Note: A complete summary of today’s General Assembly meetings will be made available after their conclusion.
INE ERIKSEN SØREIDE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway, recalled that no country is free of corruption. She focused on the benefits of combating such practices, stressing that effective anti-corruption — within the framework of integrity governance — reduces poverty, provides an attractive environment for investment, bolsters trust and strengthens democracy. National action and multilateral cooperation to fight illicit financial flows also can promote “substantial” resource mobilization for sustainable development. Welcoming that the Declaration contains commitments for establishing a culture of accountability, transparency, legality, integrity and fairness in the public and private sectors, she said it also contains important provisions on regulatory and supervisory regimes for banks and non-bank financial institutions. At the same time, she acknowledged that problems remain in implementing the Convention and within the broader international anti-corruption framework, as norms, standards and practical tools to complement the Convention are still needed in various areas. Stressing that Norway is ready to engage in efforts to advance the anti-corruption agenda, she said her country will work for a stronger international framework
GODFRED YEBOAH DAME, Attorney General and Minister for Justice of Ghana, said the fight against corruption is a main priority. The Government has enacted several measures, notably the Public Procurement Amendment Act and the Public Financial Management Act in 2016, the Companies Act in 2019 and the Anti‑Money‑Laundering Act in 2008, he said, noting that the Office of the Special Prosecutor is the single most significant body established to combat corruption. Stressing that the damage caused by corruption lies not in the number of bribes paid or wrong contracts awarded, but rather in the misallocation of resources, distortions created by discretionary incentives and violation of human rights, he said fraud, cybercrime and money‑laundering are just some examples of how crime has become transnational. With the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Secretariat, Ghana will conduct a national corruption survey later in 2021. Ghana participated in the review of Uganda, Central African Republic, Indonesia and Algeria. Domestically, it is working to close legislative gaps revealed by its own first cycle review and otherwise fulfil its Convention obligations.
JORGE ARREAZA MONTSERRAT, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, reiterated his country’s commitment to preventing, combating and punishing corruption, which is one of the main challenges to the achievement of sustainable development around the globe. Noting that people around the world continue to see their rights and aspirations frustrated by small minorities that take and hold onto power, he said Venezuela’s institutions were created to promote popular well‑being. “No society is exempt from the scourge of corruption,” he said, and much of the world is governed by a broader system that cynically prioritizes private capital over human welfare. In that vein, the Venezuelan people have been forced to shoulder the burden of a devastating economic embargo — a form of corruption, as well as an act of aggression against his country — which has prevented more than $30 billion from reaching those who need it most. “This pillaging has stripped our commercial and financial sectors,” he said, adding that the embargo is cynically being leveraged to take advantage of companies linked to Venezuela. Nonetheless, the country’s institutional infrastructure has stood firm against corruption. Venezuela will soon begin its second review under the United Nations Convention against Corruption, to which it is a signatory, demonstrating its open and transparent commitment to fighting corruption both nationally and internationally.
YENTIENG OM, Senior Minister and President of the Anti-Corruption Unit of Cambodia, expressed his country’s long‑standing support for the global fight against corruption, stressing that such efforts must begin at home. He cited the adoption of an anti-corruption law in 2010 and establishment of a related institution, along with “rectangular strategies” and relentless efforts to enact financial management, administrative, judicial and justice reforms. Over the last 10 years, the Anti-Corruption Unit has taken a three-pronged approach centred on education, prevention and law enforcement, with progress achieved thanks to participation by the public and private sectors, civil society, academia and the media. He acknowledged that every State party to the Convention has a role to play in ensuring there is no safe haven for corrupt individuals or their tainted assets. State parties must respect the sovereignty, internal affairs, legal system, development context and capacity differences of all countries, and work to improve the global anti-corruption governance system on the basis of consensus. Describing Cambodia’s approach to the pandemic as one of “self-reflection, shower, dirt scrubbing, treatment and surgery”, he said these efforts offer a valuable message for institutions to uphold their obligations to fight corruption.
HAMAD BIN NASSER AL-MISSNED, President of the Administrative Control and Transparency Authority of Qatar, highlighted the growing conviction that combating corruption is no longer a national issue, but a global effort towards sustainable development. His Government endorsed the Convention against Corruption in 2007 and has strengthened its implementation since then. This is in keeping with the values of his country, as well as the Islamic sharia, he said, noting that the Constitution of Qatar promotes the principles of rule of law and independence of judiciary. Also, his Administration is introducing specialized legislative instruments aimed at improving transparency and will hold the first Shura Council elections in October, a significant step to ensure wider participation of citizens in the Qatari shura tradition. Noting that the Doha Declaration addresses organized crime and other forms of corruption, he added that his country is also providing technical support to other countries in fighting corruption.
GUDLAUGUR THÓR THÓRDARSON, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development Cooperation of Iceland, said that fighting corruption is a key enabler of the 2030 Agenda in general and Goal 16 in particular. Iceland ratified the Convention against Corruption a decade ago and integrated its provisions into its legal system, including its definition of corrupt criminal behaviour. The Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD) Working Group on Bribery has meanwhile recognized Iceland’s enhanced detection capacities. But, there are still areas for improvement, he said, emphasizing that civil society and the media must have the voice, space and freedom to combat and expose corruption.
HILDEGARDE NAUGHTON, Minister of State for Justice of Ireland, reaffirming her country’s commitment to combat corruption, said the Government will continue to engage with all international partners to promote a culture of zero tolerance for such behaviour. Detailing progress, she said Ireland takes a whole‑of‑Government approach, marked by efforts to expose corruption, punish the corrupt, support those who have suffered and drive out corrupt culture wherever it exists. In April, Ireland published an 18-month plan outlining actions to be taken across Government to advance the recommendations contained in a far-reaching review of the structures and strategies to prevent, investigate and penalize economic crime. Ireland is also strengthening procedures to help developing countries recover the proceeds of corruption and combat bribery, she said, pointing to the national plan on business and human rights, which promotes responsible business practices at home and overseas.
GUSTAVO VILLATORO, Minister for Justice and Public Safety of El Salvador, said corruption is a scourge against democracy, the rule of law and the sustainable development of a nation, requiring establishment of an anti-corruption culture with measures to fight and preserve the heritage of the Salvadoran people. As a State party to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, his Government promotes equity, responsibility and equality before the law, fighting corruption to improve the climate for investment, trade and development. He cited the priority of countering tax evasion, with the first phase of the State initiative recovering $200 million in lost funds in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has not impeded good management of public funds, he added, as El Salvador is now providing optimal health care with modern equipment and better facilities. The Government is also restructuring its national civil police to improve procedures, planning and effectiveness in providing security.
MARIS LAURI, Minister for Justice of Estonia, associating herself with the European Union, said that “brilliant laws will not curb corruption, [but] brilliant mentality will”. There are many examples of how information technology can improve transparency and prevent corruption, she said, adding that building social trust can lead in turn to political trust. The more trust that citizens have in politicians, the judiciary and the police, the more strongly corruption is condemned. Many entrepreneurs are involved in corruption because it is a social norm in many countries, but this can be changed through international efforts, she stated.
TEODORO L. LOCSIN, JR., Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, comparing corruption to the multi-headed hydra of Greek mythology, said that his country’s President was elected on a platform of eradicating that scourge. Those who fail to follow the President’s example of personal austerity and honesty will be held accountable. “With relentless tenacity, he’s stayed committed to this goal, sprouting [hydra] heads notwithstanding.” He outlined the various steps that the Philippines has taken to combat bribery, extortion, abuse of office and conflicts of interest, including the presence of civil society observers in Government procurement procedures. However, corruption is a transnational phenomenon that requires international cooperation to cut off all avenues of crime and impunity. “We will continue to slash at that Hydra until it tires of sprouting heads,” he said. “It hasn’t happened anywhere in the world, but that’s no reason to stop trying.”
FELIZ CROUX, Head of the Anti-Corruption Office of Argentina, said corruption weakens both public and private institutions, erodes social trust and promotes organized crime. Spotlighting the need for accountability for corruption-related crimes, he stressed: “The rule of law must be able to count on an effective punitive apparatus.” However, prevention efforts are also crucial and there is a need to strengthen existing control mechanisms in order to respond to urgent challenges, as demonstrated by the current COVID-19 pandemic. Outlining Argentina’s efforts to strengthen its national institutions to combat corruption — which includes treating the phenomenon as a cross-cutting matter across all sectors — he also underlined the need to recover assets that were lost through illicit means and to provide reparations to those harmed. That complex task requires international cooperation, as assets are often moved or hidden in foreign jurisdictions and require repatriation. In that vein, he voiced Argentina’s support for coordinated global efforts to create a society that is both fairer and more equitable.
BENNY GANTZ, Minister for Justice of Israel, said his country has demonstrated its long‑standing commitment to combating corruption and promoting the values of integrity and honesty in both its public and private sectors. Welcoming the growing global recognition of the threats posed by that phenomenon, he said Israel has acceded to all relevant United Nations and OECD conventions. At the domestic level, Israel’s enforcement agencies and administrative bodies work closely together to combat corruption, and the Government recently appointed an anti-corruption coordinator within the Ministry of Justice. “I am proud to lead a strong and robust legal system with independent courts,” he said, emphasizing that Israel’s legal system is based on the tenet that are all people are equal under the law.
MAZIN AL-KAHMOUS, President of the Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority of Saudi Arabia, noted that the General Assembly’s adoption of the Political Declaration titled “Our common commitment to effectively addressing challenges and implementing measures to prevent and combat corruption and strengthen international cooperation” is the beginning of a new phase in the global battle against corruption. His country is cooperating with a network of international bodies including the World Bank and UNODC in this battle. Noting the establishment of the Riyadh Global Initiative, he invited all States to participate actively in its activities by sending experts or providing financial support. Thanking all organizations, States and other stakeholders for their efforts, he especially commended UNODC for its exceptional efforts in facilitating several meetings and working groups, which enabled the representation of all countries in the fight against corruption.
HASSAN ABDE SHAFY, President of the Administrative Control Authority of Egypt, said his country is committed to adopting strict policies to fight corruption, with commitments to the rule of law, transparency and separation of powers. He highlighted efforts to recover stolen assets, a vitally important initiative for developing countries. Citing the importance of implementing Chapters Four and Five of the Convention against Corruption, he noted Egypt is preparing to host the Ninth Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption in Sharm el Sheikh in December. Highlighting how the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the effects of corruption, he called for a declaration to strengthen international cooperation specifically to fight the scourge during such crises.
KARINA GOULD, Minister of International Development of Canada, said corruption costs the world more than $3.6 trillion annually; hinders economic growth, good governance and efficiency; blocks the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals; and often impacts women and most vulnerable people the most. “We all know what needs to be done,” she said, adding that the real question is one of political will. Underlining the central role of the Convention against Corruption, she called on Member States to implement anti-corruption measures in their COVID-19 responses. Canada supports OECD anti-bribery convention and other international and regional measures, and has implemented a range of national measures including the criminalization of bribery. Those laws send the clear message that “corruption is not tolerated, and therefore not an obstacle to doing honest business in our country”, she said, urging the private sector and the media to get involved in the fight against corruption around the world.
ANISUL HUQ, Minister, Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs of Bangladesh, said his country is firmly committed to the Convention, having participated in its first review cycle, both as a reviewing and a reviewed country. He underscored the shared responsibility to promote review findings as a credible evaluation exercise, as the review is done under a near‑universal international instrument. Bangladesh has established a comprehensive legal framework with measures to prevent corruption, enact criminal law, uphold the right to information and provide protection to whistle-blowers. Efforts also have been made to better supervise banking and non-banking financial institutions, and to both investigate and prosecute senior ministers, parliamentarians, public servants and business leaders on corruption charges. The Government also has broken up influential networks that often operate under the guise of ruling party affiliations. He expressed disappointment that, despite provisions contained in the Convention, there are barriers to asset‑recovery, pressing the States concerned to return recovered assets without conditionalities to the countries of origin. “We must identify key weaknesses and gaps in our international anti‑corruption framework and devise new and innovative responses,” he stressed.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said that corruption isn’t just a threat to the pocketbooks of ordinary citizens, it prevents economic growth, extinguishes trust in public institutions, and funds transnational crime. Her Government is building on its existing anticorruption tools and obligations, including by enforcing the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which strengthens business environments around the world, she said. Highlighting the Political Declaration’s time-bound commitment to fulfil obligations to combat bribery, including foreign bribery, she called that document, “balanced, forward leaning and aspirational”. Stressing that combating corruption is a shared responsibility, she added that prevention is just as important as investigation and prosecution. Calling on Governments to see civil society as partners, not adversaries, she said that her country is formally announcing its candidacy to host the 2023 Conference of States Parties to the Convention Against Corruption.
BELKACEM ZEGHMATI, Minister of Justice and Keeper of the Seals of Algeria, reaffirming his country’s commitment to the Convention Against Corruption and various relevant regional agreements, said his Government will be revising national legislation to bring them in line with those commitments. Corruption weakens institutions and threatens social stability, he said, adding that tackling it is crucial to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals. Strengthening the country’s counter-terrorism and anti-corruption policies is a high priority for Algeria, he said, noting the national prevention strategy which brings all stakeholders, including civil society on board. Highlighting the link between drug trafficking, money‑laundering and transnational crime, he said that exchange of information between States is vital. While the Declaration does not meet the aspirations of all parties, it will breathe new life into the implementation of the Convention against Corruption.
UTO TAKASHI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, said the international community has a responsibility to tackle corruption, which hampers economic growth and sustainable development. Japan recently hosted the fourteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, where the Kyoto Declaration was adopted. That document puts forward effective anti-corruption efforts by ensuring the use of the United Nations Convention against Corruption and appropriate measures to effectively disrupt the existing links between organized criminal groups and corruption, including by preventing and combating bribery and the laundering of criminal proceeds. Noting that the Kyoto Declaration includes initiatives that resonate closely with the Political Declaration adopted on 2 June, he advocated for making both agreements central priorities to be addressed by the global community.
ELANAS JABLONSKAS, Vice‑Minister for Justice of Lithuania, said it is a political priority for the Government to strengthen international relations in the global fight against corruption. Stressing that, in extreme cases, corruption can completely destroy trust in the State, he said political will is required for effective long-term national reform. Particular measures must be put in place to prevent, detect, prosecute and sanction corruption, as well as to create a resilient environment through the public sector, together with business and society as a whole. For its part, Lithuania has made significant progress in creating a transparent environment, with prevention policies based on openness and agreement. Preventive measures must focus on the problems they seek to solve and be applied when there is a real need. “Otherwise, they can turn into simple bureaucratic practices,” he said. In the absence of proper implementation and follow-up, even the most complex preventive strategy will remain a mere formality and have little impact on curbing corrupt behaviour, he cautioned, endorsing today’s statement by the European Union.
CHRISTIAN GUILLERMET, Vice‑Minister for Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica, said that corruption and transnational crime are a threat to democracy and sustainable development. Noting that criminal networks operate freely in new and not‑yet‑regulated platforms such as digital technologies, he called for a resounding international response to this. Corruption diverts public funds from fundamental investments in education and health care, and it undermines political stability. Bribery alone costs the world 2 per cent of the global gross domestic product (GDP), he said, adding that corruption not only entrenches inequality, it thrives in inequality. Highlighting Sustainable Development Goal 16, he said that fighting corruption means improving access to justice. His Government has an inter-institutional and multisectoral vision of the fight against corruption, he said, especially highlighting the establishment of a unified platform and protocol for publication of open data.
JITENDRA SINGH, Minister of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions of India, noting the socioeconomic effects of the pandemic, said his Government has a zero-tolerance policy to corruption. His country is investing in the decentralization of decision-making by facilitating innovative solutions and digital tools. India is on “a digital-first trajectory”, he said, adding that the pragmatic use of technology is enabling his Government to deliver benefits to rural areas. Noting the Prevention of Corruption Amendment Act 2018, he said it criminalizes giving bribes and deters both individuals and corporate entities. Drawing attention to the problem posed by fugitive economic offenders who flee from national jurisdictions with their assets, he said his Government is pursuing policies to bring to justice anyone who exploits gaps in international cooperation, by fleeing a warrant of interest issued in the country.
OLEG SYROMOLOTOV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said the need to strengthen international cooperation in countering corruption is as relevant today as it has ever been. The Russian Federation was a key player in drafting the Convention against Corruption, which remains a unique and universal legal instrument, as well as a reliable tool to help combat the phenomenon. Calling upon all States parties to implement the Convention in full respect for national sovereignty, territorial integrity and without interfering in any domestic affairs, he said maintaining a depoliticized, intergovernmental and egalitarian international system against corruption is crucial. Advocating for the United Nations to play a central coordinating role in those effort, she said her country has established a strong anti-corruption architecture at the national level, and updates its nation plan against corruption at regular four-year intervals. It is also working to implement new technologies to identify and address acts of corruption, he added, while spotlighting the increasingly complex challenge of recovering and repatriating ill‑gotten gains and advocating for a new international instrument to streamline that process.
MALIN BRÄNNKÄRR, State Secretary of Finland, associating herself with the European Union, expressed her country’s deep commitment to combating corruption and warned that the very credibility of the global rule of law is at stake in those efforts. Against the backdrop of the twin crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change — both of which generate risks for corruption — international cooperation and holistic measures are needed more than ever. “At times of crisis, it is ever more important to engage all stakeholders in the fight against corruption and to reinforce the role of civil society, academia and the media,” she said, announcing that Finland adopted its first national anti-corruption strategy last week. The framework is closely aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals and aims to build a society where corruption cannot take hold and will never go unnoticed, she said.
ABDULRASHEED BAWA, Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission of Nigeria, said corruption across national borders has huge negative impacts on the stability, peace and economic prospects of millions, particularly in developing countries. Describing it as one of the most pervasive and daunting challenges facing humanity, he said Nigeria, like many other nations, has lost billions of dollars to foreign tax havens, stolen and expatriated by corrupt leaders and their foreign accomplices including multinational companies. However, since the return of democracy in 1999, the country has prioritized the fight against corruption and established various anti-corruption agencies targeted to combat economic and financial crimes. It is also a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Corruption. Outlining national efforts, he said public corruption is being exposed daily, several individuals have been prosecuted and millions of dollars have been recovered. Meanwhile, procurement processes have been strengthened, the activities of “gate keepers” are being monitored and a Special Control Unit against Money‑Laundering was created to serve as a deterrent.
ANDRIANIRINA HERILAZA ERIC, Director‑General of the Independent Anti‑Corruption Office of Madagascar, noting the increase in corruption worldwide, welcomed the adoption of the Political Declaration. His Government is establishing innovative procedures to tackle corruption at its roots, taking into account the three pillars of education, prevention and prevention. School curricula aim at instilling integrity in students, he said, also noting a strong public‑awareness campaign against corruption that has successfully stigmatized this phenomenon. Stressing the importance of infusing all public and private environments with anti-corruption ethics, he said his country has an interactive mechanism that enables citizens to lodge complaints online. Madagascar has also renewed its legal arsenal, he said, noting ongoing efforts to establish laws for recovery of assets.
HARIB AL AMIMI, President of the Supreme Audit Institution of the United Arab Emirates and President of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, said that corruption hinders development projects while fuelling terrorism. Calling on the international community to overcome corruption more effectively, he said that his country has supported UNODC financially as part of the implementation of the Abu Dhabi Declaration. Expressing appreciation to all parties, including civil society, for their contribution to the Declaration adopted by the Assembly, he said the text will enable his country in its efforts to tackle corruption at the national level.
ABAI MOLDOKMATOV, Deputy General Prosecutor General of Kyrgyzstan, echoed other speakers in advocating for the United Nations to play a central role in coordinating efforts to counter corruption, as a top priority. Noting that Kyrgyzstan is actively participating in the United Nations review mechanism’s examination of several peer countries, and has also embarked on its own review, he said that international relations have fundamentally changed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Changes to the cooperation mechanisms laid out in the Convention against Corruption are therefore needed, including on such matters as requests to provide mutual legal assistance. Recalling that Kyrgyzstan’s recent elections were deemed by observers to be free, transparent and fully democratic, he said the country has also begun criminal prosecutions of high-ranking individuals for corruption-related crimes for the first time. Among other things, the country is also working to prevent corruption in the context of the pandemic, including by preventing bribery and speculation.
ROBERT SUMI, Chief Commissioner of the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption of Slovenia, agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic and recent exponential technological progress necessitate improved training for human regulators and the strengthened use of digital oversight tools. Those concepts are already in place in Slovenia, which ranks at the top of countries worldwide in terms of open data availability. Among other innovative tools, the general public in Slovenia has access to a user-friendly database on public officials. There is also a tool that matches financial transactions to companies’ records. In that way, Slovenia has built broad transparency and actively supports civil society in its efforts to investigate corruption crimes, he said.
OLEKSANDR NOVIKOV, Head of the National Agency on Corruption Prevention of Ukraine, said his country is currently engaged in not one, but two wars — one against the threat posed by troops of the Russian Federation, and the other against corrupt officials. Describing the latter as a struggle for the country’s democratic future, he said only modern weapons — including strong anti-corruption institutions and digital tools — will win both wars. “It is impossible to bribe a computer,” he said, noting that Ukraine was the first country in the world to introduce a digital passport with the same legal power as the paper one. Over the next three years, it will make 100 per cent of public services available online, resulting in a significant decrease in opportunities for corruption. Ukraine’s National Agency on Corruption Prevention has the world’s most extensive data on the assets of public officials — obtained through an open register of e‑declarations — with more than 800,000 e-declarations every year. In addition, in 2020, Ukraine engaged more than 100 stakeholders in the development of a National Anti-corruption Strategy, which will provide clear guidelines for judicial and law enforcement reform, a better business environment and a corruption-free defence sector, he said.