2 October 2003

Consensus Reached on UN Convention against Corruption

High-Level Signing Conference Planned for December in Mérida, Mexico

VIENNA, 2 October (UN Information Service) -- After almost two years of negotiations, Member States of the United Nations (UN) finalised yesterday the text of a new international treaty, the United Nations Convention against Corruption. The Convention was agreed on by an Ad Hoc Committee, established by the General Assembly in December 2000. The Committee was serviced by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna, Austria. The Convention will be submitted to the General Assembly, which is expected to adopt it and open it for signature by Member States in Mérida, Mexico, from 9-11 December 2003. The Convention will enter into force when it has been ratified by 30 countries.

UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, sent a message congratulating the Ad Hoc Committee on successfully concluding the negotiation process. "It is particularly heartening that you were able to complete this process in less than two years," Mr. Annan said. He paid tribute to the late Colombian Ambassador Héctor Charry Samper for his leadership, dedication and expertise in chairing the Committee.

"This Convention can make a real difference to the quality of life of millions of people around the world," Mr. Annan said, urging Member States to continue demonstrating their commitment with their signature at the Mérida Conference in December 2003.

"The agreement reached on the Convention against Corruption shows the international community's determination to do something concrete against corruption. It is a Convention with strong enforcement power, a true global response to the global challenge posed by corruption worldwide," said Mr. Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of UNODC, in Vienna today.

At the core of the UN discussions was the search for an appropriate balance in addressing key issues such as definitions of scope, prevention, criminalization, technical assistance and monitoring mechanisms, asset recovery and international cooperation. The result is an instrument that will improve the ability of States to prevent and fight corruption.

"A major breakthrough in the negotiations was the agreement reached on the return of assets obtained through corruption. This is now a fundamental international principle. The Convention spells out the measures for prevention and detection of proceeds stolen from a country because of corruption," Mr. Costa said.

The Convention will engage the crime prevention and criminal justice systems of all countries. The treaty recognizes that the problem of corruption goes beyond crime. Corruption impoverishes countries and deprives their citizens of good governance. It destabilises economic systems, even of whole regions. Organised crime, terrorism and other illegal activities flourish. In many countries, corruption erodes basic public functions and the quality of life of people. Bribery, for example, is universally regarded as a crime, but it also reflects socio-economic problems that require broad-based preventive measures and the involvement of society at large.

Highlights of the Convention include:

The first session of the Ad Hoc Committee was held in January 2002. At its first and second sessions, the Committee concluded the first reading of the draft Convention. At the third and fourth sessions, the second reading was completed. At the fifth session, in March 2003, the Committee reached a preliminary agreement on a significant number of provisions.

The sixth session lasted a week longer than the previous five, including night sessions. After a debate lasting through to 3:50 a.m. on Saturday, 9 August 2003, delegates from the 128 Member States decided to continue working on the Convention on Corruption's final details in a short, three-day seventh session, which concluded on 1 October, 2003.

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