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: 20 April 2021 

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 held two virtual briefing sessions in February 2021 for interested Civil Society participants with the aim of sharing information about the upcoming UNGASS, discussing the state of negotiations and ongoing preparations. Read more about the briefings here.
  • The Coalition held three issue-specific briefing sessions in March 2021 for UNGASS delegates involved in the negotiations for the Political Declaration. Read a recap of the sessions, featuring input from experts and practitioners in the field on open contracting and procurement transparency, asset and interest disclosure, and beneficial ownership transparency.
  • The Coalition held two further briefing sessions in April 2021 for any interested Civil Society Organizations to clarify the remaining path to the UNGASS, share information on what will happen, and opportunities to become involved at this stage. If you missed the session, more information from these briefings with practical details about UNGASS modalities and advocacy opportunities can be found here.

Registration

The deadline for CSOs without ECOSOC status to apply for (virtual) participation in the UNGASS has already passed. However, ECOSOC accredited NGOs can still register through the UN NGO Branch in New York

The window to apply for side events is currently open (deadline: 30 April) but only ECOSOC NGOs are eligible to apply others have to partner with countries or international organizations.

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

Opportunities to become involved:
– 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 took place as follows:

  • 2- 4 September 2020: Focus on prevention, criminalisation and law enforcement.  Find a recap of the session here.
  • 19- 20 November 2020:  Focus on asset recovery and international cooperation. Find a recap of the session here.
  • 22- 23 February 2021: Focus on sustained political commitments to the UNCAC, beneficial ownership transparency,  measures to address impunity and the role of education and technology in anti-corruption efforts. Find a recap of the session here.

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 on 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, 2020: 

The intersessional meetings were attended by organisations that were registered as observers for the UNCAC CoSP 8 in Abu Dhabi in December 2019. The meetings were held in a ‘mixed model’ of participation – with one in-person delegate, and one more delegate attending remotely. Delegations, including CSOs,  had the opportunity to speak, with the option to deliver a statement virtually or recorded as a video.

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 intersessional.

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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Global civil society network promoting the implementation and monitoring of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC)