10 December 2023
ATLANTA, 10 December (UN Information Service) - The United Nations conference taking place in Atlanta is an important milestone in reviewing the implementation of global anti-corruption commitments because it coincides with the twentieth anniversary of the UN Convention against Corruption and is the first such event to take place in the United States.
The tenth session of the Conference of the States Parties (CoSP10) to the United Nations Convention against Corruption is an opportunity for Member States to strengthen international cooperation to tackle corruption, which in turn advances peace and security, human rights, and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). More than 1,000 participants from governments, regional and intergovernmental organizations, academia, civil society and the private sector are expected to attend.
Marking 2023 as a landmark year for global anti-corruption action, Ghada Waly, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said: “For two decades, the Convention has stood as a resonant global commitment to fight corruption, and as a highly effective platform to carry out that fight. As our global framework in the face of corruption, the Convention is vital for shared global aspirations.”
Every two years, the States parties to the Convention meet to review progress made in implementing the Convention, discuss national and international challenges and hear from experts and organizations that are partners in countering corruption. Among the topics that will be discussed at the tenth session are preventing corruption, asset recovery and topical issues like corruption during times of emergencies, whistle-blower protection and business integrity.
The United Nations Convention against Corruption
The Convention, the world’s first and only legally binding anti-corruption instrument, was adopted in October 2003 and came into force in December 2005. It has reached near universal adherence, having been ratified by almost all United Nations Member States, with 190 parties to the Convention. The newest UN Member State to join is Barbados.
Under the Convention, States are legally obliged to prevent and criminalize corruption, promote international cooperation, recover and return stolen assets and improve technical assistance and information exchange in both the private and public sectors.
Criminalization of corruption
The Convention requires States to criminalize a wide range of acts of corruption, including bribery, not only domestically, but also foreign bribery, the embezzlement of public funds, trading in influence and the concealment and laundering of the proceeds of corruption. Private sector corruption is also covered.
Effective measures to prevent corruption are vital to ensure public trust, the effectiveness of institutions and sustainable development. The entire chapter II of the Convention is dedicated to preventing corruption with measures directed at both the public and private sectors, ranging from the establishment of anti-corruption bodies to enhanced transparency in procurement as well as the financing of election campaigns and political parties. States should promote efficient and transparent recruitment based on merit, as well as codes of conduct for public officials together with requirements for their financial and conflict of interest disclosures, and the establishment of appropriate accountability mechanisms. Preventing corruption also requires the involvement of society as a whole, including non-governmental and community-based organizations.
States are bound by the Convention to afford one another the widest range of mutual legal assistance in investigations, prosecutions and judicial proceedings. By acceding to the Convention, States have agreed to cooperate with one another, in a variety of criminal matters related to corruption and are required to undertake measures which will support the tracing, freezing, seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of corruption.
The return of stolen assets is a fundamental principle of the Convention, and States must fully cooperate with each other to turn the provisions of the Convention into a reality. The mandatory return of assets to their country of origin in the case of embezzlement of public funds was a novelty at the time of the adoption of the Convention, and some progress can be seen in the form of successful returns of assets based on the Convention.
While corruption is a global phenomenon, asset recovery is particularly important for many developing countries where national wealth has been decimated by corruption and where resources are badly needed for the financing of sustainable development. Effective asset recovery supports efforts to redress the worst effects of corruption while also sending a message to corrupt officials that there will be no place to hide their illicit assets.
How the Convention works
Through the Convention’s Implementation Review Mechanism, States parties have agreed to participate in a process which assesses how they are living up to their obligations under the Convention. This peer review process aims to identify good practices, gaps and challenges in national anti-corruption laws, processes and institutional frameworks.
The first review cycle, which started in 2010, covered the chapters of the Convention on criminalization and law enforcement, and on international cooperation. The second cycle of reviews started in 2016 and covers the chapters on preventive measures and on asset recovery.
Following observations made during the review process, many States have taken various measures to strengthen their anti-corruption framework. Such steps include the creation of new legislation, new and independent anti-corruption authorities, the active engagement of the private sector, an open dialogue with civil society and the signing of new mutual legal assistance treaties.
States parties have reiterated their support for the Review Mechanism and reaffirmed the positive role it plays in promoting the implementation of the Convention. One element of its success is the willingness of States to share their experiences and learn from each other.
Since its beginning in 2010, more than 260 executive summaries and 300 country reviews have been completed. The executive summaries are published as official United Nations documents in its six official languages.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact on the pace of the reviews, particularly the country visits. A decision is expected at CoSP10 to extend the second cycle, due to end in 2024, until June 2026, to allow for the reviews to be completed, and prepare the grounds for launching the next phase of the Review Mechanism.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s action against corruption
In addition to serving as the Secretariat of the Convention, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) provides technical assistance and training to support States in implementing the Convention.
To further guide anti-corruption efforts and help countries coordinate and share best practices, UNODC has established five regional and sub-regional anti-corruption hubs. The hubs strengthen UNODC’s global reach to provide greater support for anti-corruption reforms based on enhanced partnerships and coordinated assistance with other providers, regional bodies and intergovernmental associations. The hubs also support UNODC’s regional anti-corruption platforms, which are groups of countries that come together to identify common challenges and priorities in implementing UNCAC and devise strategies and commitments to address these challenges. There are currently nine platforms covering 68 jurisdictions.
UNODC also supports two flagship initiatives focusing on international cooperation and asset recovery respectively. UNODC serves as the secretariat of a fast-growing global community of practitioners countering corruption, the Global Operational Network of Anti-Corruption Law Enforcement Authorities or GlobE Network. This Network was conceived during the G20’s first-ever Anti-Corruption Ministerial Meeting under the Presidency of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2020 and launched at the UN General Assembly Special Session against corruption in June 2021. The Network aims to facilitate cooperation on transnational corruption cases and improve direct cooperation between countries’ law enforcement authorities, in line with a key provision of the UN Convention against Corruption.
GlobE links up anti-corruption law enforcement authorities to help investigations and prosecution through cross-border cooperation and proactive information-sharing and leave no safe havens for corruption. The Network currently has 180 authorities from 102 Member States and parties and 11 observers as members or auxiliary members.
Together with the World Bank, UNODC established the joint Stolen Assets Recovery (StAR) Initiative, which has been helping States since 2007 to support the recovery of stolen assets and international efforts to end safe havens for corrupt funds and illicit financial flows. In 2022, 17 countries received assistance and more than 700 people were trained by the StAR Initiative.
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Webcasts of the Plenary meetings will be available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish as well as the language spoken on the conference floor.
For further information contact:
Spokesperson for the COSP10
Mobile: (+43-699) 1459-5676
Speechwriter & Communications
Mobile: (+43-699) 1459-5244
Follow @UNODC and @UN_Vienna on X & @unitednationsvienna on Instagram for CoSP10 updates.
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