UNGASS 2021 – UN General Assembly Special Session against Corruption

UN Headquarters in New York.  Credit: Wikicommons/Neptuul (CC)
UN Headquarters in New York. Credit: Wikicommons/Neptuul (CC)

Last updated: 1 September August 2020 

On 2- 4 June 2021, the first-ever UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) focused on corruption will take place in New York. The UNGASS was officially set for these dates in UN General Assembly resolution 74/568 on 31 August 2020.

The UNGASS provides an opportunity to shape the global anti-corruption agenda for the next decade – by advancing bold and innovative approaches, scaling best practices and developing new standards and mechanisms.

  • The Coalition is currently preparing a detailed second submission to the UNGASS consultation website, for which we are encouraging civil society organisations and experts to provide input through this survey by 25 March, 2020: The survey is available in English, French and Spanish. For more details, please see this post

Contributions

UNODC has launched a website to solicit and publish submissions from governments, UN bodies, international organisations and civil society organisations: http://ungass2021.org/

Stakeholders are encouraged to submit their contributions to UNODC to email hidden; JavaScript is required.

We have been told that there is no firm deadline for civil society input but early submissions are encouraged by UNODC which has asked governments to submit their input for a zero draft of the UNGASS’ Political Declaration by 1 March 2020.

Contributions by the UNCAC Coalition
  • First Submission to the Consultation Process, 03 March 2020: In this initial submission, we outline key topics we believe the UNGASS’ political declaration should address. Following a broader consultation process among UNCAC Coalition members, we will elaborate in more detail on the specific actions that should be taken in a second, forthcoming, submission. (French version available here – Spanish version available here.)
  • Transparency International and the UNCAC Coalition’s joint submission, 12 June 2020: this submission proposes a new multilateral agreement on asset recovery to advance justice, human rights and the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Opportunities to become involved:
– The UNCAC Coalition held a consultation with its members and the groups in its network to collect input for a detailed submission in March-April 2020, to which you can still contribute.
– If you would like to share your positions and input and contribute or coordinate UNGASS advocacy, get in touch with us: email hidden; JavaScript is required  
Apply to join the UNCAC Coalition to become fully involved in our UNGASS advocacy.
– You can also make a direct contribution to the consultation process, as outlined above.

Timetable of preparatory meetings

A zero draft of the Political Declaration will be prepared by UNODC, taking into account input received from States Parties through the consultation process . General Assembly Resolution 74/276, reiterated the importance of having an inclusive preparatory process, and encouraged civil society and academia, as well as other relevant stakeholders, such as UN specialised entities and international organisations, to fully contribute to the preparatory process, and requested UNODC to collect such contributions, including specific recommendations, and make them available to the CoSP.  All the contributions are being posted on www.ungass2021.org for the ease of reference of delegations that will participate in the negotiations of the draft political declaration.

Three CoSP intersessional meetings  will take place in 2020 and 2021,  to support the preparation and negotiation  process of  the political declaration of the UNGASS, followed by a Special Session of the CoSP, that will be held for the purpose of approving the political declaration. 

The CoSP intersessional meetings are scheduled  for the following dates:   

  • 2- 4 September 2020: Focus on prevention, criminalisation and law enforcement. 
  • 19- 20 November 2020:  Focus on asset recovery and international cooperation. 
  • 22- 23 February 2021: Thematic focus yet to be decided. 

Between those intersessional meetings, informal negotiations will also take place in Vienna (where civil society will be excluded).  The political declaration will be approved at a special CoSP session in 7 May  2021, and will be transmitted to the General Assembly for adoption. 

Additional information will be made available on this website, including the above mentioned timeline. 

Special arrangements for participation in the meeting scheduled for 2- 4 September: 

  • The intersessional meetings can be attended by organisations that were registered as observers for the UNCAC CoSP 8 in Abu Dhabi in December 2019. A formal invitation, such as the invitation in this link, will be sent to those organisations that were admitted to the last CoSP.  
  • The meetings will be held in a ‘mixed model’ of participation- One delegate could attend the meeting in person (with a maximum of 300 participants in person), while one more  delegate could attend the meeting remotely, using the Interprefy platform . (with a max. of 700 remote participants). 
  • Delegations, including CSOs,  will have the opportunity to speak. UNODC  secretariat asks for an indication wether a statement will be made by the representative participating remotely. In case delegations, including CSOs, would like to deliver a statement virtually, the statement must be sent to UNODC  in advance in writing, or to be recorded as a video and to be sent to the secretariat beforehand. 
  • Information on the composition of the Organization’s delegation, should include the following: (a) name(s); (b) title(s); (c) contact details including individual email addresses which will be used to grant and verify virtual access to the session and, for those participating in person, for contact tracing purposes if needed; (d) a clear indication of whether delegates will participate in person or remotely; (e) and for those participating remotely the role to be assigned (speaker or observer role).
  • Registrations received for the originally planned dates of the first intersessional meeting will be considered valid for the new dates. Delegations are kindly requested to confirm those registrations or inform the secretariat of any subsequent changes to the composition of the delegation, as well as the role (speaker or observer role) of the remote participants. 
  • The information should be provided to the secretariat as soon as possible and not later than 24 August 2020. Only scanned copies of official letters will be accepted by email and should be sent directly to the secretariat of the Conference of the States Parties, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, PO Box 500, 1400 Vienna, Austria, Fax: +43 1 26060 5841, or a scanned copy to email: email hidden; JavaScript is required

In case you are interested in contributing to UNCAC Coalition advocacy, attending Intersessional meetings and/or the UNGASS 2021, please let us know – and consider becoming a member of the UNCAC Coalition.

Basis for the UNGASS

The basis for the UNGASS is the General Assembly resolution 73/191, adopted on 17 December 2018, in which the Assembly decides to hold a special session “on challenges and measures to prevent and combat corruption and strengthen international cooperation” and that this session “shall adopt a concise and action-oriented political declaration, agreed upon in advance by consensus through intergovernmental negotiations under the auspices of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption.”

The resolution was initiated and drafted by Colombia, Peru and Norway, as well as Belize, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia.

The 8th Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC CoSP8) negotiated and approved a draft resolution on the “Special session of the General Assembly against corruption” that was adopted on 1 June  by the General Assembly in New York. 

Civil society participation in the UNGASS

The UNCAC Coalition has advocated for a strong inclusion of civil society organisations in the UNGASS and its preparation.

The question of how and to what extent NGOs can participate in the UNGASS proved to be highly contentious, as some countries sought to limit civic space – while many others have highlighted the importance of civil society involvement in the UNGASS and its preparation.

The resolution prepared by the CoSP and adopted by the General Assembly provides the following framework for civil society participation in the UNGASS:

UNGASS preparations (Vienna and online)

  • In the preparation of the UNGASS, all organisational and substantive matters are to be organised in an “open-ended and transparent manner”;
  • The resolution “reiterates the importance of an inclusive preparatory process, including extensive substantive consultations” and encourages “civil society, academia and other relevant stakeholders” (alongside UN bodies and other relevant international and regional organisations) “to fully contribute to the preparatory process”, requesting UNODC to collect and make available such contributions, including specific recommendations on the issues to be addressed by the UNGASS;
  • The intercessional meetings in Vienna can only be attended by non-governmental organisations that had observer status at the 8th UNCAC CoSP in Abu Dhabi – those that have, such as the UNCAC Coalition, can include representatives of other groups in their delegation;
  • Similar to the CoSP, NGOs can speak during the meetings. It may also be possible to show pre-recorded video statements during the intercessional.

UNGASS in New York

  • Representatives of NGOs with ECOSOC consultative status are invited to participate in the UNGASS;
  • NGOs without ECOSOC consultative status: the President of the UN General Assembly will draw up a list of “other relevant representatives of non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations, academic institutions and the private sector who may attend the special session”, and submit the list to Member States for their consideration on a non-objection basis. This means that governments will be able to object against certain NGOs attending the UNGASS if they do not have ECOSOC consultative status;
  • Time permitting, a limited number of representatives from relevant organisations, selected by the President of the General Assembly in consultation with Member States, will be allowed to make statements.

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