9 December 2014, by Manzoor Hasan.
At the adoption of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in 2003, the UN General Assembly designated 9 December as International Anti-corruption Day. As it is commemorated around the world each year, it not only serves as a lightning rod to the global anti-corruption community, but also provides an opportunity to reflect on the successes and challenges of the UNCAC, the most important tool in the struggle against corruption.
A number of important advances have breathed life into the UNCAC since 2003. The rate of ratification has been rapid, with 173 parties to date. It has spurred changes in the legislative and institutional landscapes in many countries, and the UNCAC has become a reference point for anti-corruption work – it is cited in the media and used by governments and international organisations to track progress. The G20 has regularly reiterated its commitment to UNCAC; only Japan is not yet a party.
The UNCAC peer review process, which began in June 2010, was a major milestone. Although it had a slow start, it is expected to have reviewed 140 parties by November 2015. This is impressive given the complexity and scope of the work, and can be credited to the skilled and dedicated staff at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which coordinates the process. It is also encouraging that civil society has been involved in most country reviews and an increasing number of state parties are publishing their full country reports on the UNODC website – currently 34 out of 76 completed reviews.
Since 2006, the UNCAC Coalition and its 350 member organisations in over 100 countries has contributed to these advances by promoting country ratification, providing training to a range of stakeholders and proposing country-level reforms. It has also conducted vigorous coordinated advocacy for the UNCAC review mechanism and supported civil society monitoring of country compliance with the UNCAC.
The Coalition has also joined forces with other networks to achieve specific advocacy targets. Ahead of the recent G20 meeting it supported a Transparency International-organised open letter calling for an end to secret company ownership. This is a priority advocacy target for the Coalition based on the commitment of the UNCAC (as well as in UNTOC).
The picture is not all rosy, however. The UNCAC review process faces important challenges; it suffers a lack of resources and insufficient government commitment in many countries to follow-up on the review recommendations. Inadequate technical and financial assistance is provided to developing countries for UNCAC implementation, and it has yet to make real progress towards the repatriation of assets.
A major area of concern is the exclusion of civil society groups from UNCAC forums, notably from meetings of the UNCAC subsidiary bodies. This is disturbingly incongruent with the principles and provisions of the UNCAC and was cited as a serious issue by UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai in his report examining the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in the context of multilateral institutions. The UNCAC Coalition welcomed this report with a press release and is calling for action to rectify the deficiencies identified.
On this auspicious International Anti-corruption Day the UNCAC Coalition urges all to be vigilant and build momentum towards ending corruption and creating a fairer world for future generations.
About Manzoor Hasan
Manzoor Hasan is Chair of the UNCAC Coalition. In 2006, Mr Hasan became the Founding Director of the Institute of Governance Studies, BRAC University, and since 2011 IGS’ Advisor. He has been an active member of civil society in Bangladesh for over two decades..