Mérida, México 2003

UN Secretary-General: new Convention promises to stem corruption, return looted assets to poor countries

(MERIDA, MEXICO, 9 December) Urging countries of the world to ratify the new UN Convention against Corruption on an urgent basis, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a message to an international signing conference convened today that the treaty, when in force, would “help to ensure that the weak and vulnerable are protected from the greed of corrupt officials and unscrupulous profiteers”.

A Convention provision for return of illicit payoffs that have been transferred overseas constitutes “a major breakthrough”, the Secretary-General said in his message, delivered to the conference on his behalf by UN Legal Counsel Hans Corell. “It will help tackle a pressing problem for many developing countries, where corrupt elites have looted billions of dollars that are now desperately needed by new governments to redress the social and economic damage inflicted on their societies.”

The first group of countries to announce that they will sign the Convention — Mexico, Kenya, Italy, the United States, Paraguay, Japan, Mauritius, Kuwait, Finland, Sweden, Indonesia, Uruguay, South Africa, Norway, Guatemala, Venezuela and Peru — will do so today.

Signing the Convention is an indication of a country’s intention to ratify, through a process that generally takes several years. But in an historic step, Kenya announced today that it will sign and also become the first country to ratify the Convention against Corruption. The recently installed government of Kenya, which has been hailed by many as an anti-corruption success story, is represented in Merida by Mr. Kiraitu Murungi, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.

For more information, contact Tim Wall of the UN Department of Public Information, at 1-917-913-0226