TI Malaysia Calls for Civil Society Engagement in the UNCAC Review Process

3 July 2014, by Jessica Sercombe.

On 24–27 February, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the UNCAC Coalition organised a regional workshop on the UNCAC review mechanism. It was held in Kuala Lumpur and coincided with the release of Malaysia’s first country review report.

The four days provided a unique opportunity for civil society organisations (CSOs) and government anti-corruption agencies in the Asia Pacific region to clarify key concepts on the UNCAC framework and discuss its implementation in national contexts. Importantly, it was also a space for CSOs and government to strengthen their collaboration and voice their positions on enhancing anti-corruption efforts. Among the participants were TI Malaysia and representatives from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

In his opening speech, TI Malaysia’s President Dato’ Akhbar Satar emphasised the need for strengthened CSO collaboration and engagement with government to implement the UNCAC:

TI Malaysia extends its hand out to all CSOs in Malaysia to work together to raise awareness and advocate for reforms in conjunction with UNCAC … through our collaboration we need to continue to urge the government to further engage with civil society in implementing UNCAC and prepare for the next review cycle.

A fundamental point in the discussion raised by TI Malaysia with government officials was the engagement of CSOs in the second UNCAC review cycle. In the past only minimal efforts had been made to involve CSOs and there had been a significant lack of information available to the public about the UNCAC review and implementation.

MACC representatives explained that the review process had been closed to civil society due to a perception that they did not have the necessary technical expertise. However, with a constructive emphasis on the importance of UNCAC Article 13 (participation of society) the tone of the dialogue changed and the MACC representatives supported TI Malaysia becoming a member of its UNCAC Working Committee, due to be established for the second UNCAC review cycle. They also invited them to provide a list of other CSOs to involve in the committee and requested assistance to review the self-assessment report; confirming that the report would be circulated for CSO input before it was finalised.

The workshop also enabled discussion on the progress made on weaknesses identified in the previous review cycle. Although Malaysia had been praised for some of its anti-corruption work, it had also been criticised for weak legislation. In open discussions with MACC officials, it became clear that changes were being considered to increase the independence of the MACC by changing the way in which its chief commissioner is appointed and dismissed.[1]

Furthermore, the increased interaction with other local CSOs laid the foundations of an UNCAC CSO Coalition in Malaysia. Although this has yet to be fully established, it is another step towards engaging a wider range of stakeholders and mobilising demand for necessary anti-corruption reforms. Together CSOs were able to agree a priority for their work: mobilising the public to demand change. This will be integrated into upcoming TI Malaysia advocacy events to ensure that citizens are informed and equipped to act as public monitors of government efforts.

The workshop had multiple advantages: it opened a neutral space for CSO engagement with state agencies; it provided opportunities to share information and learn about UNCAC implementation progress; and it enabled greater CSO networking in the region. For TI Malaysia the exchange of regional practices and experiences contributed greatly to their approach to the MACC and the meeting’s successful outcomes.

About Jessica Sercombe

Jessica Sercombe is a manager at Transparency International’s national chapter based in Malaysia.

  1. Currently this takes place on the recommendation of the prime minister to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (the head of state). It is suggested that instead that the position should be elevated to one similar to a chief judge, so that the position holder could only be removed by a tribunal.