20 years of UNCAC – How civil society participates in UNCAC implementation reviews

31 October 2023 –

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, the UNCAC, the only comprehensive, global, legally-binding anti-corruption instrument with 190 States Parties to date. The world has changed immensely over the past 20 years, and so has the fight against corruption. Climate change, conflict, poverty and continuing inequalities in society are exacerbated by corruption. Meanwhile, civic space is shrinking and those working to counter corruption and hold governments accountable are being detained, harassed and silenced.

However, not all is hopeless. Investigative journalism and big data leaks are unveiling previously undetected corrupt corporate structures, illicit financial flows and shady high-level dealings. Civil society continues to play an essential role in the fight against corruption and it has become clearer than ever that governments cannot face this scourge alone: a multi-stakeholder approach to corruption is indispensable.

This blog post reflects experiences from civil society organizations (CSOs) from Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin and North America as well as the Caribbean* that have participated in their national second cycle UNCAC implementation reviews. We intend to highlight good practices as well as ones that leave room for improvement, and provide recommendations for what meaningful participation of civil society in these reviews should look like – all with the aim of contributing to more effective implementation and monitoring of the Convention.

*Disclaimer: Unfortunately, experiences from CSOs in the Middle East and North Africa region are not represented in this blog post, but we continue to collect information and will update this information in the future.

Civil society in the UNCAC

The participation of non-governmental stakeholders, including civil society, was emphasized and made mandatory in Article 13 of the Convention, which states:

“Each State Party shall take appropriate measures, within its means and in accordance with fundamental principles of its domestic law, to promote the active participation of individuals and groups outside the public sector, such as civil society, non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations, in the prevention of and the fight against corruption and to raise public awareness regarding the existence, causes and gravity of and the threat posed by corruption. […]”

At the 2009 UNCAC Conference of the States Parties (CoSP3) in Doha, Qatar, civil society advocacy for an UNCAC Implementation Review Mechanism (IRM) culminated in the successful adoption of Resolution 3/1 and the mechanism’s Terms of Reference that contain procedures and processes for the peer review of country implementation of the UNCAC, including the formation of an oversight body called the Implementation Review Group (IRG). Article 30 of the Terms of Reference explicitly encourages States Parties to “facilitate engagement with all relevant stakeholders in the course of a country visit.” While we have seen many good practices in this regard in the 2nd review cycle covering Chapters II (preventive measures) and V (asset recovery) of the Convention, there is still a lot of room for improvement regarding the meaningful involvement of civil society in UNCAC reviews.

The UNCAC Coalition has supported CSOs from more than 35 countries in the production of civil society parallel reports on UNCAC implementation at the national level, with several more currently in the making. In the course of researching these reports, civil society representatives send freedom of information requests and conduct interviews with governmental officials, which serves as a door opener to advance anti-corruption reforms. The Coalition has also supported a select number of CSOs in conducting specific policy-oriented follow-up activities after completing their parallel reports, which have helped push for stronger anti-corruption standards.

One important clarification related to civil society involvement in UNCAC reviews is that while most States Parties’ UNODC country profiles indicate that “other stakeholders” were involved in the review, there is no information available on who those stakeholders were, leaving it open to interpretation. The involvement of other stakeholders, therefore, does not equal the involvement of civil society, but often means that States consulted with academia, professional associations or the private sector – oftentimes choosing actors that are not independent from the government or that offer a critical view of its anti-corruption performance. There is thus a significant difference between box-ticking “involvement of other stakeholders” and meaningful participation and engagement of civil society.

We applaud all States Parties that involved independent CSOs in their UNCAC review, especially those mentioned in this blog post. Our aim is to reflect different experiences of CSOs involved in UNCAC reviews, and make recommendations for more meaningful engagement, which, in the end, will benefit all of society. We do this by laying out the level of available information to CSOs before the country visit, the level of engagement of CSOs during the country visit, and finally, any follow-up that happened after the country visit. We provide recommendations for meaningful engagement at different stages of the UNCAC review process under each part, which are based on our Guide to Transparency and Participation in the UNCAC IRM.

Availability of information before the country visit

Civil society organizations (CSOs) from all regions covered reported varying levels of available information available to them before the UNCAC review country visit took place. Many States Parties did not provide adequate information on the meeting with the peer reviewers, such as details about which authorities and other civil society actors would be present during the meeting and did not share a draft of their self-assessment checklist. Nevertheless, CSOs also identified some good practices from States aiming to achieve meaningful engagement of civil society in the country visit by sharing enough information for them to adequately prepare for it.

Across the Sub-Saharan Africa region, many States Parties followed good practices by reaching out to CSOs to invite them to the country visit meeting with the reviewing experts. This was the case in Lesotho, Nigeria, Botswana, Kenya, Uganda, Togo and Namibia. In Togo, the government provided civil society with a lot of information before the meeting, enlisting the support of a prominent CSO working on anti-corruption to represent Togolese civil society on a committee for the self-assessment process. In Zimbabwe, the government sent an invitation via a prominent CSO to other CSOs in the country to attend the meeting with the external review team and invited CSOs to comment on guiding questions. In Nigeria, the UNODC and the Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-Corruption Reforms held a briefing for CSOs two weeks before the review meeting. A notable good practice was Burundi, where the government briefed CSOs on information from the first cycle review report prior to the meeting.

Good practices were also identified in Europe, in the cases of Switzerland and Austria. In Austria, a meeting between civil society representatives and the peer reviewers was organized with the support of UNODC ahead of the official country visit and the self-assessment checklist was published on the UNODC website. In Switzerland, CSOs invited to the meeting received in advance the same documents as public officials from the federal administration who participated in the country visit. These documents included the agenda of the whole country visit, a complete list of participants, and Switzerland’s self-assessment checklist, in a version that included comments and questions by the reviewers. CSOs were also invited to the federal agencies’ internal preparation and coordination meeting before the country visit. In the United Kingdom, the Bond Anti-Corruption Group, a coalition of British NGOs, prepared a joint response to the self-assessment checklist, which was published by the government, and shared their findings in a meeting with the peer-reviewers.

In Latin America, the invitations the governments of Paraguay and Argentina sent to CSOs included a detailed agenda of the entire country visit proceedings, including a list of participating state and NGOs actors and information on time slots allocated to civil society. Back in Europe, the agenda of the meeting with peer reviewers, topics to be covered, and some information in relation to the country visit was shared beforehand in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Poland (on a website), Portugal and Romania. In the Asia-Pacific region, some basic information was shared before the meeting. Those included the purposes, the process, and the thematic areas in which CSO would be engaged. However, it was found that the governments reached out to CSOs in Australia, Cambodia, Mongolia and Papua New Guinea, inviting them to join the review process.

Another good practice identified globally was States sharing a draft of their self-assessment checklist with CSOs prior to the country visit. In Togo, the government provided civil society with a draft document of the self-assessment, and encouraged CSOs to widely distribute the document amongst other CSOs in anticipation of the country visit. In Botswana, the self-assessment draft was also published, although CSOs were excluded from the drafting process. As highlighted above, Switzerland and the UK followed a best practice approach in sharing the self-assessment checklist ahead of the country visit, and in Germany, the government also shared it with stakeholders prior to the country visit, although only two weeks in advance.

However, in the majority of cases covered by this study, there is  room for improvement, with States Parties failing to provide adequate information to CSOs before the country visit.

In the Sub-Saharan Africa region, specifically in Mozambique, Lesotho and the Gambia, there was limited to no information available, leaving CSOs with inadequate time to prepare and making it difficult for them to contribute to the country visit meeting in a meaningful manner. In Namibia, Uganda, Botswana and Mauritius, some information was shared prior to the meeting, but in a “as little as you need” fashion.

A general trend we identified across all regions covered is that the self-assessment checklist was often not made available to civil society previous to the country visit. This was the case especially in the Asia-Pacific region. In Nigeria and Lesotho, the draft self-assessment was only shared during the meeting, and in Burundi, the draft self-assessment was not shared prior to the meeting at all. When Burundian civil society inquired about this with the Ministry in Charge of Good Governance at the time, they received the response that it was only shared among government ministries. In some cases, like in the Dominican Republic, governments took longer than expected to finalize their self-assessment checklist, but then presented it to the UNODC in a public forum, which CSOs could attend and submit questions to virtually.

Regarding how much advance notice CSOs were given before UNCAC review country visits, we found that this varied but the general tendency was not providing CSOs with enough time to adequately prepare for their participation.

Positive examples in Sub-Saharan Africa include Kenya, where CSOs received the meeting notification in March for the meeting held in June, giving civil society adequate time to prepare and Zimbabwe, where CSOs were given a month’s notice. In Togo, whilst no information was provided from CSOs on the advance notice period, the government invited a leading Togolese CSO to coordinate the active participation of other CSOs. Other good practice examples come from Europe where CSOs in Switzerland received a save-the-date for the country visit meeting about three months in advance. In Bulgaria and Portugal, CSOs received a written invitation one month in advance. In Germany, CSOs also reportedly received the invitation early enough to prepare for the meeting, as well as in Poland (information received through the UNCAC Coalition). Similarly, CSOs from Cambodia, Papua New Guinea and Mongolia in the Asia-Pacific region found that they were given enough time to prepare for the UNCAC review country visit and several CSOs from Austria, where the UNCAC Coalition worked with the MFA to organize the meeting with the reviewers, and some Latin America and the Caribbean countries also reported having received invitations at least 2 weeks ahead of the country visit.

However, many governments globally left much room for improvement in this regard, giving CSOs as little as ten days to one week or less notice prior to the meeting, leaving them with inadequate time to prepare. This was the case in Mozambique, Burundi, Botswana and Namibia, and Costa Rica, where very little information was provided on how they would be able to contribute to the meeting. In North Macedonia, Spain and Romania, the official invitation also only arrived about one week in advance. In Iceland, although sufficient advance notice was given, the agenda was sent later and no other information was provided to civil society representatives to properly prepare for the meeting. In Mexico, a late stage review of the self-assessment questionnaire delayed the entire review process. Civil society organizations have not had access to either the original or revised versions of the document and have not been consulted on it.

Finally, in some countries in the Latin America and the Caribbean region, and in countries like the Gambia, governments failed to invite CSOs to their UNCAC review country visits at all; therefore it was CSOs that reached out to the government, often without success.

Recommendations to States for meaningful civil society engagement

  1. Ensure that adequate resources are allocated to support a transparent and inclusive process. Publish and maintain comprehensive information on the upcoming review (e.g., in a section of the competent ministry’s website) including: schedule, focal point name and contact information, entry points for contribution.
  2. Research which non-state actors work on anti-corruption, transparency and democracy issues in the country and invite them to participate in the review process. The non-state actors involved should include representatives of civil society organizations (CSO), the private sector, professional associations, academia and the media. Form a multi-stakeholder advisory team or joint planning group to consult on the organization of the implementation review.
    1. Consider awareness-raising and capacity building opportunities to facilitate participation.
  3. Invite CSO representatives and other non-state actors to contribute to the self-assessment. Convene one or more national stakeholder workshops to gain inputs for the self-assessment and raise awareness about the review process. If time and resources of government and/or civil society do not allow for the above steps, invite civil society comments on a draft self-assessment, which is then reflected in the final version.
    1. Publish the completed self-assessment checklist on the government’s website as well as your UNODC country profile page as soon as it is available and before the beginning of the peer-review and communicate its completion through relevant channels to the public and inform the stakeholders who have contributed or otherwise expressed interest.
  4. Invite CSOs to the country visit with enough information and notice (minimum two-three weeks) to adequately prepare for their participation.

Level of engagement during the country visit

The level of engagement between peer reviewers and CSOs during the UNCAC review country visit meetings varied significantly within and across the regions from those countries we were able to obtain data on.

In several European countries (Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Germany, Iceland, North Macedonia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Switzerland) and in Canada, the level of engagement with governmental peer reviewers was deemed satisfactory as reviewers asked questions in many cases and openly listened to any comments and concerns raised by CSOs. In Sub-Saharan Africa, there was a good level of engagement with civil society from the peer reviewers in Zimbabwe, where the reviewers gave CSOs the opportunity to respond to country-specific questions, and asked follow-up questions to clarify contentious issues. The reviewers also took the time to respond to questions from the CSO representatives. In Togo, the peer reviewers “had very good interactions with CSOs”. Approximately ten CSOs were represented and prepared for the meeting.

In Uganda, a questionnaire was shared with CSOs before the meeting, allowing for a detailed discussion with Inter-Agency Forum Members. Similarly, in Brazil and Chile, CSOs were allowed to present documents and were given ample time to share their perspectives. In Honduras, the government relayed a CSO’s UNCAC implementation parallel report to peer reviewers before the country visit, thus providing space for informed follow-up questions related to the CSO on the parallel report as well as more time for interventions by other CSOs.

However, in some countries the level of engagement with peer reviewers left a lot of room for improvement, which made civil society engagement difficult. Besides reasons such as a lack of preparation and coordination on the side of the State under review, as was found in a Pacific nation, and related to this, an overwhelming amount of documentation being handed out during the meeting whilst simultaneously being asked to provide input, like in a Southern African country, the main reasons for this were:

  1. A lack of time allocated for civil society input;
  2. The presence of government officials of the State under review during civil society interventions, which in contexts of restricted civic space, hindered CSOs from speaking openly and providing peer reviewers with relevant input.

The time allocated for and actually provided to civil society input during UNCAC review country visits is a good indicator of how serious a State Party is about meaningful civil society engagement. We identified several good practice examples across the regions, as well as examples of box-ticking exercises of having involved civil society without providing them with adequate space to input or for a dialogue with peer reviewers.

Good practices identified in Sub-Saharan Africa include Nigeria, where CSOs were given a three-day engagement period, and Zimbabwe, where CSOs were given three hours in the afternoon to engage with the external reviewers. In Uganda, the timing of the meeting included a physical meeting in 2018, and a follow-up meeting online in 2021 to discuss the preliminary country report. In the Asia-Pacific region, CSOs found the timing mostly convenient. The duration ranged from three hours in Mongolia to a full three days of participation in the in-country visit in Papua New Guinea. In Europe, meetings between peer reviewers and civil society representatives ranged between 1 and 2 hours and most organizations considered this enough time. Meetings taking place in Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany and Spain lasted 2 hours. In Portugal, each CSO had one full hour to meet with the reviewers on their own. In the case of Iceland, the agenda arrived close to the meeting and the time of the meeting changed at the last minute. Although half an hour had been scheduled for a meeting with civil society, one CSO from Iceland ended up spending 3-4 hours with the reviewers.

Meetings were shorter in Poland, Switzerland, North Macedonia (1 hour) and Romania (45 minutes). In Namibia, civil society was also only allocated one hour to meet with the reviewers, and in Togo, CSOs reported that while the peer reviewing experts had a week of meetings with various stakeholders, they felt that the length of their meeting was limited. Similarly, in Botswana, CSOs expressed that they felt the meeting required more time, as one day was not sufficient, and the reviewers rushed the process. In Latin American countries, between 30 minutes and two hours were allotted to the participating CSOs and other non-governmental stakeholders, mostly at the end of the first day of the country visit. However, in reality the meetings were usually cut short since previous meetings were delayed and subsequent meetings were prioritized, as was the case in Costa Rica, Colombia and Honduras. In some cases, civil society interventions were only a few minutes long, split between academia, civil society and private sector actors.

The presence of government officials of the State under review during civil society interventions can have a deterring effect on civil society to speak openly about their anti-corruption work. Contrary to best practice, we found that in all country visits we collected data on in Latin American, Caribbean and Asia-Pacific countries, government officials from the State under review remained in the room during the civil society meetings. Almost all CSOs who participated in these country visits considered this a barrier to honest feedback from their end and expressed their wish for reviewers to meet independently.

In Kenya and Botswana, for example, government officials remained present in the room, limiting the opportunity for civil society to engage in a critical discussion with the reviewers. In Mauritius, CSOs flagged that the meeting was held in an office space on the Anti-Corruption Commission’s premises where there were surveillance cameras, expressing the view that the reviewers should be independent from the Commission. In a small Caribbean country, government officials repeatedly interrupted civil society’s interventions during the meeting.

In Europe, in some cases, government officials were in the room but CSOs felt this did not interfere with the development of the meeting (such as in Germany, Iceland, Canada), as they have enough space to safely express their views. In Germany, staff from the Federal Ministries of Interior and Justice and the regional governments were present to respond to questions relating to access to information legislation. Since communication with the government is open and CSOs have no fear of reprisals, the presence of government staff was considered appropriate. In Iceland, government officials were in the room due to scheduling issues but it was not considered an issue. In Canada, government representatives were also in the room listening, but CSOs reported that they are able to express everything directly (uncensored) to their government.

Many States Parties we gathered data on followed best practice in allowing civil society to engage with the peer reviewers without government officials from the State under review present in a closed-door meeting. This was the case in Namibia, Togo, Burundi, Mozambique, Uganda and Zimbabwe, allowing for an open and critical discussion between civil society and the reviewers. In Burundi, CSOs reported that the peer reviewers seemed aware of the pro-government versus independent civil society dynamic, asking civil society questions and demonstrating an understanding of the nuance of the answers in light of the political reality in the country.

Other best practices were identified in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Portugal, Switzerland and Bulgaria. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, reportedly, a whole civil society day was organized as part of the country visit where civil society was able to provide input to the peer reviewers without government representatives present. In addition to a number of CSOs present, business representatives were there too. In Portugal, three CSOs (corresponding to the anti-corruption organizations operational at the time) were given one hour each, consecutively, to meet with the reviewing delegations, which provided them with the opportunity to talk one-on-one with the visiting delegation and provide them with different viewpoints, without the presence of any government official. In Switzerland, the four main anti-corruption organizations took part in the meeting (and were given the possibility to suggest more). The government was not in the room and previously encouraged CSO representatives to speak openly and make critical comments. In Bulgaria, the government was not present and all civil society representatives partook substantially in the discussion. Other good examples of the government giving the possibility to civil society representatives to meet on their own with the peer reviewers were identified in Austria, North Macedonia, Poland (partly open, partly closed meeting when CSOs asked questions), and Spain. As for the location, most meetings were held on the premises of the focal point’s institution.

As a good practice, the meeting of the peer reviewers and civil society experts in Austria took place before their meetings with government interlocutors, enabling the reviewers to better take the information provided by CSOs into account.

Finally, in terms of how broad the involvement of CSOs was in UNCAC review country visits, we found that it varied in all regions. On the one hand, civil society representation was considered satisfactory in Portugal, Germany, Bosnia and Herzegovina with a considerable number of CSOs and representatives of the private sector being involved in the latter. Similarly, all key anti-corruption CSOs were invited in Togo, Zimbabwe and Nigeria. On the other hand, this was not the case in the majority of countries that we received data on.

In Namibia, the turnout was poor, although CSOs present were still able to raise key issues. The meeting was also the day before a public holiday, which negatively affected attendance. In Mozambique, only one CSO was invited to the country visit, with reports of suspected political interference in the meeting. In Uganda, it was largely national-level anti-corruption CSOs invited, with minimal participation from grassroots organizations, and civil society reported that the meeting was not representative enough. In Iceland, North Macedonia, Romania, and Spain, it seemed that only a few anti-corruption organizations and academics/experts previously known by the government and that had some relation or level of cooperation with the government had been invited to the meeting, which is contrary to the principle of inclusiveness. This was also the case in the Asia-Pacific region, where, due to the restricted civic space, there often were very few anti-corruption CSOs functioning in the first place. A CSO from a Pacific country, involved in the country visit, was a member of the National Anti-corruption Taskforce that is coordinating and implementing the national anti-corruption strategy, which placed them in a good position to effectively contribute to the UNCAC review.

Recommendations to States for meaningful civil society engagement

  1. Schedule the visit in a way that provides stakeholders with sufficient time to prepare. Publicize the visit, along with a schedule of events and the composition of the review team on the government’s website.
  2. Include non-state actors wherever possible in dialogues and meetings with the expert review team, including in all meetings during the on-site visit. Organize a meeting between civil society and the peer reviewers without government experts present ahead of the meetings between the peer reviewers and government interlocutors.
  3. Encourage and accept written submissions by non-state actors to the review team, providing assessments of government implementation and recommendations for improvements. Seek the reviewers’ permission to publicize their contact information, or create a mechanism that allows stakeholders to submit written input to them.

Follow-up after the country visit

Across most countries we have data on from Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and Asia-Pacific, follow-up with CSOs right after their UNCAC review country visit meeting was poor or completely lacking, with a few outstanding exceptions. In Europe, States mostly followed good practice in terms of follow-up. Nevertheless, the States we have reports on generally tend to engage CSOs in longer-term UNCAC review and anti-corruption efforts, which is encouraging.

In Namibia, there was no meaningful follow-up after the country visit took place. Although they accepted the invitation to send follow-up information, further enquiries sent to governmental bodies and the UNODC about when the report would be published did not elicit much information. In Mozambique, there was no further CSO involvement to date, nor any information provided on how the process is evolving. Mozambican civil society does not have official access to the evaluation report. In Uganda, Kenya, Botswana, Burundi, Mauritius, Mozambique and the Gambia, as well as in Portugal, there was no follow-up at all, which in some cases, seems to be standard practice. The same applies to Latin American and Caribbean countries, although  Belize, Colombia, Chile and Argentina did inform the public of the UNCAC review country visit meetings on their official government websites.

Positive examples of engaging civil society after UNCAC review country visits and asking them to provide written input come, for example, from Togo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Germany, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Spain, Germany, North Macedonia and Papua New Guinea. Nigerian CSOs were asked to send any further input to reviewers via email, although it is unclear what the outcome of such communications was, if any. Similarly, in Zimbabwe, the peer reviewers wrote to CSO representatives to acknowledge their contributions to the review, but there was no further engagement after this. In other cases, CSOs took the initiative to send written input, such as in Poland, where they emailed the Ministry of Justice, and in Bulgaria, where one CSO exchanged contact details with the reviewers on its own initiative to share with them a few reports on integrity mechanisms. In Germany, a CSO provided comments to the self-assessment checklist already before the meeting, then sent some comments afterward through their government’s focal point. In North Macedonia, CSOs sent comments via the focal point but do not know whether these reached the peer reviewers.

A timeline of next steps after the country visit was provided in Togo, North Macedonia and in Germany. In North Macedonia, the Ministry of Justice informed about the next steps and published a report on the country visit. After the conclusion of the review, one CSO organized a workshop to discuss the findings, in which governmental representatives took part. The Ministry of Justice also announced follow-up activities to inform about the status of the recommendations. However, at this stage CSOs are not aware of the situation of the follow-up plan. In Germany, the government committed to organizing civil society briefings and public debates about the findings of the first and second UNCAC review findings, probably in November 2023, including a discussion about the Implementation Review Mechanism. The reporting anti-corruption organization has regular meetings with government officials in charge of UNCAC and even more so in the case of the OECD Convention, on which the government shares data they submit to the Working Group on Bribery and they jointly analyze and discuss the results each year as well as UNCAC matters. When commenting on anti-corruption legislation, this CSO includes references to relevant conventions.

Best practices were identified in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Switzerland. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, a committee was set up with civil society as an equal partner to government institutions involved in the 2nd cycle UNCAC review, to monitor and follow-up on the recommendations that came out of the review and following an established schedule. In Switzerland, the government shares periodic updates with CSOs on the status of the review and the timeline for the upcoming report. Beyond these updates, a Swiss CSO has had frequent exchanges with a governmental working group on combating corruption and several governmental agencies.

Generally, States Parties in Sub-Saharan Africa demonstrated good practices concerning the continued involvement of civil society in the UNCAC review and anti-corruption efforts. This is notable in Togo, where CSOs are still actively encouraged to participate in advocating for policy change while waiting for the full country report. In Kenya, there was a meeting to disseminate the review report in 2019, followed by subsequent sessions related to the implementation of the UNCAC. Zimbabwean CSOs continue to interact with the Anti-Corruption Commission on the UNCAC on a regular basis, with some CSOs participating in UNCAC meetings at the national, regional and international level. The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission also invites CSO’s input on other national processes, including the implementation of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy, in line with Articles 5 and 13 of the UNCAC. In Botswana, the government engages with CSOs on anti-corruption initiatives, although not specifically on the review mechanism. There is also a Memorandum of Understanding with the Botswana Anti-Corruption Agency. In Nigeria, the UNCAC review executive summary and full country report were published, and CSOs have been integrated into the Inter-Agency Task Team working groups, including on safe reporting and asset recovery. Of the 65 recommendations that came out of the country review on Nigeria, only 14 are outstanding to date, therefore there has been a 78% implementation rate of recommendations from the review, with CSOs taking an active part of the process.

Some States have taken other creative approaches to involving CSOs in the follow-up to UNCAC review country visits. One example is Honduras, where the government organized a side-event at the 9th Conference of the States Parties, where the CSO that wrote the UNCAC implementation parallel report, and representatives from academia and the government discussed the country’s anti-corruption efforts. Another example is Papua New Guinea, where a CSO representative whose organization was involved in the UNCAC review country visit was included in the State’s delegation to the UNCAC Implementation Review Group meeting at the UNODC in Vienna.

Recommendations to States for meaningful civil society engagement

  1. Invite non-state actors to provide input to the country report approval process. Include detailed information on how the review process was conducted and which specific non-governmental stakeholders were included in the review report.
  2. Make sure to publish the country review findings, including the full country report, in the original and local languages on the government’s and on UNODC’s websites. Actively communicate the release of the report to stakeholders and the public. Provide the report to Parliament and the media.
  3. Organize a stakeholder dialogue and meetings to jointly shape a follow-up action plan to implement the review recommendations. Publish information about opportunities for non-state actors to provide input to and feedback on the progress reports.
  4. Report regularly on progress in relation to the country review recommendations, uploading reports on a designated government website and by submitting progress reports on follow-up measures taken to the UNODC. Provide opportunities for civil society to comment on government progress reports and to present their own monitoring reports to the government.

Concluding remarks and way forward

This blog post aimed to highlight experiences from CSOs who have been given the opportunity to contribute to and participate in national UNCAC reviews. While many good practices are evident, there is still a lot of room for improvement, especially regarding those countries not reflected in this blog post as they have either not involved civil society organizations in their reviews at all, or have not made information on whom they have involved publicly available.

We strongly encourage States Parties to follow the best practice recommendations outlined in this blog post, which are based on our Guide to Transparency and Participation in the UNCAC Implementation Review Mechanism (IRM) (available also in Spanish and French). We also call on States Parties to sign our Transparency Pledge, a commitment to higher standards of transparency and participation in UNCAC reviews, which 35 States Parties have signed to date (find out more about their compliance status). A complementary State-led initiative the UNCAC Coalition and Open Contracting Partnership are supporting is the UK’s IRM initiative which is also asking States Parties to commit to higher standards of transparency and participation.

The UNCAC Coalition and CSOs around the world call on States Parties to increase their levels of transparency and meaningfully engage with civil society organizations and other non-governmental stakeholders during their UNCAC reviews, as well as after they have been completed to ensure the recommendations are effectively addressed and progress is monitored. This is especially important in light of the ongoing discussions of what the follow-up phase of the UNCAC IRM should look like. The UNCAC Coalition stands ready to support States Parties and CSOs alike in achieving these goals.

In the meantime, we will continue to collect information on UNCAC reviews through outreach, engagement, and our Access to Information Campaign, and will make it publicly available on our UNCAC Review Status Tracker (map available here). For any inquiries, please reach out to: email hidden; JavaScript is required or email hidden; JavaScript is required