Meeting of the Implementation Review Group and Start of Year 2 of the Review Mechanism

30 June 2011, by Gillian Dell, Transparency International Secretariat.

The UNCAC Implementation Review Group (IRG) met at the UN in Vienna on 30 May–3 June 2011 for its second session. This meeting was noteworthy for several reasons.

First of all, there were only two completed official executive summary reports published at the time of the meeting and no full review reports. The May IRG meeting did not, as originally foreseen, mark the end of the first year of the UNCAC review process and was not able to discuss the results of the review in the 26 first-year countries. Executive summaries were only presented for Finland and Spain, while the other 24 reports were still pending. Moreover, the published information on the review process indicated that many of the country reviews were still underway so that it was also difficult to make an assessment of the process based on a set of completed reviews. A UNODC document submitted to the IRG showed that the review process for most countries was taking well beyond the originally-envisaged 6 months, with some expected to take up to 12 months. The IRG is expected to have more country reports to discuss at its resumed second session on 7–9 September 2011.

Nevertheless the meeting did mark the start of the second year of the UNCAC review process, as the IRG drew lots for the next country reviews and distributed a provisional list of results. These were not immediately published though, due to some country-specific issues. Some of the countries selected as reviewers were unacceptable to the countries reviewed. An additional problem is that a few countries that deferred their review from the first to the second year now tried to defer again to the third year. This is not allowed by the rules and presented a dilemma to be resolved. The country pairings were recently posted.

Finally, this IRG meeting was also noteworthy because civil society organisations (CSOs) were again not invited and not involved in the proceedings. Governments remained deadlocked over whether to allow CSO participation and if so how. There was one new proposal: The Russian delegation reportedly proposed following the example of the OECD Working Group on Bribery which holds annual meetings with CSOs and the private sector to solicit feedback about their review process for the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. This would be a major step backwards from CoSP Rule 17. Another proposal called for setting aside a segment of each IRG meeting for civil society presentations. But some delegations were firmly opposed to any CSO involvement and others were unwilling to countenance a dilution of the CoSP Rule 17 of the Rules of Procedure that allows CSOs to participate as observers in plenary sessions of the Conference of States Parties. They cite a Legal Opinion of the UN Office of Affairs, and argue—as the Coalition did in its November Statement—that the same rule should apply to the IRG. In the end, no agreement could be reached on an interim compromise for the resumed second session in September 2011 sp once again CSOs will not be invited to that meeting. The decision on this issue has been postponed to the 4th Conference of States Parties due to take place in Marrakesh, Morocco, 24–28 October 2011.