11 December 2003

Momentum Builds for Anti-Corruption Convention at Merida Signing Conference

(Reissued as received.)

MERIDA, MEXICO, 10 December -- A first-day tally of 45 signatures by national representatives is bolstering confidence at a UN conference in Merida, Mexico, that sufficient ratifications for entry into force will follow soon.

"I know of no country which has stated its unwillingness to sign and ratify the UN Convention against Corruption," said Antonio Maria Costa, chief of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, at in a statement to the press. Mr. Costa projected that the critical mass of ratifications needed for entry into force, of thirty countries, would be achieved in a near-record span of less than two years.

Dramatic statements of support were heard yesterday, at the opening of the signing conference for the UN Convention against Corruption.

"For us in Kenya, the fight against corruption is a matter of life and death," Kenyan Justice Minister Kiraitu Murungi told representatives of 120 countries. "It cannot wait for tomorrow. We believe we are doing the right thing by ratifying this Convention today."

The action by Kenya was the first time a country had signed a UN convention and deposited the instruments of ratification on the first day of a signing conference, according to UN Legal Counsel Hans Corell, the representative of the Secretary-General in Merida.

"It is not by accident that Kenya has become the first nation to sign and ratify the Convention," said Mr Murungi, stating that his country has been "one of the most corrupt nations on Earth". He described sweeping reforms and judicial purges which had been instituted by the new government, and qualified it to enact ratification.

A statement from United States Attorney General John Ashcroft lauded international cooperation against corruption.

"The United States is thankful to have worked alongside other nations in this international movement," he said. "The United Nations Convention against Corruption we are signing today is a permanent enshrinement of the new global attitude toward corruption.. Corruption is now unacceptable in any form, and international cooperation is considered a key element of our respective efforts to combat this scourge."

President Fox addressed the plenary and signed the Convention for the host country.

"Today in Merida we join together with strong will and great hope in this common effort against corruption," President Fox told the plenary.

"The Convention," President Fox said, "gives our Governments and our nations effective tools; practices that will accomplish our goal of preventing and eradicating an evil that afflicts all countries and in all of them affects relations among citizens and between citizens and the authorities."

In a statement issued to the international media, UN Legal Counsel Hans Corell drew on his personal history in the judiciary to appeal to judges around the world to lead the fight against corruption by action and by example.

For more information, contact Tim Wall of the UN Department of Public Information, at 1-917-913-0226, or Juan Miguel Diez, UN Information Centre in Mexico, 52-55-5435-2460.

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