International Chamber of Commerce



Presentation by the International Chamber of Commerce

 At the Signing Conference of the

UN Convention Against Corruption

 Mérida, Mexico

 9 - 11 December 2003



ICC, the world business organization, welcomes the signing of the UN Convention Against Corruption. ICC's commitment to combating international corruption dates back to 1975 when it established a blue-ribbon committee chaired by Lord Shaw cross, former Attorney General of Great Britain. In 1977 the Shaw cross Committee issued a ground-breaking report calling for complementary action against corruption by international organizations, national governments, and the business community.


The Shaw cross Report recommended that the United Nations adopt a convention prohibiting extortion and bribery. ICC actively supported the UN's effort in the 1980s to reach agreement on such a convention. That effort failed amidst bitter recriminations between industrialized and developing states. Each blamed the other for the spread of corruption and refused to acknowledge a shared responsibility for combating corruption. ICC is pleased to compliment the UN Ad Hoc Committee for the Negotiation of the Convention, and the governments assembled at this signing conference, for achieving what was impossible two decades ago.


Role of ICC

The 1977 Shaw cross Report also promulgated the groundbreaking ICC Rules of Conduct on Extortion and Bribery in International Business Transactions. These Rules clearly and succinctly specify what companies must do to combat corruption. They have served as a model for numerous corporate compliance policies. The ICC Rules reflect the fundamental premise that governments alone cannot overcome corruption, that the business community must gets its house in order.


ICC's Commission on Anti-Corruption continues the work started by the Shaw cross Committee; it has 71 members from 31 countries. We have updated the Rules of Conduct, most recently in 1999. We have also published Fighting Corruption: A Corporate Practices Manual" a detailed guide to compliance with the ICC Rules of Conduct and with the 1997 OECD Convention to Combat Corruption in International Business Transactions. The chapters of "Fighting Corruption" were written by members of our Commission with extensive practical experience in their subjects.


ICC actively supported the development of the 1997 OECD Convention to Combat Bribery of Foreign Public Officials, and worked for its ratification. We have also participated in the follow-up monitoring programme of the OECD's Working Group on Bribery. We conducted a detailed study of the laws dealing with private commercial bribery in OECD countries, to assist the . OECD Working Group in its consideration of whether to cover bribery within the private sector.


Our Commission regularly followed the evolution of the UN Convention. We submitted proposals to the UN Ad Hoc Committee and attended its meetings.


ICC Reactions to the UN Convention

The UN Convention Against Corruption represents a major step forward. It makes the prohibition of corruption an integral part of the international public order. Because corruption is a worldwide problem, global action under the UN Convention is required. The instrument provides a comprehensive framework for dealing with corruption in the public sector and in the private sector; this is particularly important for countries not covered by regional conventions. The UN Convention's prohibition of extortion by public officials complements the OECD Convention's efforts to prohibit companies from bribing foreign officials. ICC has long argued that fighting corruption requires action against extortion as much as against bribery. The UN Convention against Corruption addresses serious shortcomings in mutual legal assistance and asset recovery, two key tools for combating international corruption that can only be strengthened through comprehensive worldwide efforts.


Even though this signing conference is an occasion for celebration, it is important to call attention to some serious deficiencies in the Convention. ICC is concerned by the large number of provisions which are discretionary in nature. The mix of binding and non-binding provisions undercuts the objective of developing consistent international rules. It means that the international business community will have to deal with a patchwork of differing laws and regulations. There is also considerable concern that a number of the Convention's provisions are loosely worded and could be interpreted in unfair and unpredictable ways; examples include Article 18 Trading in influence, Article 20 Illicit enrichment, and Article 35 Compensation for damage. With these as well as other articles, assurance that procedural safeguards will apply would mitigate concerns about arbitrary actions.


Need for Follow-up Monitoring

ICC is seriously concerned by the lack of a follow-up monitoring process. Our experience with the OECD Convention makes clear that signing a convention is only a beginning. Whether the UN Convention against Corruption will make a practical impact will depend on whether there will be an effective follow-up monitoring process. Under Article 63, consideration of such a process is deferred to a Conference of the States Parties to be convened after the Convention enters into effect. Delaying work on a monitoring process is dangerous because developing such a process will be difficult and time consuming. Work should start early next year. The goal should be to have a monitoring process in place when the UN instrument becomes effective.


One of the objectives of follow-up monitoring should be to assure consistent implementation and availability of procedural safeguards. Assurance that an effective monitoring process will be established should alleviate some of the concerns of the business community we have mentioned. ICC would be pleased to participate in the work of designing the monitoring process and in its operation. The need for technical assistance should be dealt with as part of the follow-up monitoring process. However technical assistance is no substitute for monitoring.



ICC applauds the UN and the signatory states for producing a convention which brings to the forefront that corruption is wrong in all transactions, in every country, and in all circumstances. ICC and its national committees in over eighty countries are ready to work with the United Nations to get the Convention ratified and to make sure that it accomplishes its objectives.


Fritz Heimann

Vice Chair

ICC Commission on Anti-Corruption

11 December 2003