30 May 2001


NEW YORK, 29 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, delivered on his behalf by Jan van Dijk, Director, United Nations Centre for International Crime Prevention, to the Global Forum on Fighting Corruption and Safeguarding Integrity at The Hague on 28 May:

Corruption in the public sector threatens countries all over the world. It weakens democratic institutions, encourages organized crime, and undermines public services. The recently adopted United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime shows that Member States take the threat of corruption very seriously and are ready to develop comprehensive strategies to combat it.

These efforts must include initiatives to strengthen institutional and legal frameworks, establish rigorous law enforcement and public education programmes, and institute mechanisms for the return of assets derived from corrupt activities. Delegates at the tenth session of the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, held earlier this month in Vienna, made it clear that the majority of anti-corruption programmes worldwide include many of these components, but they also stressed that much remains to be done.

Delegates agreed that countries should employ an evidence-based approach to gauge the extent of corruption. This will provide leaders with the necessary information to form anti-corruption policies and furnish them with benchmarks to measure progress. Delegates also called for coordination of anti-corruption efforts by public and private institutions on the national and international levels, in order to ensure that the battle against corruption is both efficient and comprehensive.

I hope that leaders attending the Global Forum will commit themselves to undertaking these reform efforts, and work towards others which will strengthen the accountability of public officials. Governments should eliminate regulations that generate opportunities for corruption, and establish system-wide standards that foster transparent decision-making. They should also explore ways of preventing transfers of illegally acquired assets. Because of the political and legal obstacles that confront such efforts, this issue could be addressed most effectively by an international legal instrument providing a common basis for sharing information, conducting investigations, tracing assets, overcoming bank secrecy, confiscating and repatriating assets, and extraditing offenders.

Most importantly, all leaders must work to change the culture that accepts corruption as an ineluctable part of daily affairs, and to develop among young people a respect for, and expectation of, integrity in their public officials.

All citizens should treat it as part of their civic responsibility to provide information on incidents of suspected corruption. But before this can happen, the public must have ready access to information, and "whistle-blowers’ must be protected by law.

I thank the Governments of the Netherlands and the United States for organizing this most important Forum. We, the United Nations, believe that it is essential for all people to be able to trust their governments. Your efforts are helping the world to meet this goal. Please accept my best wishes for a most successful Forum.

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