Mérida, México 2003

Trillion-dollar scourge of corruption under attack, as UN conference closes in Merida

(MERIDA, MEXICO, 11 December) Ninety-four countries attending the UN Convention Against Corruption over the last three days in Merida, Mexico, have signed “a convention with teeth”, said Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, at a concluding press conference today.

The initial signings of the “Merida Convention” is not the end of the process, but the beginning of ratification and eventual entry into force.

Entry into force will commence when a minimum of 30 countries complete the process of ratification. Ratification depends on countries developing legislative and administrative measures in accord with the provisions of the Convention, and giving final political approval. Once the Convention enters into force, a Conference of the States parties will be established to monitor compliance.

The provisions of the Convention require countries to criminalize a range of corrupt activities, take action to promote integrity and to prevent corruption; and to cooperate with other States Parties. It also establishes, for the first time, legal mechanisms for the return of looted assets that have been transferred to other countries.

Patricia Olamendi, Mexican representative in the early negotiations of the Convention and the Subsecretary for Global Issues, expressed satisfaction that nearly all of the world’s developed countries have already signed the Convention.

Corruption is a global problem, and the day that the developing countries are described as the good guys and developing countries as the bad guy are gone, she said. She also said that Mexico would make use of procedures for the reclamation of looted assets that now reside in rich countries.

At a press conference held yesterday by experts and corruption fighters who were attending the Merida conference, a benchmark figure for the dollar value of worldwide corruption was established.

By very rough but conservative estimate, income derived from illicit transactions is five per cent of the volume of total global output, World Bank Director for Global Governance Daniel Kaufmann said at the briefing. Bribes and graft make up at least half of that amount, he said. Given a gross world product of $33 trillion, a low figure for the dollar amount paid out each year in corrupt transactions would be nearly one trillion dollars.

Information on the Merida conference and the new Convention can be found at: http://www.un.org/webcast/merida, and at: http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/crime_convention_corruption.html