UN must not exclude civil society from UNCAC meetings

New York, 28 October 2014.

The United Nations Convention against Corruption Coalition today applauds a UN Special Rapporteur’s report criticising the exclusion of civil society organisations from United Nations meetings concerning the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).

In his report, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Association Maina Kiai singles out UNCAC as a bad example among UN processes and notes that “since 2010 NGOs have been significantly impeded in their attempts to participate as observers in UNCAC meetings”. He also points out that although the UNCAC text recognises the importance of civil society participation, under its review mechanism created by the countries that have ratified it, such participation in national reviews is optional.

“There is a broad coalition of civil society organisations committed to curbing corruption and to the success of the convention but the existing severe constraints hobble our ability to contribute,” said UNCAC Coalition Chair Manzoor Hasan “UNCAC processes are very intransparent.”

According to the report, most multilateral institutions recognize that citizens must be given a seat at the decision-making table and encourage — or even require — engagement with civil society in their charters or policies. In fact, UNCAC rules of procedure do allow for civil society participation in the UNCAC working groups and other subsidiary bodies that meet regularly at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna. These rules are simply not applied.

In practice, civil society groups are barred from UNCAC meetings due to opposition from a small group of influential governments that has for years worked to prevent civil society participation in international discussions and to restrict the transparency and inclusiveness of the national level review processes.

“The Special Rapporteur’s report rightly finds fault with the current handling of UNCAC processes which excludes civil society groups from almost all UNCAC discussions at the UN and also leaves them in doubt about their involvement in national level reviews.” said Hasan. The UNCAC Coalition is calling for UNCAC States parties to correct their processes in light of the report’s findings. “The UNCAC restrictions on civil society organizations contravene core UN values and fundamental human rights as well as explicit UNCAC language,” said Hasan.

The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and of Association Maina Kiai is in New York today to deliver his report entitled “Multilateral Institutions And Their Effect On Assembly And Association Rights (A/69/365)”. This looks at States’ obligations to ensure the rights to peacefully assemble and to associate at the international level, namely in the context of multilateral institutions.

Note to Editors

The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) is the most comprehensive global legal framework for combating corruption. It is a binding agreement by 172 States Parties on standards and requirements for preventing, detecting, investigating and sanctioning corruption.

The UNCAC Coalition formed in 2006, is composed of more than 350 civil society organisations in over 100 countries. Its goal is to promote ratification, implementation and monitoring of the UN Convention against Corruption.

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