30 May 2003


NEW YORK, 29 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of a message by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the third Global Forum on Fighting Corruption and Safeguarding Integrity, 29-31 May, delivered by Dileep Nair, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, in Seoul, Republic of Korea:

Fighting corruption has become more urgent than ever. As our knowledge of the phenomenon expands, we realize the extent of the harm it causes. Corruption impoverishes national economies, undermines democratic institutions and the rule of law, and facilitates the emergence of other threats to human security, such as organized crime, human trafficking and terrorism. For too long, the world has looked the other way while corrupt elites looted their countries of hundreds and even billions of dollars, generating economic chaos and depriving citizens of education, health services, basic infrastructure and functioning public services. Even when good governance is restored or attained, officials must spend years or even decades attempting to retrieve funds that may be critical to repairing the social and economic damage.

This Global Forum is part of a growing international coalition intent on confronting this menace. I would like to thank the organizers for their role in making this event possible.

I would also like to underscore the great importance the United Nations attaches to this issue. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is, on request, working with Member States to improve legislation, empower civil society and strengthen national institutions through more transparent procedures and more effective accountability structures. The UNODC’s Global Programme against Corruption has paid particular attention to strengthening the integrity and capacity of criminal justice systems. The lessons learned from these projects is being disseminated through an anti-corruption "tool kit" available on UNODC's Web page.

The United Nations itself has launched an Organizational Integrity Initiative designed to promote professional ethics, improve accountability and better protect our resources and reputation. The Initiative is comprehensive, and will involve staff perception surveys, ethics training, early warning systems and capacity-building in the areas of prevention and oversight. After all, if United Nations agencies are advocating integrity and good governance, we ourselves have a duty to lead by example and practice what we preach.

The increasingly transnational nature of corruption has led Member States, with the assistance of UNODC, to negotiate a global and comprehensive legal instrument. The planned United Nations Convention against Corruption will ensure the criminalization of a wide range of forms of corruption, and oblige Member States to take effective preventive steps to protect the integrity of their institutions and procedures and to provide a framework for improved international cooperation, including in the field of asset recovery. I urge everyone concerned to give this process strong support so that a Convention can be approved by the General Assembly and opened for signature at a high-level signing conference to be convened in December in Mexico.

Many challenges lie ahead. The United Nations will continue to do its part in working with Governments and civil society in this global, ongoing struggle. In that spirit of partnership, please accept my best wishes for a successful conference.

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