Fiscal crisis an opportunity to fight corruption, head of UN business alliance says

Georg Kell, Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact Office

26 February 2009 – During the world economic downtown, corporate engagement with ethics, trust and the fight against corruption is growing, the head of the United Nation’s alliance for responsible business said today.

“In times of crisis and loss of confidence it is even more important to restore trust, and how do you do this from a corporate angle?” Georg Kell, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact (UNGC), said at a press conference that followed an anti-corruption meeting for the initiative, which was created by the world Organization in 2000.

“Clearly,” he said, “the issue of values and principles in restoring trust and confidence is today more important than ever and the key component of this is indeed the work on anti-corruption, which is an integral part of our corporate citizenship agenda.”

The Compact pledges participating businesses – now numbering some 5,000 in over 100 countries – to observe principles regarding human rights, labour rights, environmental sustainability as well as the fight against corruption.

Mr. Kell was joined at the press conference by Ntombifuthi Mtoba, Chair of the Board of Deloitte, South Africa; Jermyn Brooks, Director of Global Private Sector Programmes of Transparency International; and Eckart Sunner, Chief Compliance Officer of the corporation BASF AG.

Today’s meeting was attended by international experts from all continents, leading institutional actors and corporate participants, said Ms. Mtoba, whose task team focused on anticorruption reporting.

Corruption education, business resources for the fight against corruption and media engagement on the issue were other components of the effort, she added.

From the corporate angle, Mr. Sunner said reporting on anti-corruption efforts was more difficult than most issues, so the comprehensive guidance being by the group was very valuable.

Mr. Brooks, whose organization focuses on the fight against corruption, said that another purpose of the meeting was to mobilize Global Compact participants as a lobby to get States to take the UN convention against corruption seriously.

So there would probably be some sort of signed outcome document from the meeting going to Member States, perhaps via the Secretary-General, he said.

There was some possibility that there was new, illegal financial activity because of the crisis, Mr. Brooks added, but there was also the phenomenon of various kinds of corruption, such as Ponzi schemes, collapsing because of the lack of cheap, ready credit.

In addition, he noted that a discussion had started on whether some practices were corrupt even if not strictly illegal, such as the insistence of senior bankers on their generous contractual payments, even when their banks were losing huge sums of money.

“That debate is now raging in full,” he said.


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