A Closer Look at the UNCAC Review Mechanism
Call for a Transparent and Inclusive Review Mechanism
The good news is that the review mechanism for the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) is up and running since July 2010!
At that time, the Implementation Review Group, meeting for the first time, selected the countries to be reviewed in the first five-year cycle of the peer review process. There are 26 countries in the first year, about 40 in the second. An ambitious programme.
What subjects will it cover?
Criminalisation, enforcement and international cooperation are the subjects under review. Crucial topics will be covered including the independence of enforcement agencies, enforcement against bribery and embezzlement, liability of companies, bank secrecy, protection of whistleblowers and the highly important topic of mutual legal assistance between country law enforcement offices.
The question is: Will the review mechanism be effective?
This will partly depend on whether UNODC, the secretariat for the UNCAC, has enough resources to carry out such a demanding programme. But equally important will be whether the review process will be transparent and inclusive. That would mean reviewed countries agree to include in their reviews the following three crucial elements: (1) civil society & private sector inputs to the reviews; (2) country visits and (3) prompt publication of country self-assessments and full final reports. These are essential elements of a credible review process that were left optional by the resolution establishing the review mechanism. And now is the time to establish the right precedents.
Walking the Talk of Participation
Anti-corruption activists suffer media attacks in Pakistan after the release of the Corruption Perceptions Index, and after signing an agreement to receive complaints on corruption in foreign aid. The Venezuelan government is considering a new law, severely restricting the independence of local civil society groups to seek funding – preceded by Ethiopia, where a similar law was passed a couple of years ago. Journalists uncovering corruption have been taken to court for alleged defamation in Senegal. In Algeria, an outspoken anti-corruption activist and journalist was detained after he had criticised the government for its anti-corruption policy, and released only 10 days later. Also in Algeria, a trade union member and also anti-corruption advocate has been denied a passport renewal.
Is there a trend here? These individual cases are only examples of a trend that is closing space for civil society and its activists to operate.
Strengthening the UNCAC Review Process
The UNCAC Coalition is working hard to achieve a transparent and inclusive UNCAC review process, through efforts to bolster civil society inputs.
In partnership with the UNODC, training for CSOs on undertaking a parallel UNCAC compliance review will be held in Vienna from 2-4 February 2011. This three-day training will provide guidance for CSOs wishing to undertake parallel UNCAC reviews.
The Coalition is also working to strengthen the UNCAC review process by advocating for civil society participation in the UNCAC Implementation Review Group, the group tasked with overseeing the UNCAC Review Mechanism. See ‘Out in the Cold’ below for an overview of this.
Key Steps for a Transparent and Inclusive UNCAC Review Process
|Stage||Recommended Government Actions|
|Self-assessment Checklist Submitted||Consult with civil society when completing the self-assessment
Publish their responses to the self-assessment checklist online
|Country Reviews Undertaken||Permit a country visit by reviewers
Invite civil society to provide inputs to the reviewers
|Country Reports Prepared||Promptly publish online the full country report (not only the executive summary)|
|Implementation of Recommendations||Work with civil society to implement the recommendations in the country review|
UNCAC Coalition Update
The UNCAC Coalition has grown steadily since its establishment in 2006, and now includes over 240 organisations from over 100 countries around the world. The Coalition has been very active in recent times in developing more formal structures.
Formalisation of Coalition Processes and Structures
A recent meeting of members in Bangkok in November 2010 and much online discussion has resulted agreement on a Charter outlining the Coalition’s vision, mission and operations. Rules of Procedure are now in preparation.
It has been agreed that the Working Group will continue to oversee Coalition developments until a Coordination Committee can be elected. Elections are planned for April 2011.
Newsletter committee established!
A newsletter committee has been established to produce this newsletter. We are pleased to announce Milton Ponson (Rainbow Warriors International), Elina Zubaidy (Bangladesh Supreme Court), Inés Selvood (Mujeres en Igualdad, Argentina), and Andrea Figari, Phoebe Hardefeldt and Gillian Dell (Transparency International-Secretariat) as members of the committee. Please let us know if you would like to join the committee!
Who’s Under UNCAC Review?
Due to delays in the first year, the schedule of country years is not yet fixed. We have been informed that a great number of country visits will take place in February and March 2011. Contact us for more information or to provide updates in your country!
Sao Tome and Principe
|Eastern Europe States||
|Latin American and Caribbean States||
|Western European and Other States||
Out in the Cold: Civil Society Blocked from the IRG
Civil society organisations were blocked from participating as observers in the November 2010 meeting of the Implementation Review Group (IRG), leaving representatives out in the cold while States Parties discussed the review mechanism. The UNCAC Coalition has released a statement at the UNCAC Implementation Review Group (IRG) Meeting calling for the IRG, UNCAC States Parties and the UN Office of Drugs and Crime to ensure a transparent and participatory review mechanism.
The statement calls on the IRG to permit civil society observers at IRG Meetings, in accordance with a recent legal opinion from the UN Legal Office. It also calls on States Parties to provide for and encourage civil society participation in the review process, in the interests of creating a transparent, effective and credible UNCAC review mechanism.
In the Americas… Success Stories in Monitoring the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption
The Inter-American Convention against Corruption (IACAC), which came into force in 1996, was a milestone Convention. It was the first global attempt to draft an international treaty to reduce corruption levels in America, and represented a coordinated response to the continuous corruption scandals that rocked countries in the region.
The value of civil society contributions to the IACAC and its review mechanism (MESICIC) has been widely recognised, including by government representatives assessing the progress of implementation.
Two innovative and successful projects demonstrate the value civil society can bring to a Convention review process.
In Guatemala, Acción Ciudadana is facilitating compliance with and implementation of the commitments adopted under the Inter-American Convention by collaborating with government officials and working via a coalition created to track the implementation report.
Venezuela’s Traffic Light: Transparencia Venezuela (TV) is using the traffic light format as a visual and dynamic way of presenting the progress made (or the absence thereof) in the implementation of the Inter-American Convention. It highlights the recommendations provided through the MESICIC in yellow, red or green according to the progress of implementation. It also identifies which government actors should be contacted for follow-up for each recommendation.
These and others efforts to monitor and bring light to the Convention’s provisions are helping raise awareness of the importance of international frameworks for combating corruption.
Protection of Algerian Anti-corruption Activist
The Coalition is calling for the Algerian Government to respect the rights of Mourad Tchiko, under the Constitution and laws of Algeria, including its labour laws, and under international human rights law.
The Coalition is deeply concerned about the treatment of Mourad Tchiko, an Algerian citizen, trade unionist and anti-corruption activist, given a lack of information regarding proceedings brought against him and the alleged refusal to provide him with a passport.
Thanks to the UN Democracy Fund for providing funding for Coalition activities (including this newsletter!) which support the Coalition in continuing its work.