In the Americas: Success stories in monitoring the Inter-American Convention against Corruption

15 December 2010, Marta Erquicia.

The Inter-American Convention against Corruption (IACAC), which came into force in 1996, was a milestone Convention. It was the first global attempt to draft an international treaty to reduce corruption levels in America, and it represented a coordinated response to the continuous corruption scandals that rocked countries in the region. In 2002, a review mechanism (MESICIC) was established to support periodical reporting by the States on the impact of the IACAC.

Civil Society Organisations (CSO) from 21 countries have made valuable contributions to the Inter-American Convention and its oversight mechanism, as has been recognised by State representatives responsible for assessing the progress of implementation, making the MESCIC a more effective and transparent process and ensuring that the civil society is engaged at all stages.

Key civil society activities were:

  • producing shadow/parallel reports
  • training different stake holders in the issue, and
  • advocating for conventions as an important tool to reduce levels of corruption.

Although the MESICIC has proved helpful for the advancement of certain anti-corruption issues in the hemisphere, significant reforms are still needed to achieve its goal. UNCAC Coalition members from the Americas have carried out innovative projects at national and local level to use the Convention as a very strong advocacy tool towards the reduction of the levels of Corruption.

Two innovative and successful projects demonstrate the value civil society can bring to a Convention review process:

In Guatemala, Acción Ciudadana is facilitating compliance with and implementation of the commitments adopted under the Inter-American Convention by collaborating with government officials and working via a coalition created to track the implementation report.

Following-up on a recommendation made during the Third Round of reviews, Acción Ciudadana (AC) will work together with public officials to help them implement MESICIC recommendations. To do so, public commitments will be made with three institutions which are directly responsible for implementing the recommendations, and specific work plans will be developed. AC will provide technical support to the institutions and will monitor their implementation. Six months after the public commitment, AC will announce the results of the implementation, providing an incentive to institutions to improve their performance.

Venezuela’s Traffic Light: Transparencia Venezuela (TV) is using the traffic light format as a visual and dynamic way of presenting the progress made (or the absence thereof) in the implementation of the Inter-American Convention. It highlights the recommendations provided through the MESICIC in yellow, red or green according to the progress of implementation. It also identifies which government actors should be contacted for follow-up for each recommendation.

Venezuela has received a total of 113 recommendations, of which 97 have not seen any progress (red), 12 have shown some progress (yellow) and 4 were adequately implemented (green). The information is based on MESICIC reports, which is external and is gathered by third parties. This is important for the credibility of the program. Especially in contexts like this one, where there is considerable tension between governments and civil society organisations.

The presentation of the traffic light attracted strong media coverage and met with an assertive response on the part of the authorities, demonstrating the value of civil society monitoring of Convention review programs.

These and others efforts to monitor and bring light to the Convention’s provisions will help raise awareness of the importance of international frameworks for combatting corruption.