Media Kit: Progress on a UN Convention against Corruption
The UN General Assembly soon will be considering a proposed international legal instrument that would help governments to fight corruption and to track down illegally transferred funds. Critical political support can come from the International Conference on Financing for Development.
Corruption has come to be recognized as a primary impediment to successful development and economic practice in all countries of the world. Since September 11, concern about the closely related issues of money laundering, international money transfers and "black" or "gray" money has taken on new urgency.
In 1996, World Bank President James Wolfensohn identified the fight against "the cancer of corruption" as a top Bank priority. That same year, broad international support for combating corruption took the shape of a landmark resolution of the UN General Assembly [A/RES/51/191], calling on States to outlaw payment of bribes to public officials in the course of international financial transactions and to disallow tax deductions for such payments. The Assembly in the same session also endorsed a framework Code of Conduct for Public Officials.
The issue surfaced again in intergovernmental meetings in preparation for the International Conference on Financing for Development, to take place in Monterrey, Mexico in March 2002. Broad support was indicated for moving ahead on a comprehensive and legally binding international instrument on corruption.
The General Assembly has already initiated work on an anti-corruption pact, issuing instructions [resolutions 55/61 and 55/188] to the Vienna-based UN Centre for International Crime Prevention to help the Assembly define the "scope and coverage" of an international convention. The GA also asked the Centre to take into account means to repatriate funds that are illicitly transferred internationally.
In August 2001, the Centre hosted a meeting of the Intergovernmental Open-ended Expert Group. The Group recommended that UN Member States should draft by the end of 2003 a broad anti-corruption treaty that defines preventive measures and criminalization sanctions and remedies. More specifically, the Expert Group envisioned provisions on difficult and complex issues, such as jurisdiction, seizures of property or funds, witness protection, liability of legal persons, the return of illegally transferred funds and international cooperation.
A General Assembly Ad Hoc Committee on the elaboration of an anti-corruption convention convened for the first time in Vienna from 21 January to 2 February 2002, to begin work on drawing up a draft treaty. The Committee will meet again in Vienna in June.
What the Convention would do
The content of the proposed Convention against Corruption remains to be written. But indications of some areas where agreement might be reached on potential provisions came from a 1999 meeting of the UN Expert Group Meeting on Corruption and its Financial Channels. Convened under a mandate from the UN Economic and Social Council, the Expert Group stressed the need to persuade insufficiently regulated financial centres to adopt rules that will allow them to participate in international efforts to trace and act against the proceeds of corruption. The Group concluded that bank secrecy and tax provisions at the national level should not hamper international anti-corruption efforts, and urged the supervision of financial systems and activities according to internationally accepted principles. Further, financial institutions should be required to accurately identify their customers, to exercise vigilance and to report suspicious transactions.
Measures to recover funds illicitly exported by corrupt leaders would need to address a series of practical difficulties, according to a report issued early in 2002 by the UN Secretary-General [E/CN.15/2002/3]. Such transfers generally involve immense sums and a high level of uncertainty as to their sources, current locations and who the legitimate beneficiaries of repatriation should be. In addition, a Government seeking repatriation may not have the necessary expertise or resources to trace funds that have passed through a series of multiple jurisdictions, electronic transfers and other sophisticated money-laundering maneuvers.
No comprehensive anti-corruption treaty of global scope currently exists. A number of related international and regional efforts are underway, however, as summarized below. [For a more comprehensive treatment, see Technical Note number 2 - document A/AC.257/27/Add.2 -prepared by the UN Secretariat.]
Development Coordinating Secretariat
Copyrightę 2002 United Nations, 10 February 2003. This is an archived website.