29 September 2022 –
Summary of key points from attending the recent UNGASS follow-up Intersessional meeting in Vienna. What progress have governments made on commitments to combat corruption?
Earlier this month, governments and civil society experts met at the UN in Vienna to discuss progress towards implementing commitments on anti-corruption. These latest commitments were made in the Political Declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in a Special Session (UNGASS) in June 2021. Representing the latest global consensus on tackling corruption, the UNGASS Political Declaration is an important document in the global fight against corruption.
Our analysis of the key points and main insights from this Intersessional meeting and are below. A more detailed summary is also available below to read online. We covered highlights on twitter and have a dedicated website page with more information. Find out more about the panel speakers on the UNODC event page.
We hosted two side-events at the UN to bring strong civil society voice and presence to this international forum. Featuring our Board members as expert speakers, they discussed corruption prevention and asset recovery. Thanks to many of you who attended online, and government delegates who attended person. Read the summary of both our events on our dedicated webpage.
We are reporting what we learnt at this meeting because civil society plays an important role in accountability and transparency of the UNCAC and follow-up on commitments. We invite you as civil society to read the updates from your country. Please share the civil society perspective from your country in the comments below.
Summary of key points
Panel on Preventive measures
- Speaking about future CoSP resolutions, Kristen Robinson from Open Contracting Partnership (OCP) highlighted that a resolution on public procurement would build on progress made on the Political Declaration. Further language could focus on dispute and complaint mechanisms in more detail, addressing how things that go wrong can be flagged more effectively and in a timely manner. She highlighted the need for more specificity on the role of civil society and media in monitoring public procurement, citing many best practice examples. Read her full statement.
“We need to look at several guidance documents that already exist, although a bit outdated, we need to see what to add to that and which gaps there are, especially on technology and data such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning; and look at new areas such as sustainability and green procurement.”- Kristen Robinson from Open Contracting Partnership (OCP)
- Following several corruption scandals, the Slovak Republic created a Public Sector Partners Register for verifying companies wanting to do business with the State. Companies must approach a ‘gatekeeper’ to verify ownership. Slovakia underlined the benefits of the register being freely accessible to the public.
Richard Nephew, newly-appointed U.S. Coordinator on Global Anti-Corruption, highlighted his government’s extensive engagement with civil society actors and stressed that civil society often has a clear view of corruption problems, for example involving private sector actors, which the government may not be aware of, as well as a better idea of deficiencies in anti-corruption:
“We had good, active, frank dialogue to address these issues – we want to get a better sense of what we could do better, and what we could do next.” – Richard Nephew, U.S. Coordinator on Global Anti-Corruption
Panel on Asset recovery
- Nigeria recognized the important monitoring role of civil society in the return of assets. Its Open Treasury Portal is open to the public, civil society and the media for scrutiny. Post-UNGASS, the country recently adopted new laws to strengthen its anti-corruption enforcement measures, including on money laundering and the recovery and management of proceeds of crime.
- Pakistan stated that cooperation needs to be enhanced in order to close existing loopholes, especially on illegal financial proceeds, and proposed an additional protocol for UNCAC asset return to close gaps on mutual assistance and legal norms. The country sees institutions as key in the fight against corruption.
Panel on Anti-corruption as an enabler for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
- Honduras highlighted on how corruption and its previous government harmed the people and society at large – the government is now working to promote reforms for change, and stressed that the support from multilateral fora and the UN is very important to help them make government more transparent and accountable. Representatives from civil society were placed on the nominating committee for judges of the Supreme Court; the national Secretariat of Transparency is working to prevent corruption with crucial support from civil society.
- Peter Evans of U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre raised the important question of how much should be spent by governments on anti-corruption efforts and on ensuring that development finance is not transformed into ‘finance for anti-development.’
- Kenya has launched a National Anti-Corruption Steering Committee, focused on citizen empowerment. They have established civilian committees; provided citizens with support mechanisms to monitor the spending of public money, as well as informing on how to conduct social audits.
Panel on Technical assistance and information exchange
- Many governments raised the important role of civil society in efforts to combat corruption and as partners in technical assistance. Germany spoke to the important role of civil society as a watchdog to ensure proper use of public funds. France highlighted the importance of civil society in advancing transparency and accountability and how it supports civil society in these efforts. Norway outlined its support for the UNCAC Coalition and other civil society organizations.
- The United States pointed out that the UNGASS political declaration encourages countries to publish full country reports from the IRM, and encouraged countries to sign up to the UNCAC Coalition’s Transparency Pledge.
Panel on Advancing a forward-looking anti-corruption agenda and framework
- The Netherlands highlighted the preliminary findings of a high-level roundtable joint initiative with Canada and Ecuador on how to tackle grand corruption, summarizing the key inputs so far that includes an IRM focused more on implementation and enforcement, and a regional or international anti-corruption court which could be established to close the enforcement gap if national authorities are unwilling or unable to prosecute grand corruption crimes. The three-country team has been consulting governments, international organizations, civil society, and academia.
- Nigeria highlighted that the Code of Conduct Bureau Bill is currently before the National Assembly and includes provisions for public disclosure of assets and online asset declarations. Furthermore, a bill to introduce whistleblower and witness protection bill is before the National Assembly.
- Romania mentioned that all of its draft anti-corruption strategies benefitted from inter-institutional and civil society consultations. The feedback of NGOs has been crucial, and the government has always encouraged vibrant dialogue. The policies’ novelties include a mechanism for asset recovery, the compensation of victims, and strengthening of institutional administrative capacity.
- Italy shared that it is considering a proposal for a resolution to follow up on and implement the Sharm el Sheik Declaration agreed upon at the last CoSP. Italy also said it is exploring approaches to asset recovery, including a new way of using stolen assets, by making them available for use by transnational organizations such as UNODC, or similar.
Read our detailed summary of key takeaways for our complete analysis.
Disclaimer: This document is not meant to be a comprehensive summary of all government interventions and discussions at the Intersessional Session. We have focused on highlighting interventions that relate to the UNCAC Coalition’s priority issues. We have done this to the best of our ability based on what we were able to hear at the plenary sessions.
Has your country shared an update on the new UNODC portal? The new ‘TRACK’ portal is where States report on how they are implementing the Political Declaration. For example, measures they have taken to advance preventive measures, criminalization & law enforcement, and asset recovery efforts, among other areas. Unfortunately, not many States so far have provided voluntary written follow-up reporting on their activities to implement the Political Declaration.
We encourage you to check the TRACK portal to see if your country has shared an update. We have not been able to review it all, so we would appreciate your views. Please share your perspective from civil society in the comments below.