Transparency International Statement to United Nations CCPCJ

Vienna, 25 May 2016.

25th Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice

Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates, thank you for the opportunity to speak here today. My name is Ádám Földes and I am speaking on behalf of Transparency International.

I would like to address two areas: the review process of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and the need for the member states of the Commission to recognise grand corruption as a specific crime that requires specific laws and strengthened measures.

UNCAC Review

The United Nations Convention against Corruption has reached an important milestone by the opening of the second review cycle. However, the review of the criminalisation, law enforcement and international cooperation articles in the first cycle will deliver results only if the recommendations are followed up.

Currently there is no follow-up process, therefore any member state can easily disregard the recommendations they received from their peers in the country reviews. Without timely follow-up it is not possible to ensure that the recommendations are acted upon and that the purpose of the review process is fulfilled.

The Commission should call on its members to prepare national action plans to respond to recommendations made in the country review reports. These action plans should be submitted to UNODC, the two peer review countries and the Implementation Review Group, as well as published on the UNODC website. The action plans should include information on technical assistance required, where applicable.

Article 13 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption contains a clear and concise description of how civil society should be involved in the fight against corruption. This Article also applies to the review process. The second review cycle of the UNCAC should be transparent and participatory for the civil society both on national and international levels.

All country review reports should include a section on civil society involvement in the review process and in national implementation. UNODC’s periodic status reports on progress with the review process and its thematic reports should reference civil society contributions to the reviews.

We invite you to show your commitment to transparency and participation by signing up to the UNCAC Review Transparency Pledge.

Grand Corruption

We define grand corruption as the abuse of high-level power that benefits the few at the expense of the many and causes widespread harm to individuals and society. It often goes unpunished.

It has different forms according to country and context. In extreme systems the whole of government may turn into a criminal organisation with the sole purpose of personal enrichment. In these cases, high level officials may use control over legislative and regulatory powers to legalise their activities and to weaken oversight and enforcement functions.

We believe that fighting this type of corruption requires strengthening the existing legal framework and dedicated resources in recognition of the complexity and global nature of the problem.

We strongly believe that grand corruption is an obstacle to sustainable development and hurts the most vulnerable. Measures to tackle grand corruption should include:

  • introduction of universal jurisdiction over grand corruption offences,
  • exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction in instances of large scale UNCAC corruption offences,
  • enhanced enforcement against bribery of foreign public officials,
  • introduction of public beneficial ownership registries, so the corrupt can’t hide their illicit assets,
  • elimination of abuse of immunities,
  • introduction of grand corruption individual complaint procedure under United Nations Treaties

With our proposals on grand corruption we hope to do two things: inform the policy debate and provide a basis for future consideration for a resolution that recognises grand corruption as a serious form of corruption requiring priority action.

This would show a strong will to stop corruption no matter how powerful, how rich or how well-connected the perpetrators are.

Civil society welcomes a strong and robust debate. We all want the same thing: a world free of corruption. Only by working together can we get there.

About Ádám Földes

Ádám Földes is Advocacy Advisor of the Conventions Unit at Transparency International.