IRG Statement by Coordination Committee Member Saad Filali Meknassi

Vienna, 30 May 2013, by Saad Filali Meknassi.

Mr. / Madam Chairman, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, good morning. I am Saad Filali Meknassi of Transparency International Morocco and member of the Coordination Committee of the UNCAC Civil Society Coalition.

We would like to thank you for this opportunity to speak and exchange with the distinguished delegates of the States parties to the UNCAC and the UN system represented by the UNODC here. I will focus here on the situation in the Middle East and North Africa region by addressing the issues of access to information, civil society participation and asset recovery.

We all agree here that corruption is a crime that imposes major damage on our societies and hinders development, and there is deep public concern about it. The protests of the recent years expressed a profound anger and frustration of citizens about corruption that goes well beyond the Arab world. We consider that an accurate implementation of the right to access information is key to increase public participation to decision making processes and to develop accountable institutions by serving better the large public in the region. The implementation of access to information, as stated in different UN standards and as developed by the UNCAC in its articles 10 and 13 and other parts of the convention, are crucial for states parties, especially for those countries aspiring to develop efficient public systems that work for the majority and improve the relationships between citizens and institutions.

As a result of the UNCAC and the recent events in the region, three countries have passed laws to ensure the access to information for citizens and one country established this right in its Constitution. These legislative reforms are important, but most countries are far from doing enough to implement access to public information. Even where the right laws are in place, the authorities in too many countries fail to enforce them by developing efficient systems. UNODC should be requested to support State parties in the MENA region through technical assistance to develop legislation on access to information and empower regional collaboration to ensure implementation of ATI. Agencies promoting the fight against corruption should be granted access to public information and should develop synergies to tackle corruption at different levelsfor achieving a better international cooperation. There are some lessons learned from the recent years for the upcoming review cycle starting in 2015 covering prevention.

By celebrating the third year of the review mechanism, better goals should be achieved through an improved coordination with all stakeholders including non- governmental organizations. In addition to developing projects focusing on an active implementation of the UNCAC and its review mechanism, States parties with the UN system and civil society should coordinate better to change the continuous negative perception that population has about the fight against corruption. Concerning the review mechanism, the timeline of the country visits, the composition of the team experts and their contact details, publication of self- assessment questionnaires and access to the review process outputs should be accessible to the public. Up to now, none of the States parties in the region has developed a multi-stakeholder approach to review the implementation of the UNCAC. High standards of transparency should be enforced to build confidence in the role of the UNCAC and its review process for the public.

Finally, new figures published last week by the African Development Bank and the Global Financial Integrity present a cumulative net resource outflows from Africa reaching US$1.4 trillion between 1980 and 2009. Global Financial Integrity also revealed in January 2011 that Egypt was losing more than US$6 billion per year to illicit financial activities and official government corruption. The repatriation of assets illicitly transferred from countries of the MENA region could provide much-needed funds for development in countries where unemployment and poverty rates are dramatically high, which are the main causes for crime and crisis in the region. A significant improvement of the existing mechanisms should be operated to track, to freeze and to repatriate stolen assets swiftly to their origin countries. The UNODC should fulfil its role of coordination with other specialized international organizations and mobilize more efforts to make an end to the existing status quo and prevent actively the export of illicit funds from the MENA region.

This debate we are having today, we believe, is a most timely one for the global community and it should be improved to achieve better coordination and setting better goals for the global community in fighting corruption.

Thank you Mr. / Madam Chairman, and good day.