CSO experiences with the UNCAC review mechanism, Year 1

13 October 2011.

In November 2009, a new Mechanism for the Review of Implementation of the UNCAC was approved at the 3rd session of the Conference of States Parties (CoSP) in its resolution 3/1. The mechanism started up in July 2010, with 27 States parties selected to be reviewed in Year 1 of the first five-year round. Civil society organisations from Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Lithuania, Morocco and Zambia report on their experience.

1. ARGENTINA: Insufficient participation of civil society

María de la Paz Herrera and Ezequiel Nino, Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia (ACIJ)

In Argentina, the review team did not carry out a country visit or meet with civil society representatives. Instead, the Anti-corruption Office (government focal point for the review) and the review team experts from Panama and Singapore agreed to replace this visit with teleconferences and a meeting at the premises of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna.

From the civil society point of view, we can say the review was not very participatory or accessible for citizens and civil society organisations. ACIJ was able to obtain some information about the process thanks to its expertise in corruption issues and because we were monitoring the process as closely as possible. Along with other CSOs, we were invited by the Anti-corruption Office to a single meeting in August 2011, also attended by members of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Financial Information Unit.

The purpose of the meeting, which was requested several times by ACIJ, was to inform the CSOs present about the government self-assessment exercise (timeline, meetings, procedures followed to obtain information, observations sent by experts, etc.). We learned that different public institutions were collaborating with the Anti-corruption Office and provided information to fill in the self-assessment checklist. The meeting also offered us the opportunity to transmit our views on the subjects covered in the checklist, to express our concerns on several issues and to learn about the plans for the whole process. Apart from that meeting, there were no other consultations either formal or informal with citizens’ associations.

The review was supposed to conclude in March, but as of our last information it was only finalised in September 2011 and the executive summary is not public yet. ACIJ has prepared a civil society parallel report, which is currently being edited with the assistance of TI.

2. BANGLADESH: A satisfactory review process

Iftekhar Zaman, Transparency International Bangladesh

Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) conducted a review of Bangladesh’s implementation of selected articles of the UNCAC and prepared a CSO report. This was carried out in parallel to the Government’s self-assessment and peer review process, with the aim of providing useful inputs to the review.

We can say that the review process was conducted in a relatively transparent and cooperative manner. The government self-assessment was made available and can be consulted on the UNODC website. Moreover, in April 2011, CSOs in Bangladesh were invited to an introductory presentation by the government to the visiting peer review team. It was a fairly open forum, where apart from the peer review team (two members from reviewing countries Iran and Paraguay, together with UNODC representatives) civil society representatives had the opportunity to make comments.

In addition, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) was given the opportunity to host a dinner for an informal consultation with the peer review team where a useful exchange of views took place. A separate presentation of TIB’s draft parallel review report was also organised for the peer review team, in which we shared with them our findings. The presentation was also attended by the Institute of Governance Studies – the other key civil society actor working on UNCAC in Bangladesh- as well as the Government focal point. It was a very fruitful open exchange of views, leading to clarification of some key questions and concerns the review team had. On their request, we also provided the Iranian delegates some related papers.

TIB is currently finalizing a parallel review report of Bangladesh’s implementation of selected articles of the UNCAC, which will be made available on our website.

3. BRAZIL: Country visit with a happy ending

Priscila Castello Branco, Contas Abertas

Although they often diverge, the opinions of government officials and civil society organisations (CSOs) on the result of Brazil’s country visit in the context of the UNCAC review process seem to have converged: A happy ending. After having been trained on the steps of the review process (at a training organised by UNODC and Transparency International), we contacted our government focal point and expressed our intention to participate in the country visit. Initially, we felt a little uncomfortable when we received a copy of the government’s self-assessment only a few days before it was supposed to be finalized. However, we found it positive that it was sent to us and we then discovered that Brazil had innovated by making the government self-assessment available online.

When the time came for the country visit by the review team, not only did the government invite us, but we were also informed that government officials were “seeking the broadest possible participation of CSOs in the process”. We were happy with this commendable approach. The meeting, which included Brazilian government officials, Mexican experts, UNODC staff and five or six CSOs—one of which was working on a parallel report—was very productive. (The experts from Haiti, the other reviewing country, could not attend). We spent four hours going over some crucial issues and noticed that most of these had already been discussed between experts and public authorities in previous meetings (without the participation of CSOs). Our impression was that the experts got a very clear picture of the current scenario in Brazil and, therefore, was very well equipped to prepare a comprehensive report.

Of course we are anxious to see what the final report will look like and if it will be published entirely or only its executive summary. Unfortunately Contas Abertas was not able to produce a parallel report. We contacted other NGOs and explained to them the review process, in the hope that some would offer their views in the format that would be possible for them (written/oral, before or during the country visit), just as we also did. As we don’t have staff with the expertise to write a legal report, we consulted with experts on some issues in order to be able to discuss them in detail during the country visit.

4. LITHUANIA: Civil society not consulted

Sergej Muravjov, Transparency International Lithuania

Lithuania was chosen to be reviewed in the first year of the UNCAC implementation review mechanism, and was also charged with reviewing UNCAC implementation compliance in Spain.

The national focal point for the review process is the Ministry of Justice, the contact details and those of the experts assigned were made public online. However, the Ministry of Justice has not published any additional official information about the review process and civil society was not officially consulted in the preparation of the self-assessment. The government self-assessment has not been published yet (but in all likelihood will be published soon, according to the Ministry of Justice).

Concerning the on-site visit, experts from Russia and Egypt made a review visit to Lithuania in September 2011. TI Lithuania was not invited to meet with the review team. Reportedly the review team only met with government officials. In addition, Lithuanian experts have already been to Spain for a country visit.

Transparency International Lithuania (TI Lithuania) is now finalizing a parallel report to provide an external insight on UNCAC implementation by the Lithuanian government. The report provides an independent analysis of the current compliance of the national legal system with the requirements of UNCAC Chapters III and IV, concentrating on potential gaps in both legislation and actual practice. It is based on information obtained from consultations with a number of experts, key sources, general statistics on the criminal situation in Lithuania and case material (data bases of the Ministry of the Interior and National Courts Administration and the search engine LITEKO providing cases material and the website of the Superior Court with its published judgments etc.). In February 2011, a representative from TI Lithuania attended a training on the review process in Vienna organised by UNODC and the Transparency International Secretariat. Last July 2011, TI Lithuania also attended the Roundtable in Vienna “On the Road to Marrakesh”.

5. MOROCCO: Between reality and discourse

Kamal Mesbahi, Transparency Maroc

Moroccan authorities have often expressed in speeches their willingness and intention to work with civil society in the fight against corruption. Thus, the Minister for the Modernization of the Public sector, responsible for the official report on UNCAC implementation, considered that “a participatory approach involving government, state institutions and civil society is necessary to eradicate this phenomenon, which exceeds the government’s responsibility”.[1]

At a first stage, the Minister had assigned the Central Agency for the Prevention of Corruption the task of dealing with the UNCAC review, and that was something that CSOs found natural. This decision was based on an official reply, by the Moroccan government, on 1 August 2008, in response to UNODC’s note verbale of CU2008/39 (A) of 29 April 2008 as follows [2]: […] “In terms of coordination, the Central Agency for the Prevention of Corruption, by its composition, is designated as the body authorized to administer international experts’ exchange and monitoring activities, sharing information and publication of their conclusions.” However, when the time came to appoint a focal point, the Minister decided on a focal point directly from his Ministry.

It should be noted that during the country review in Morocco in July 2011 by the peer reviewers from South Africa and Slovakia, Transparency Maroc was not consulted by government authorities or the experts’ team. Thus far, neither Transparency Maroc nor any other civil society organisation has been able to see Morocco’s self-assessment

Following up on earlier reports, Transparency Maroc is currently producing a parallel report on Morocco’s UNCAC implementation.

6. ZAMBIA: The review process falls short on transparency and accountability – Two versions from Jubilee Centre and TI Zambia

Rev Lawrence Temfwe, Jubilee Centre

Jubilee Centre approached the Office of the Vice-President and the Cabinet Office to express its willingness to participate in and make contributions to the government’s self-assessment process. As a response we were advised to approach the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), which is the main authority on matters relating to the UNCAC. We addressed a letter to them and I also spoke on the phone with the Director General.

The ACC Director General assured us that he would invite Jubilee to take part during the country visit by the experts of the reviewing countries, Zimbabwe and Italy. However, we only came to learn about their visit after they had left. So far, the Zambian government has prepared only responses to Chapter III of the UNCAC on Criminalization and Law Enforcement. In the letter the Governance Secretariat (under the Vice-President) advised us that these responses would be submitted to UNODC for further consideration.

Currently, the ACC is busy with election monitoring, as there have been corruption allegations about the company contracted by the Commission in charge of the elections, and three letters we sent to the Director General have gone unanswered. However, we are still working with TI Zambia and look forward to serving alongside TI as we empower communities in Zambia to participate in UNCAC monitoring and follow-up.

Francis Mwale, Transparency International Zambia

Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) was invited to be part of the team contributing to the government’s self-assessment of Zambia’s compliance with Chapters III and IV of the UNCAC, in a workshop held from 20 to 25 March 2011. Further, TIZ was nominated to sit on the technical committee of the UNCAC team –a committee that has never met.

The Zambian UNCAC review process was to a large extent carried out in secrecy. The initial stages of the review process were, to a large extent, kept as a preserve of the government. For instance, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) unofficially complained that they had been kept in the dark as to who was the focal point for the country.

However, when it came to the actual review process, it is true that some civil society organisations were involved. During the country visit agreed by the government that was undertaken by peer reviewers from Italy and Zimbabwe in July 2011, TIZ was one of the institutions visited by the experts to get our input. But we could not find information on how many other institutions, especially from civil society, were also visited.

TIZ has prepared a parallel review report for Zambia, which was sent for feedback to the Transparency International Secretariat on 14 September 2011. The worrying scenario as things stand now is that the official report generated from the review process has thus far been kept exclusively within government circles without any efforts to share it with other stakeholders like civil society –and this despite several requests by civil society organisations that government share at least the draft report.

  1. Minister’s statement at the first meeting of the Interministerial Commission, covered by the Maghreb Arab Press Agency on January 12th, 2010.
  2. Please see Doha preparatory documents on United Nations Office against Drugs and Crime’s Website.