Summary of the NGO briefing on the margins of the 14th UNCAC Implementation Review Group (IRG)

This year’s NGO briefing on the margins of the 14th session of the Implementation Review Group (IRG) held in June 2023, focused on the progress of the UNCAC implementation review Mechanism (IRM), the thematic and regional implementation of Chapter 2 of the UNCAC and technical assistance provided by UNODC to States Parties. On the occasion of the upcoming 10th Conference of the States Parties (CoSp10) in December of this year, the United States as the host presented its prioritized goals for the conference.

The annual NGO briefing is the only formal opportunity for civil society representatives to engage with the UNCAC Secretariat (UNODC) and representatives of States Parties in-between sessions of the UNCAC Conference of the States Parties: NGO representatives can pose questions to the UNCAC Secretariat, highlight their UNCAC-related work, as well as general findings and concerns, and engage with participating representatives of States Parties. During the briefing, the Secretariat will brief participants on the UNCAC review mechanism and on thematic reports on the implementation of the Convention. In line with UNCAC CoSP resolution 4/6, no specific country situations can be discussed during the briefing.

UNODC progress report

The UNCAC Secretariat provided an overview on progress made in relation to the first and second cycle of the UNCAC Implementation Review Mechanism (IRM). Whereas 185 countries responded to the self-assessment checklist, 175 completed executive summaries and 164 submitted  the full country report in the first cycle of the review, the numbers declined to 158 responses to the self-assessment checklist, 73 published executive summaries and 47 full country reports in the second cycle. The slow progress of the second cycle of the IRM was negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly with regard to the country visits. However, efforts made by the Secretariat led to a surge in country visits in 2022. In terms of effectiveness, 85% of responding States Parties reported very effective or rather effective country visits. 

Upon inquiry by Mathias Huter, Managing Director of the UNCAC Coalition and Gillian Dell, Global Advocacy Lead at Transparency International, the UNCAC Secretariat announced that the timeline for the completion of the current 2nd review cycle and the way forward in terms of the IRM’s next phase, will be decided at the next CoSP. UNODC is trying to provide the Group with information that will inform their decisions, including assessments of other similar review mechanisms. The Secretariat highlighted that there is a lot to be done to finalize the current phase, and at this stage, there is no appetite among States parties to engage in a pilot phase, as was the case when the UNCAC IRM’s first cycle was launched. 

Thematic and regional implementation of UNCAC Chapter 2 

The UNCAC Secretariat presented the thematic report on the implementation of Chapter 2 of the UNCAC. Trends regarding good practices were consistent with the previous thematic report. In terms of the number of recommendations countries received in the context of their reviews, challenges were most encountered in the implementation of UNCAC articles 7 (public sector), and article 8 (codes of conduct of public officials). The highest number of good practices was reported regarding the participation of society (article 13). Nevertheless, 36 States parties, almost half of those who completed their 2nd cycle review, have received recommendations relating to the implementation of article 13. 

UNODC Technical assistance delivery 

UNODC is delivering technical assistance to numerous States parties with a focus on developing knowledge tools. The regional platform approach that started in 2021 with a first hub in Mexico will continue through 2024 with a forthcoming hub in Kenya. Regional hubs and centers are being incorporated into UNODC to serve as repositories of regional expertise and facilitate the exchange of experiences at the regional level and South-South cooperation. UNODC’s private sector assistance includes internships for ambassadors in ethics. Assistance to the youth through the Global Resource for Anti-Corruption Education and Youth Empowerment (GRACE) initiative has reached over 1800 beneficiaries so far. Next to that, UNODC is organizing anti-corruption summer schools in cooperation with the International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA). UNODC’s work in conflict and post-conflict situations focuses on prevention, providing assistance in strengthening anti-corruption bodies and judicial integrity, and addressing corruption risks in the prison sector.

CoSP10 presentation United States

The United States as the host of the 10th Conference of the States Parties (CoSP10) presented its five priorities for the conference which include strengthening the role of civil society in fighting corruption and showcasing the expertise of civil society, as well as strengthening global action to promote financial transparency and integrity. The key pillar of the US strategy is to preserve and strengthen the multilateral anti-corruption infrastructure. In this context, the role of the Department of State’s Coordinator on Global Anti-Corruption, held by Richard Nephew, has been created. The events on the weekend before the CoSP starts will focus on the role of academics, youth activists and other actors in anti-corruption. On 10 December, the Youth and Civil Society Forum will take place, offering civil society the opportunity to actively support the implementation of the UNCAC and the UNGASS Political Declaration.

Enhancing civil society participation in UNCAC processes

Statements from NGOS highlighted the urgency of stronger civil society inclusion in UNCAC-related processes. The UNCAC Coalition delivered a couple of general statements emphasizing the need for greater transparency and inclusiveness in the UNCAC IRM and the tools the Coalition has developed to promote these aspects. Gillian Dell emphasized that civil society should be included as observers to IRG meetings and other CoSP subsidiary meetings in line with Article 13 of the UNCAC and international human rights standards. David Ugolor, Executive Director of the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) asked about UNODC’s measures to ensure that there will be more civil society representatives from developing countries in UNCAC-related processes. The Secretariat mentioned that while there are limitations to that in the NGO briefing, consultations are organized in different regions with civil society. David Ugolor further requested opportunities for victims of corruption to express themselves at the upcoming CoSP. Other NGOs representatives highlighted in their statements the role civil society could play in the context of the IRM and in providing technical assistance to requesting countries. Questions were also raised regarding the performance of the IRM, the need to evaluate its procedures, and increasing civil society’s role in it, looking ahead to its next phase. 

Unfortunately, also this year’s NGO briefing featured very little participation from States parties, and except for the presentation delivered by the US delegation as the upcoming host of CoSP 10, no State party took the floor during the meeting.  The low level of participation of country representatives demonstrates one more, that the NGO briefing does not serve as a valuable opportunity, in the eyes of States parties, to engage in a meaningful exchange with civil society. In that sense, the „Marrakech compromise”, now 12 years old, which established the annual briefing for NGOs as a temporary, trust-building measure, seems to miss its purpose.