28 January 2008
UN Anti-Corruption Conference Opens in Bali
VIENNA, 28 January (UN Information Service) - More than 1,000 participants from around the world have gathered in Bali, Indonesia to build integrity on the basis of the world's blueprint for fighting corruption - the United Nations Convention against Corruption.
In his opening remarks, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, urged countries to put into action the strong measures called for in the Convention. At the same time, he emphasized that everyone has a role to play, not only governments, but also parliamentarians, business, civil society, the media, and the average citizen. He stressed that "corruption hurts us all, therefore fighting it is a shared responsibility - we all have a duty and the power to say 'no' to corruption".
Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, H.E. Mr. Widodo Adi Sucipto (speaking on behalf of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono), said that all forces should unite against the cancer of corruption. He stressed that "in Indonesia corruption is public enemy number one" and that his country has managed to create a "fear factor" to deter corruptors. He underlined the need to develop a culture of integrity throughout society, describing corruption as "an unmitigated evil that every citizen must help eradicate wherever it is encountered".
Mr. Costa urged participants to focus their work, during the week-long meeting, on three steps to build integrity. Countries need to explain what they have done to fight corruption and implement the UN anti-corruption convention. They should find out what further tools and skills they need to build integrity. Furthermore, they should develop a device to measure their progress in addressing corruption.
He highlighted areas where UNODC, and others, can provide technical assistance, for example asset recovery which is one of the key measures of the anti-corruption convention. Yet he warned that despite political will at the highest level and good intentions at the operational level, efforts to recover assets - for example through the World Bank/UNODC Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative - are running into resistance from "middle-level bureaucrats with connections, knowledge and entrenched interests who have a lot to lose". He urged participants "to neutralize these black holes in your administrations".
Mr. Costa stressed that it is time for business to be more part of the solution and less part of the problem. He also called on multilateral organizations to lead by example. Their rules should meet the same high standards that governments are being asked to meet.
The notion that fighting corruption is a shared responsibility was highlighted in a special event featuring "Artists for Integrity". CNN anchorman Jim Clancy led a panel discussion, including film producer and director Terry George, novelist David Liss, and musicians Eric Wainaina and Cesar Lopez, on what role artists can play in the fight corruption. Hollywood actress Famke Janssen was appointed UNODC Goodwill Ambassador for Integrity.
Mr. Costa's speech can be read in full at www.unodc.org
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