UNCAC Coalition Statement to the Plenary Assembly of the Fifth COSP

Panama City, 26 November 2013.

Statement by the UNCAC Coalition to the plenary assembly of the Fifth Session of the Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption

Vincent Lazatin, Chair, UNCAC Coalition Coordination Committee

Mr President, distinguished delegates,

My name is Vincent Lazatin. I am the Executive Director of the Transparency and Accountability Network in the Philippines. Today, I address you as chair of the UNCAC Coalition, a network of over 350 public interest organisations in more than 100 countries dedicated to the ratification, implementation and monitoring of the UNCAC.

Earlier this month on November 8 super typhoon Haiyan tore through and ravaged the central part of my country. It is said that it was the strongest storm to hit landfall in recorded history. In its wake Haiyan flattened whole cities and towns, leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless and several thousand dead.

As I reflected on the many lives destroyed by the super typhoon, I thought about another calamity that has ravaged societies for decades with far worse devastation. Like a never-ending super typhoon, corruption affects whole populations, and leaves them devastated and destitute in its wake. For the people around the world whose lives are being destroyed or diminished by corruption, relief must come now. With the urgency and sense of purpose that attends relief efforts to survivors of natural disasters, so too must we move with utmost dispatch to protect citizens from the debilitating effects of the man-made calamity of corruption.

The UN Convention against Corruption and efforts to counter corruption should be given the highest priority by States parties. Unlike natural disasters, man-made ones like corruption can and must be averted. The convention provides the necessary tools and preventive measures to cut down a storm even before it begins. If we fail to contain corruption, then all our other efforts at sustainable and equitable development will fail.

Mr. President, distinguished delegates, this year we commemorate the UNCAC’s tenth anniversary. The convention holds out much promise and raises such hopes as it is the key international framework for addressing corruption. We are all here for the same reason: because we want to see those promises and hopes fulfilled. We are all here to address the global problem of corruption because we know it causes profound injustice in the lives millions of people worldwide. It undermines democratic institutions, slows economic development and contributes to government instability. It runs counter to human rights and human dignity. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon has rightly pointed out that it is the world’s vulnerable who suffer the most from corruption.

The best birthday celebration for the UNCAC would be a conference that produces robust resolutions advancing national and international anti-corruption efforts.

We must end legally-permitted secrecy practices that shield the corrupt. We must close gaps in criminal law enforcement that lead to leniency for corruption offenders, especially influential ones.

Even as the UNCAC provides a global legal framework to fight corruption we still need strong political commitment and unified global efforts to give life to this document. It is this that we are looking for at the Conference of States Parties this week and we come ready to support and contribute our experience, expertise and passion. The Conference of States Parties and the subsidiary bodies of this conference play a crucial and indispensable role in ensuring that the convention is effective and impacts on people’s lives.

For this reason, we have developed a set of proposals for action. These are contained in a Coalition statement that is an official submission to this Conference. This statement represents the consensus among 350 organisations worldwide about steps needed to strengthen the fight against corruption, a battle which people around the world believe we are presently losing.

Our proposals cover the prevention, criminalisation and asset recovery chapters of the convention as well as the review mechanism.

Taking the last of these first. We applaud that there is now an UNCAC review mechanism up and running but believe that much more needs to be done before that mechanism is really effective. First and foremost there needs to be a follow-up process to the first cycle of reviews. In addition, transparency of the process and real involvement of informed stakeholders are also key to the effectiveness and impact of the process. We believe there should also be consideration for the establishment of a reporting procedure.

This conference should also take bold steps forward in the area of prevention. It is essential to pay more attention to access to information in this conference, its subsidiary bodies and in States Parties. Another issue that should be addressed promptly is the secrecy of company ownership and financial assets.

In the area of criminalisation and law enforcement we urge the conference to pay closer attention to the numerous loopholes for the corrupt, whether through immunities or settlements or lack of protection for whistleblowers. Requiring urgent attention as well is securing the independence and resourcing of the judiciary and anti-corruption agencies, which are the bulwarks of the rule of law.

And last but not least, we have proposals to accelerate the freezing, confiscation and return of assets. Ladies and gentlemen progress in this area has been lamentably slow. Much more needs to be done.

Ladies and gentlemen, the UNCAC celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and we are still facing challenges that can only be addressed through real commitment of the international community in terms of time and resources. Those attending this conference bear a great responsibility and should follow through with bold action! People around the world are calling for change. They are counting on results at this conference this week. They are counting on us. The time for action is now.

Thank you Mr President, thank you ladies and gentlemen.