Fight against Corruption Must Continue, Deputy Secretary-General Tells High-Level Panel on Accountability, Transparency, Sustainable Development

9 July 2012

Fight against Corruption Must Continue, Deputy Secretary-General Tells High-Level Panel on Accountability, Transparency, Sustainable Development

9 July 2012
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Fight against Corruption Must Continue, Deputy Secretary-General Tells High-Level


Panel on Accountability, Transparency, Sustainable Development


Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s opening remarks at the Economic and Social Council high-level panel on accountability, transparency and sustainable development, in New York on 9 July:

I am honoured to participate in this panel, and to bring greetings from the Secretary-General, who is on his way back from Japan.  I feel very much at home with you as former Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council.

Before I talk about the fight against corruption — which is the main focus of today’s event — I would like to say a few words about sustainable development, accountability and transparency.

Last month, the Rio+20 Conference renewed the global commitment to building a future based on greater prosperity and equitable growth for all on a healthy planet.  We must listen to this call for change.  Declarations must be followed by action.

We live in a time of protracted and interrelated crises — such as food, fuel and energy — as well as fiscal and economic conditions that threaten to slow down or even reverse our advances towards the Millennium Development Goals.  The global partnership for development is under strain.  Last year, official development assistance declined for the first time in many years.

Strong commitments were made at Rio+20.  For these pledges to be credible, we have to deliver on previous commitments.  As a world community, we must make rhetoric a reality and keep our promises to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  We still have three and a half years to go of hard work.

We also need to be accountable and transparent.  That is why the Integrated Implementation Framework was launched in June.  The Framework is accessible to anyone in the world; it is a dedicated resource to monitor commitments made by all Member States — donor and recipient countries — to help meet the Millennium Development Goals in the spirit of mutual accountability.

No society — no social contract — can function without honesty, without trust.  That is why we demand accountability from donors, recipients and partners.  And that is why we must continue to wage a serious fight against corruption.  Corruption is a threat to sustainable development and the moral fibre of societies.  We cannot stop, for instance, illegal logging, wanton pollution or the sale of stolen or counterfeit drugs on street markets while corruption persists.

This challenge is vital for the United Nations and every nation.  If transparency and accountability offer hope, corruption, their polar opposite, offers only despair and fear to millions of people.  Corruption is a crime, but it is also the lubricant for other crimes.  And almost always, and ultimately, the primary victims are the poor.

Corruption may rest at the top, but it rapidly trickles down, undermining societies, leaving the message that nothing can be done without a bribe.  Fighting corruption at the national and international levels has to be a priority for Governments and the international community.  One of our most important tools is the United Nations Convention against Corruption.  One hundred and sixty countries have ratified or acceded to the Convention.  I encourage all to do so — and, of course, to live up to the Convention.

The work against corruption is even more important in weak and fragile countries — some just emerging from conflict — where the rule of law and institutions are still vulnerable.  When desperately needed development funds are stolen or squandered, men, women and children are robbed of education, health care and essential services.

It is therefore vital that Governments include anti-corruption measures in all national development programmes.  We recommend that Governments take advantage of measures under the Convention against Corruption to prevent the transfer abroad of stolen assets and to assist in the recovery and return of such assets to their countries of origin.

We also appeal to the private sector, through initiatives such as the Global Compact, to help eliminate corruption which distorts markets, increases costs and punishes consumers — all of us.  The private sector is an increasingly important partner in global poverty reduction and development efforts.  It has a key role in fighting corruption and creating a more transparent global economy.

Civil society is also pivotal.  Public engagement and participation is fundamental for building accountable, transparent societies.  And special attention needs to be devoted to empowering women to help keep their societies honest.  It is far too often women who pay the price for corruption in their daily life.

In one way or another, corruption affects us all.  It is a poison in the bloodstream of our societies.  Today’s debate is a step on the road towards building effective strategies to combat corruption.  But if we are to deliver solutions, we need political commitment at the highest levels, as well as a culture of honesty and trust.

Working with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, I intend to ensure that the fight against corruption, and the promotion of transparency and accountability, will be fully addressed as we articulate the post‑2015 development agenda.

I wish you a productive and successful meeting.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.