Statement by the UNCAC Coalition to the UNCAC Implementation Review Group Briefing for NGOs

Vienna, 30 May 2013, by Vincent Lazatin.

Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates,

My name is Vincent Lazatin the Executive Director of the Transparency and Accountability Network in the Philippines. I address you now as the chair of the UNCAC Coalition Coordination Committee. On behalf of the Coalition I would like to thank you for this opportunity to make a statement to this Implementation Review Group briefing for NGOs. This is the second year that we will be making a statement at this briefing. We hope that you will allow us to deepen our participation at these meetings in the coming years so that they become more meaningful for all involved. On a side note Mr. Chairman, as you said yourself the NGO briefing last year was a success as evidenced by the overflow crowd. I hope this smaller room can accommodate everyone.

The UNCAC Coalition is a network of over 350 civil society organisations in 100 countries and dedicated to promoting the ratification, implementation and monitoring of the UN Convention against Corruption. It is made up of a broad range of CSOs, including trade unions, grassroots organizations, organizations focused on social development, human rights, and of course good governance and anti-corruption.

The work of UNCAC Coalition member organisations includes analysis of national level implementation in key areas in the current 5-year review cycle and proposals to promote progress. You can find some examples of our analytical country reports on the tables outside this room and on the UNCAC Coalition website. We also work on developing recommendations for action by the Conference of States Parties in priority areas and some of those recommendations are contained in our submissions to this meeting.

I would like to mention here a few of our recommendations regarding the UNCAC review mechanism and review process. I would also like to touch on some of our recommendations concerning UNCAC provisions covered by the present review cycle on criminalisation and enforcement and in other areas covered by the Convention.

With regard to the UNCAC review mechanism and the review process, as we have emphasized over the years, we believe that transparency and civil society participation are essential conditions for a successful process. The Convention itself recognises the importance of these two components for combating corruption. We believe that transparency and participation in the review mechanism strengthens both the mechanism and the Convention itself.

This is why we would like to reiterate our continuing recommendation we have made since 2010 that the IRG should welcome NGOs as observers to its proceedings. To give full meaning and life to Rules 2 and 17 of the Conference of States Parties Rules of Procedure NGOs should be admitted as observers in UNCAC subsidiary bodies.

Transparency and participation are also essential in the national level review process. A majority of countries have in fact agreed to country visits and invited NGOs to meet review teams and we urge those with reviews still ahead to do the same. For countries that have included NGOs in the review process, experience has been positive and there is much to be gained for in-country anti-corruption efforts by enlisting the expertise and support of NGOs.

A number of governments have also published their self-assessments and full review reports. We commend their commitment to transparency and urge others to follow this good example. This kind of transparency is essential for the public credibility of the review process and for public understanding of country challenges and successes. The executive summaries that are published, while useful, leave too many unanswered questions.

Beyond the current 5-year cycle we believe the benefits of the review process could be enhanced in a number of ways. We urge consideration of a follow-up process to the first cycle. Such process should review implementation of recommendations to ensure that momentum is maintained. We also suggest that the second cycle should provide more guarantees of civil society participation and transparency than the first one did. Such civil society participation should extend to discussions of technical assistance needs, considering the support that NGOs can provide to government requests.

We also believe that it is time to think about new ways to strengthen the review process. In particular, we propose consideration of a communications and reporting procedure about serious issues of non-compliance with UNCAC. Such a procedure would provide a basis for dialogue on more concrete issues and provide supplementary information beyond what is offered by the review process,

Apart from these process issues, we are also concerned about a number of issues relating criminalisation and enforcement. Our letter to the IRG of 16 May includes recommendations for action by the Conference of States Parties on a number of topics. These include recommendations for work on settlements and immunities as well as on the independence and resourcing of specialised enforcement bodies and the judiciary. We hope that the IRG will send to the COSP recommendations on these topics as well as in other areas.

An additional high priority for the UNCAC Coalition is to see progress in the area of asset recovery. We believe it is important to establish a timetable for improving international cooperation in this area and for states receiving stolen assets to establish frameworks to proactively freeze, confiscate and return assets. We also suggest development of guidelines for ensuring that assets returned pursuant to UNCAC Article 57 are managed in a transparent and accountable manner in line with UNCAC Article 9.

Mr Chairman, corruption is a formidable foe. Fighting corruption is not a spectator sport. The fight requires all the resources we can gather. Citizens and organized citizens groups are a valuable resource that can be harnessed in this fight. The contributions we can make should be seriously considered. We ask that we be put in the game.

Mr. Chairman, I would again like to express my appreciation for the opportunity to share with you these observations and recommendations on behalf of the UNCAC Coalition.

Thank you Chair, thank you ladies and gentlemen.