reforms undertaken by Malta to strengthen the independence and impartiality of its judiciary. They include an improved system of checks and balances between the judiciary and the Government, the appointment of more judges and strengthening of the National Asset Recovery Bureau, the Financial Services Authority and the Malta Gaming Authority. Such reforms are an ongoing process, but the Government is determined to invest more in fighting corruption and to improve Malta’s reputation within Europe and the international community, he said.
STELIAN-CRISTIAN ION, Minister for Justice of Romania, emphasized that now more than ever the world needs to coordinate responses on tackling the nexus between corruption and organized crime. Most recently, his country translated this strategic approach into the drafting of a criminal policy on fighting environmental crime, a forthcoming national strategy against organized crime and a new national anti-corruption strategy. He stressed the importance of implementing the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Convention against Corruption. The participation of civil society in all aspects of preventing and combating corruption is important, he said.
FERDINAND GRAPPERHAUS, Minister for Justice and Security of the Netherlands, said the fact that his country is, according to Transparency International, one of the world’s least corrupt nations is no reason to sit back and relax. Last year, for example, an investigation by Dutch police into encrypted phones used by criminals revealed evidence of police corruption. At the same time, corruption is a transnational phenomenon, he said, with the Political Declaration providing Member States with inspiration to make their joint efforts more effective. Going forward, the international community must fully implement existing international norms and standards established in the United Nations, the OECD working group on bribery and the Council of Europe.
RUSTAM BADASYAN, Acting Minister of Justice of Armenia, said his country’s anti-corruption strategy focuses on institutionalizing the political will to combat corruption and to build strong and independent institutions dealing with prevention, asset recovery, investigation and adjudication of corruption cases. In November 2019, the Commission for Prevention of Corruption was formed. It is also anticipated that the Anti-Corruption Courts will be operational early next year. Armenia has improved its rating in the Corruption Perception Index by 14 points over the past two years. This is far more than the preceding seven years during which the country registered a two-point improvement.
FRANCK RIESTER, Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, said that in 2013, France established a prosecutor’s office with national jurisdiction to fight serious financial crimes. It also created a High Authority for the Transparency of Public Life, responsible for monitoring the ethics of public officials. In 2016, the Government adopted a law on transparency, which subsequently led to the creation of the anti-corruption agency. “These actions are not limited to the domestic front,” he said, citing France’s involvement in UNODC and the OECD Group of States against Corruption. He more broadly underscored the role of civil society in detecting whistle-blowers and drawing attention to the gender dimension, with women facing higher risk of interacting with potentially corrupt health and education authorities. France’s feminist diplomacy will always express itself in these efforts. On asset recovery, he said France will continue to advocate for full implementation of the Narita Convention.
ANDREI SHVED, Prosecutor General of Belarus, said his country treats corruption as a national security threat. It has created a balanced system for countering such behaviour, based on a national model for development of the State, in line with international anti-corruption standards. Among other measures, Belarus signed relevant Council of Europe and United Nations conventions and has a strong social policy featuring a robust State role in the economy, which is focused on attracting investment and ensuring business freedom. Belarus also has adopted measures to minimize State intervention in economic entities. He went on to describe a 2016 anti-corruption law, drawn up by the Prosecutor General, which clarifies the definition of corruption and specifies a range of actions that constitute corrupt offences. Another law curtails the right to receive pensions as a way to prevent covert bribery of high placed officials. More broadly, he called for international cooperation and coordinated work among law enforcement agencies.
GLADYS BEJERANO PORTELLA, General Comptroller of Cuba, said today’s meeting and Political Declaration recognize the usefulness of international unity against corruption, even as national institutions have a main role to play. “We cannot turn a blind eye to the negative impacts of corruption,” she stressed. Cuba is working towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals despite the more than six-decades-long embargo imposed against it by the Government of the United States, she said, noting that combating corruption is part of those efforts. Underlining the need for more proactive measures at the global level, she said the United Nations Convention against Corruption remains the relevant instrument in those efforts, as it is binding in nature and nearly universal in scope. Pointing out that Cuba has completed its first review cycle and will soon conclude the second, she said the Cuban Government and people remain committed to combating corruption, with a national policy based on the rule of law, public transparency, accountability and public participation.
ADÃO FRANCISCO CORREIA DE ALMEIDA, Minister of State and Chief of the Civil House of the President of Angola, said that the steps being taken by his country to fight corruption include legislation that has enabled the recovery of assets valued at $5.3 billion, including cash, real estate and securities. However, much remains to be done, he said, explaining that the ambitious National Strategic Plan for Preventing and Combating Corruption is being put into place to strengthen partnership between the Government and civil society, improve the business environment and improve the quality of life among citizens. Going forward, Angola will continue to participate in various international mechanisms while also implementing domestic reforms to make the fight against corruption more effective.
RENE FERNANDEZ, Minister for the National Anticorruption Secretariat of Paraguay, said that human lives have been on the line during the COVID-19 pandemic and all sectors in his country have responded to the crisis. The Government has undertaken some measures to address corruption during the crisis, including creation of a transparent system for procuring medical equipment. A digital platform was also introduced to improve oversight over superfluous expenditure. The misuse of public funds will be dealt with through strict measures. Welcoming the adoption of the Political Declaration, he called for more proactive cooperation among Member States in the fight against corruption.