The Seventh Session of the UNCAC Conference of States Parties (7th COSP)

Vienna, Austria, 6-10 November 2017
Prep Meeting for Civil Society Organisations, 5 November 2017

What is the 7th UNCAC COSP and why is it important?

From 6 to 10 November 2017 representatives of many of the 183 States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) will meet in Vienna for the 7th session of the UNCAC Conference of States Parties (7th COSP). This biennial anti-corruption gathering is the most important global event for checking progress on the UNCAC and for strengthening efforts in the fight against corruption. About 1,000 government officials will attend the meeting, together with representatives of intergovernmental agencies and civil society organisations (CSOs).

The formal provisional agenda for the five-day meeting will cover the review mechanism, technical assistance, corruption prevention, asset recovery and international cooperation. In addition, agenda item 7 covers cooperation with relevant international and regional organizations and mechanisms and non-governmental organizations. The annotated provisional agenda and proposed organization of work can be found here.

CSO representatives are allowed to attend the COSP as observers, which gives them the opportunity to attend plenaries, make oral statements and make written submissions, as well as hold side events. CSOs will organize several side events, including panels on the grand corruption, asset recovery, and corruption and the rule of law.

What the Coalition will be advocating for at the 7th UNCAC COSP

Coalition General Statement

Tackling corruption calls for a comprehensive and integrated approach including preventive measures, criminalisation and enforcement, international cooperation and asset recovery efforts, as well as technical assistance to countries in need of it. The Coalition calls for specific priority action in all of these areas in its general statement submitted to the COSP: “Making UNCAC Work: Coalition Statement to the 7th Session of the UNCAC Conference of States Parties”.

Grand corruption

States Parties should recognise that the crime grand corruption causes grave harm to human rights and development and requires international attention and action. They should adopt or reinforce measures to check grand corruption. Transparency International is organising a side event on grand corruption taking place on Wednesday 10 November 2017, 9:00–10:30. The UNCAC Coalition is collaborating on this event. Transparency International made a written submission to the COSP on grand corruption entitled “Making grand corruption a priority”.

Asset recovery

Progress with asset recovery efforts remains slow. The Coalition will call for the COSP to agree on steps to improve processes for the repatriation of the proceeds of corruption to the country from which they were taken or that suffered damage as a result of the commission of the underlying corruption offences. The Coalition will also call for States Parties to agree on steps to ensure transparency and accountability in the return of assets. The UNCAC Coalition is co-organising a side event on asset recovery taking place on Tuesday 9 November, 16:00–17:30. The UNCAC Coalition made a written submission to the COSP with proposals for action on asset recovery entitled “Towards a Comprehensive, Transparent and Accountable Implementation of UNCAC Chapter V”.

Victims’ remedies

There is now widespread recognition that corruption is not a victimless crime and that it causes real harm to real people. However, despite this recognition, the harm caused by corruption is rarely represented in court proceedings and settlements, and victims are rarely given time or space in courts to provide evidence of the impact corrupt acts have had on them. Finding ways to represent the harm of corruption and its impact on victims in enforcement proceedings is critical to building momentum for the fight against corruption and raising awareness of the impact of corruption. The UNCAC Coalition made a written submission to the COSP on victim’s remedies entitled “Recovery of Damages and Compensation for Victims of Corruption”.

Prevention of corruption and civil society participation in anti-corruption efforts

While many States have taken steps forward in the implementation of comprehensive measures to prevent corruption since the establishment of UNCAC, substantial work remains to be done. In addition, due to an ever-changing social and political landscape and to technological advances, preventive measures need to be permanently checked on and updated. The Coalition will call for COSP action with respect to three key prevention areas- access to information; public procurement and public financial management. The UNCAC Coalition made a written submission to the COSP on preventive measures entitled “Implementing Effective Measures to Prevent Corruption”.

Furthermore, in light of restrictions on civil society anti-corruption activities in an increasing number of countries, the Coalition will call for the COSP to give renewed recognition to the importance of civil society participation in anti-corruption efforts and the need to create and maintain a safe and enabling environment in which civil society can operate free from hindrance and insecurity.

Review Mechanism – transparency and participation in the review process and civil society observer status in COSP subsidiary bodies

The Coalition will continue to call for States to publish their full review reports for the first review cycle (75 had been published as of 24 October 2017 out of 160 completed reviews) and for the COSP to establish a process of follow-up to the first cycle of reviews to ensure that attention is paid to the review recommendations. States Parties should also apply high standards of transparency and participation in the second cycle of reviews. (See the Pledge and draft Guide below.)

Representatives of civil society organizations have been excluded from participating as observers in COSP subsidiary bodies such as the Implementation Review Group and the Working Groups on Prevention and Asset Recovery. A separate briefing for NGOs was provided as a substitute. The Coalition will call for the COSP to recognise that this practice of meeting in secrecy is counterproductive in terms of the objectives of the UNCAC and it should take steps to open up UNCAC meetings. (See the Pledge and Guide above.)

The UNCAC Coalition has made a written submission to the COSP on good practices with respect to transparency and participation in the Implementation Review Mechanism entitled “Discussion Draft – A Guide to Transparency and Participation in the UNCAC Implementation Review Mechanism.” The Coalition is seeking feedback from States Parties on the recommendations in the Guide.

UNCAC Review Transparency Pledge and Guide

The best guarantee of successful implementation of UNCAC is an effective review process. Transparency and participation are key elements needed for effectiveness. During the first review cycle between 2010 and 2015 States Parties made a good start in that direction but could have done more. Consequently, the UNCAC Coalition is inviting States Parties to sign an UNCAC Review Transparency Pledge, to commit to higher standards of transparency and inclusion of civil society in the UNCAC review process. The Pledge is available in Arabic, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.

The Draft Guide to Transparency and Participation in the UNCAC Review Mechanism submitted for the consideration of the COSP draws on positive practice in the first cycle of UNCAC reviews as well as applicable international law and identifies the concrete steps that states parties can take at different stages of the review process to ensure that the entire process is transparent and inclusive and consequently robust and effective.

7th COSP oral statements in plenary by UNCAC Coalition and member organisations

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