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GA/12330
3 June 2021
Thirty-second Special Session, 3rd & 4th Meetings (AM & PM)

Stressing No Country is Exempt from Corruption, Speakers in General Assembly Call for Greater Collaboration to Tackle Menace, as Special Session Continues

Stressing that no country is exempt from corruption, Ministers and high‑level officials from Member States called for greater commitment and collaboration at the national and international levels in the fight against the scourge, as the General Assembly continued its thirty-second special session on the issue.

Speakers hailed the adoption by consensus on Monday of a landmark Political Declaration titled “Our common commitment to effectively addressing challenges and implementing measures to prevent and combat corruption and strengthen international cooperation” (document A/S-32/L.1).  However, they noted the seriousness of the issue — which is not just criminal, but also hampers economic growth and sustainable development — requires the political will to put those statements into practice, and for the United Nations to play a coordinating role.

Elanas Jablonskas, Vice‑Minister for Justice of Lithuania, underscored that, in extreme cases, corruption can fully destroy trust in the State.  Special measures must be enacted to prevent, detect, prosecute and sanction those crimes, with preventive policies applied when there is a real need.  “Otherwise, they can turn into simple bureaucratic practices,” he said.

Feliz Croux, Head of the Anti-Corruption Office of Argentina, said corruption weakens both public and private institutions and promotes organized crime, spotlighting the need for accountability for corruption-related offenses.  “The rule of law must be able to count on an effective punitive apparatus,” he said, while agreeing that prevention efforts are also crucial and there is a need to strengthen existing control mechanisms to respond to urgent challenges.

Several speakers cited their respective national anti-corruption strategies and architecture, including innovative digital tools, with Oleksandr Novikov, Head of the National Agency on Corruption Prevention of  Ukraine, pointing out:  “It is impossible to bribe a computer.”

Member States also highlighted a raft of specific criminal acts under the corruption umbrella that harm all individual Governments and their people, and the international community as a whole.  Christian Guillermet, Vice‑Minister for Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica, said bribery alone costs the world 2 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP), adding that corruption not only entrenches inequality, but thrives in it.  Noting that criminal networks operate freely in new and not-yet‑regulated platforms such as digital technologies, he called for a resounding international response.

Gustavo Villatoro, Minister for Justice and Public Safety of El Salvador, emphasized the priority of countering tax evasion, with the first phase of that country’s initiative recovering $200 million in lost funds in 2020.

Several speakers pointed to the plight of developing countries, which face specific and multi-level threats when victimized by and battling corruption.  Abdulrasheed Bawa, Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission of Nigeria, called the scourge one of the most pervasive and daunting challenges facing humanity.  Nigeria and many other countries have lost billions of dollars to foreign tax havens, stolen and expatriated by corrupt leaders and their foreign accomplices including multinational companies, he said.

Jorge Arreaza Montserrat, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, noted the Venezuelan people have endured a devastating economic embargo — also a form of corruption — that has prevented more than $30 billion from reaching those who need it most.  “This pillaging has stripped our commercial and financial sectors,” he said, adding that the embargo is cynically being leveraged to take advantage of companies linked to Venezuela.

The COVID-19 pandemic was also cited, both for its pernicious intensification of corruption, and for lessons it can provide in the fight. Yentieng Om, Senior Minister, and President of the Anti‑Corruption Unit of Cambodia noted that “self-reflection, shower, dirt scrubbing, treatment and surgery” were crucial in battling the pandemic, efforts that offer a valuable message in upholding obligations to fight financial malfeasance.

Echoing the dual threat of COVID-19 and corruption, Hassan Abde Shafy, President of the Administrative Control Authority of  Egypt, called for a declaration to strengthen international cooperation in fighting the scourge during any future pan-global crises.

Also speaking were ministers and high-level officials of Norway, Ghana, Qatar, Iceland, Ireland, Estonia, Philippines, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Bangladesh, United States, Algeria, Japan, India, Russian Federation, Finland, Madagascar, United Arab Emirates, Kyrgyzstan, Slovenia, Dominican Republic, Tajikistan, Republic of Korea, Greece, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Ecuador, Sudan, Montenegro, Uzbekistan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Jordan, Equatorial Guinea, Myanmar, Iraq, Poland, Spain, Uruguay, Georgia, Ethiopia, Namibia, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Hungary, Luxembourg, Cameroon, Indonesia and the United Republic of Tanzania.  

The Assembly will reconvene at 10:45 a.m. on Friday, 4 June, to continue its thirty-second special session.

Statements

INE ERIKSEN SØREIDE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway, recalled that no country is free of corruption.  She focused on the benefits of combating such practices, stressing that effective anti-corruption — within the framework of integrity governance — reduces poverty, provides an attractive environment for investment, bolsters trust and strengthens democracy.  National action and multilateral cooperation to fight illicit financial flows also can promote “substantial” resource mobilization for sustainable development.  Welcoming that the Declaration contains commitments for establishing a culture of accountability, transparency, legality, integrity and fairness in the public and private sectors, she said it also contains important provisions on regulatory and supervisory regimes for banks and non-bank financial institutions.  At the same time, she acknowledged that problems remain in implementing the Convention and within the broader international anti-corruption framework, as norms, standards and practical tools to complement the Convention are still needed in various areas.  Stressing that Norway is ready to engage in efforts to advance the anti-corruption agenda, she said her country will work for a stronger international framework

GODFRED YEBOAH DAME, Attorney General and Minister for Justice of Ghana, said the fight against corruption is a main priority.  The Government has enacted several measures, notably the Public Procurement Amendment Act and the Public Financial Management Act in 2016, the Companies Act in 2019 and the Anti‑Money‑Laundering Act in 2008, he said, noting that the Office of the Special Prosecutor is the single most significant body established to combat corruption.  Stressing that the damage caused by corruption lies not in the number of bribes paid or wrong contracts awarded, but rather in the misallocation of resources, distortions created by discretionary incentives and violation of human rights, he said fraud, cybercrime and money‑laundering are just some examples of how crime has become transnational.  With the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Secretariat, Ghana will conduct a national corruption survey later in 2021.  Ghana participated in the review of Uganda, Central African Republic, Indonesia and Algeria.  Domestically, it is working to close legislative gaps revealed by its own first cycle review and otherwise fulfil its Convention obligations.

JORGE ARREAZA MONTSERRAT, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, reiterated his country’s commitment to preventing, combating and punishing corruption, which is one of the main challenges to the achievement of sustainable development around the globe.  Noting that people around the world continue to see their rights and aspirations frustrated by small minorities that take and hold onto power, he said Venezuela’s institutions were created to promote popular well‑being.  “No society is exempt from the scourge of corruption,” he said, and much of the world is governed by a broader system that cynically prioritizes private capital over human welfare.  In that vein, the Venezuelan people have been forced to shoulder the burden of a devastating economic embargo — a form of corruption, as well as an act of aggression against his country — which has prevented more than $30 billion from reaching those who need it most.  “This pillaging has stripped our commercial and financial sectors,” he said, adding that the embargo is cynically being leveraged to take advantage of companies linked to Venezuela.  Nonetheless, the country’s institutional infrastructure has stood firm against corruption.  Venezuela will soon begin its second review under the United Nations Convention against Corruption, to which it is a signatory, demonstrating its open and transparent commitment to fighting corruption both nationally and internationally.

YENTIENG OM, Senior Minister and President of the Anti-Corruption Unit of Cambodia, expressed his country’s long‑standing support for the global fight against corruption, stressing that such efforts must begin at home.  He cited the adoption of an anti-corruption law in 2010 and establishment of a related institution, along with “rectangular strategies” and relentless efforts to enact financial management, administrative, judicial and justice reforms.  Over the last 10 years, the Anti-Corruption Unit has taken a three-pronged approach centred on education, prevention and law enforcement, with progress achieved thanks to participation by the public and private sectors, civil society, academia and the media.  He acknowledged that every State party to the Convention has a role to play in ensuring there is no safe haven for corrupt individuals or their tainted assets.  State parties must respect the sovereignty, internal affairs, legal system, development context and capacity differences of all countries, and work to improve the global anti-corruption governance system on the basis of consensus.  Describing Cambodia’s approach to the pandemic as one of “self-reflection, shower, dirt scrubbing, treatment and surgery”, he said these efforts offer a valuable message for institutions to uphold their obligations to fight corruption.

HAMAD BIN NASSER AL-MISSNED, President of the Administrative Control and Transparency Authority of Qatar, highlighted the growing conviction that combating corruption is no longer a national issue, but a global effort towards sustainable development.  His Government endorsed the Convention against Corruption in 2007 and has strengthened its implementation since then.  This is in keeping with the values of his country, as well as the Islamic sharia, he said, noting that the Constitution of Qatar promotes the principles of rule of law and independence of judiciary.  Also, his Administration is introducing specialized legislative instruments aimed at improving transparency and will hold the first Shura Council elections in October, a significant step to ensure wider participation of citizens in the Qatari shura tradition.  Noting that the Doha Declaration addresses organized crime and other forms of corruption, he added that his country is also providing technical support to other countries in fighting corruption.

GUDLAUGUR THÓR THÓRDARSON, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development Cooperation of Iceland, said that fighting corruption is a key enabler of the 2030 Agenda in general and Goal 16 in particular.  Iceland ratified the Convention against Corruption a decade ago and integrated its provisions into its legal system, including its definition of corrupt criminal behaviour.  The Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD) Working Group on Bribery has meanwhile recognized Iceland’s enhanced detection capacities.  But, there are still areas for improvement, he said, emphasizing that civil society and the media must have the voice, space and freedom to combat and expose corruption.

HILDEGARDE NAUGHTON, Minister of State for Justice of Ireland, reaffirming her country’s commitment to combat corruption, said the Government will continue to engage with all international partners to promote a culture of zero tolerance for such behaviour.  Detailing progress, she said Ireland takes a whole‑of‑Government approach, marked by efforts to expose corruption, punish the corrupt, support those who have suffered and drive out corrupt culture wherever it exists.  In April, Ireland published an 18-month plan outlining actions to be taken across Government to advance the recommendations contained in a far-reaching review of the structures and strategies to prevent, investigate and penalize economic crime.  Ireland is also strengthening procedures to help developing countries recover the proceeds of corruption and combat bribery, she said, pointing to the national plan on business and human rights, which promotes responsible business practices at home and overseas.

GUSTAVO VILLATORO, Minister for Justice and Public Safety of El Salvador, said corruption is a scourge against democracy, the rule of law and the sustainable development of a nation, requiring establishment of an anti-corruption culture with measures to fight and preserve the heritage of the Salvadoran people.  As a State party to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, his Government promotes equity, responsibility and equality before the law, fighting corruption to improve the climate for investment, trade and development.  He cited the priority of countering tax evasion, with the first phase of the State initiative recovering $200 million in lost funds in 2020.  The COVID-19 pandemic has not impeded good management of public funds, he added, as El Salvador is now providing optimal health care with modern equipment and better facilities.  The Government is also restructuring its national civil police to improve procedures, planning and effectiveness in providing security.

MARIS LAURI, Minister for Justice of Estonia, associating herself with the European Union, said that “brilliant laws will not curb corruption, [but] brilliant mentality will”.  There are many examples of how information technology can improve transparency and prevent corruption, she said, adding that building social trust can lead in turn to political trust.  The more trust that citizens have in politicians, the judiciary and the police, the more strongly corruption is condemned.  Many entrepreneurs are involved in corruption because it is a social norm in many countries, but this can be changed through international efforts, she stated.

TEODORO L. LOCSIN, JR., Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, comparing corruption to the multi-headed hydra of Greek mythology, said that his country’s President was elected on a platform of eradicating that scourge.  Those who fail to follow the President’s example of personal austerity and honesty will be held accountable.  “With relentless tenacity, he’s stayed committed to this goal, sprouting [hydra] heads notwithstanding.”  He outlined the various steps that the Philippines has taken to combat bribery, extortion, abuse of office and conflicts of interest, including the presence of civil society observers in Government procurement procedures.  However, corruption is a transnational phenomenon that requires international cooperation to cut off all avenues of crime and impunity.  “We will continue to slash at that Hydra until it tires of sprouting heads,” he said.  “It hasn’t happened anywhere in the world, but that’s no reason to stop trying.”

FELIZ CROUX, Head of the Anti-Corruption Office of Argentina, said corruption weakens both public and private institutions, erodes social trust and promotes organized crime.  Spotlighting the need for accountability for corruption-related crimes, he stressed:  “The rule of law must be able to count on an effective punitive apparatus.”  However, prevention efforts are also crucial and there is a need to strengthen existing control mechanisms in order to respond to urgent challenges, as demonstrated by the current COVID-19 pandemic.  Outlining Argentina’s efforts to strengthen its national institutions to combat corruption — which includes treating the phenomenon as a cross-cutting matter across all sectors — he also underlined the need to recover assets that were lost through illicit means and to provide reparations to those harmed.  That complex task requires international cooperation, as assets are often moved or hidden in foreign jurisdictions and require repatriation.  In that vein, he voiced Argentina’s support for coordinated global efforts to create a society that is both fairer and more equitable.

BENNY GANTZ, Minister for Justice of Israel, said his country has demonstrated its long‑standing commitment to combating corruption and promoting the values of integrity and honesty in both its public and private sectors.  Welcoming the growing global recognition of the threats posed by that phenomenon, he said Israel has acceded to all relevant United Nations and OECD conventions.  At the domestic level, Israel’s enforcement agencies and administrative bodies work closely together to combat corruption, and the Government recently appointed an anti-corruption coordinator within the Ministry of Justice.  “I am proud to lead a strong and robust legal system with independent courts,” he said, emphasizing that Israel’s legal system is based on the tenet that are all people are equal under the law.

MAZIN AL-KAHMOUS, President of the Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority of Saudi Arabia, noted that the General Assembly’s adoption of the Political Declaration titled “Our common commitment to effectively addressing challenges and implementing measures to prevent and combat corruption and strengthen international cooperation” is the beginning of a new phase in the global battle against corruption.  His country is cooperating with a network of international bodies including the World Bank and UNODC in this battle.  Noting the establishment of the Riyadh Global Initiative, he invited all States to participate actively in its activities by sending experts or providing financial support.  Thanking all organizations, States and other stakeholders for their efforts, he especially commended UNODC for its exceptional efforts in facilitating several meetings and working groups, which enabled the representation of all countries in the fight against corruption.

HASSAN ABDE SHAFY, President of the Administrative Control Authority of Egypt, said his country is committed to adopting strict policies to fight corruption, with commitments to the rule of law, transparency and separation of powers.  He highlighted efforts to recover stolen assets, a vitally important initiative for developing countries.  Citing the importance of implementing Chapters Four and Five of the Convention against Corruption, he noted Egypt is preparing to host the Ninth Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption in Sharm el Sheikh in December.  Highlighting how the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the effects of corruption, he called for a declaration to strengthen international cooperation specifically to fight the scourge during such crises.

KARINA GOULD, Minister of International Development of Canada, said corruption costs the world more than $3.6 trillion annually; hinders economic growth, good governance and efficiency; blocks the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals; and often impacts women and most vulnerable people the most.  “We all know what needs to be done,” she said, adding that the real question is one of political will.  Underlining the central role of the Convention against Corruption, she called on Member States to implement anti-corruption measures in their COVID-19 responses.  Canada supports OECD anti-bribery convention and other international and regional measures, and has implemented a range of national measures including the criminalization of bribery.  Those laws send the clear message that “corruption is not tolerated, and therefore not an obstacle to doing honest business in our country”, she said, urging the private sector and the media to get involved in the fight against corruption around the world.

ANISUL HUQ, Minister, Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs of Bangladesh, said his country is firmly committed to the Convention, having participated in its first review cycle, both as a reviewing and a reviewed country.  He underscored the shared responsibility to promote review findings as a credible evaluation exercise, as the review is done under a near‑universal international instrument.  Bangladesh has established a comprehensive legal framework with measures to prevent corruption, enact criminal law, uphold the right to information and provide protection to whistle-blowers.  Efforts also have been made to better supervise banking and non-banking financial institutions, and to both investigate and prosecute senior ministers, parliamentarians, public servants and business leaders on corruption charges.  The Government also has broken up influential networks that often operate under the guise of ruling party affiliations.  He expressed disappointment that, despite provisions contained in the Convention, there are barriers to asset‑recovery, pressing the States concerned to return recovered assets without conditionalities to the countries of origin.  “We must identify key weaknesses and gaps in our international anti‑corruption framework and devise new and innovative responses,” he stressed.

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said that corruption isn’t just a threat to the pocketbooks of ordinary citizens, it prevents economic growth, extinguishes trust in public institutions, and funds transnational crime.  Her Government is building on its existing anticorruption tools and obligations, including by enforcing the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which strengthens business environments around the world, she said.  Highlighting the Political Declaration’s time-bound commitment to fulfil obligations to combat bribery, including foreign bribery, she called that document, “balanced, forward leaning and aspirational”.  Stressing that combating corruption is a shared responsibility, she added that prevention is just as important as investigation and prosecution.  Calling on Governments to see civil society as partners, not adversaries, she said that her country is formally announcing its candidacy to host the 2023 Conference of States Parties to the Convention Against Corruption.

BELKACEM ZEGHMATI, Minister of Justice and Keeper of the Seals of Algeria, reaffirming his country’s commitment to the Convention Against Corruption and various relevant regional agreements, said his Government will be revising national legislation to bring them in line with those commitments.  Corruption weakens institutions and threatens social stability, he said, adding that tackling it is crucial to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Strengthening the country’s counter-terrorism and anti-corruption policies is a high priority for Algeria, he said, noting the national prevention strategy which brings all stakeholders, including civil society on board.  Highlighting the link between drug trafficking, money‑laundering and transnational crime, he said that exchange of information between States is vital.  While the Declaration does not meet the aspirations of all parties, it will breathe new life into the implementation of the Convention against Corruption.

UTO TAKASHI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, said the international community has a responsibility to tackle corruption, which hampers economic growth and sustainable development.  Japan recently hosted the fourteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, where the Kyoto Declaration was adopted.  That document puts forward effective anti-corruption efforts by ensuring the use of the United Nations Convention against Corruption and appropriate measures to effectively disrupt the existing links between organized criminal groups and corruption, including by preventing and combating bribery and the laundering of criminal proceeds.  Noting that the Kyoto Declaration includes initiatives that resonate closely with the Political Declaration adopted on 2 June, he advocated for making both agreements central priorities to be addressed by the global community.

ELANAS JABLONSKAS, Vice‑Minister for Justice of Lithuania, said it is a political priority for the Government to strengthen international relations in the global fight against corruption.  Stressing that, in extreme cases, corruption can completely destroy trust in the State, he said political will is required for effective long-term national reform.  Particular measures must be put in place to prevent, detect, prosecute and sanction corruption, as well as to create a resilient environment through the public sector, together with business and society as a whole.  For its part, Lithuania has made significant progress in creating a transparent environment, with prevention policies based on openness and agreement.  Preventive measures must focus on the problems they seek to solve and be applied when there is a real need.  “Otherwise, they can turn into simple bureaucratic practices,” he said.  In the absence of proper implementation and follow-up, even the most complex preventive strategy will remain a mere formality and have little impact on curbing corrupt behaviour, he cautioned, endorsing today’s statement by the European Union.

CHRISTIAN GUILLERMET, Vice‑Minister for Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica, said that corruption and transnational crime are a threat to democracy and sustainable development.  Noting that criminal networks operate freely in new and not‑yet‑regulated platforms such as digital technologies, he called for a resounding international response to this.  Corruption diverts public funds from fundamental investments in education and health care, and it undermines political stability.  Bribery alone costs the world 2 per cent of the global gross domestic product (GDP), he said, adding that corruption not only entrenches inequality, it thrives in inequality.  Highlighting Sustainable Development Goal 16, he said that fighting corruption means improving access to justice.  His Government has an inter-institutional and multisectoral vision of the fight against corruption, he said, especially highlighting the establishment of a unified platform and protocol for publication of open data.

JITENDRA SINGH, Minister of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions of India, noting the socioeconomic effects of the pandemic, said his Government has a zero-tolerance policy to corruption.  His country is investing in the decentralization of decision-making by facilitating innovative solutions and digital tools.  India is on “a digital-first trajectory”, he said, adding that the pragmatic use of technology is enabling his Government to deliver benefits to rural areas.  Noting the Prevention of Corruption Amendment Act 2018, he said it criminalizes giving bribes and deters both individuals and corporate entities.  Drawing attention to the problem posed by fugitive economic offenders who flee from national jurisdictions with their assets, he said his Government is pursuing policies to bring to justice anyone who exploits gaps in international cooperation, by fleeing a warrant of interest issued in the country.

OLEG SYROMOLOTOV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said the need to strengthen international cooperation in countering corruption is as relevant today as it has ever been.  The Russian Federation was a key player in drafting the Convention against Corruption, which remains a unique and universal legal instrument, as well as a reliable tool to help combat the phenomenon.  Calling upon all States parties to implement the Convention in full respect for national sovereignty, territorial integrity and without interfering in any domestic affairs, he said maintaining a depoliticized, intergovernmental and egalitarian international system against corruption is crucial.  Advocating for the United Nations to play a central coordinating role in those effort, she said her country has established a strong anti-corruption architecture at the national level, and updates its nation plan against corruption at regular four-year intervals.  It is also working to implement new technologies to identify and address acts of corruption, he added, while spotlighting the increasingly complex challenge of recovering and repatriating ill‑gotten gains and advocating for a new international instrument to streamline that process.

MALIN BRÄNNKÄRR, State Secretary of Finland, associating herself with the European Union, expressed her country’s deep commitment to combating corruption and warned that the very credibility of the global rule of law is at stake in those efforts.  Against the backdrop of the twin crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change — both of which generate risks for corruption — international cooperation and holistic measures are needed more than ever.  “At times of crisis, it is ever more important to engage all stakeholders in the fight against corruption and to reinforce the role of civil society, academia and the media,” she said, announcing that Finland adopted its first national anti-corruption strategy last week.  The framework is closely aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals and aims to build a society where corruption cannot take hold and will never go unnoticed, she said.

ABDULRASHEED BAWA, Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission of Nigeria, said corruption across national borders has huge negative impacts on the stability, peace and economic prospects of millions, particularly in developing countries.  Describing it as one of the most pervasive and daunting challenges facing humanity, he said Nigeria, like many other nations, has lost billions of dollars to foreign tax havens, stolen and expatriated by corrupt leaders and their foreign accomplices including multinational companies.  However, since the return of democracy in 1999, the country has prioritized the fight against corruption and established various anti-corruption agencies targeted to combat economic and financial crimes.  It is also a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Corruption.  Outlining national efforts, he said public corruption is being exposed daily, several individuals have been prosecuted and millions of dollars have been recovered.  Meanwhile, procurement processes have been strengthened, the activities of “gate keepers” are being monitored and a Special Control Unit against Money‑Laundering was created to serve as a deterrent.

ANDRIANIRINA HERILAZA ERIC, Director‑General of the Independent Anti‑Corruption Office of Madagascar, noting the increase in corruption worldwide, welcomed the adoption of the Political Declaration.  His Government is establishing innovative procedures to tackle corruption at its roots, taking into account the three pillars of education, prevention and prevention.  School curricula aim at instilling integrity in students, he said, also noting a strong public‑awareness campaign against corruption that has successfully stigmatized this phenomenon.  Stressing the importance of infusing all public and private environments with anti-corruption ethics, he said his country has an interactive mechanism that enables citizens to lodge complaints online.  Madagascar has also renewed its legal arsenal, he said, noting ongoing efforts to establish laws for recovery of assets.

HARIB AL AMIMI, President of the Supreme Audit Institution of the United Arab Emirates and President of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, said that corruption hinders development projects while fuelling terrorism.  Calling on the international community to overcome corruption more effectively, he said that his country has supported UNODC financially as part of the implementation of the Abu Dhabi Declaration.  Expressing appreciation to all parties, including civil society, for their contribution to the Declaration adopted by the Assembly, he said the text will enable his country in its efforts to tackle corruption at the national level.

ABAI MOLDOKMATOV, Deputy General Prosecutor General of Kyrgyzstan, echoed other speakers in advocating for the United Nations to play a central role in coordinating efforts to counter corruption, as a top priority.  Noting that Kyrgyzstan is actively participating in the United Nations review mechanism’s examination of several peer countries, and has also embarked on its own review, he said that international relations have fundamentally changed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  Changes to the cooperation mechanisms laid out in the Convention against Corruption are therefore needed, including on such matters as requests to provide mutual legal assistance.  Recalling that Kyrgyzstan’s recent elections were deemed by observers to be free, transparent and fully democratic, he said the country has also begun criminal prosecutions of high-ranking individuals for corruption-related crimes for the first time.  Among other things, the country is also working to prevent corruption in the context of the pandemic, including by preventing bribery and speculation.

ROBERT SUMI, Chief Commissioner of the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption of Slovenia, agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic and recent exponential technological progress necessitate improved training for human regulators and the strengthened use of digital oversight tools.  Those concepts are already in place in Slovenia, which ranks at the top of countries worldwide in terms of open data availability.  Among other innovative tools, the general public in Slovenia has access to a user-friendly database on public officials.  There is also a tool that matches financial transactions to companies’ records.  In that way, Slovenia has built broad transparency and actively supports civil society in its efforts to investigate corruption crimes, he said.

OLEKSANDR NOVIKOV, Head of the National Agency on Corruption Prevention of Ukraine, said his country is currently engaged in not one, but two wars — one against the threat posed by troops of the Russian Federation, and the other against corrupt officials.  Describing the latter as a struggle for the country’s democratic future, he said only modern weapons — including strong anti-corruption institutions and digital tools — will win both wars.  “It is impossible to bribe a computer,” he said, noting that Ukraine was the first country in the world to introduce a digital passport with the same legal power as the paper one.  Over the next three years, it will make 100 per cent of public services available online, resulting in a significant decrease in opportunities for corruption.  Ukraine’s National Agency on Corruption Prevention has the world’s most extensive data on the assets of public officials — obtained through an open register of e‑declarations — with more than 800,000 e-declarations every year.  In addition, in 2020, Ukraine engaged more than 100 stakeholders in the development of a National Anti-corruption Strategy, which will provide clear guidelines for judicial and law enforcement reform, a better business environment and a corruption-free defence sector, he said.

MILAGROS ORTIZ BOSCH, General Director of Governmental Ethics of the Dominican Republic, noting the Declaration’s call for efficient investment of State resources in tackling corruption, said that corruption is investigated independently and impartially in her country, without interference from the Government.  A team of lawyers was established to represent the State and recover assets taken from public coffers.  A single portal for Government payments and contractor salaries enables transparency in public dealings, she said, also noting an education programme for civil servants on ethics.  The Dominican people’s fight against corruption is in line with all international agreements including the Convention against Corruption, she said.

SULAYMON SULTONZODA, Director of the Agency for State Financial Control and Combating Corruption of Tajikistan, thanked the Organization for its work in tackling corruption and facilitating his Government’s capacity to do so.  Since his State was created, it has been “the very wise policy of the founder of national peace and unity, the President of Tajikistan,” to lower the intensity of this phenomenon, he said.  In 2007, an agency was established to implement his Government’s zero-tolerance policy to corruption, he recalled, noting that it is authorized to conduct investigations and coordinate among Government bodies to do so.  The Government was able to meet many of its goals and has drawn up a new strategy for the current decade, he said, noting that it is working in cooperation with many international organizations, many of whose recommendations were translated into legislation.

JEON HYUN-HEUI, Chairperson, Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission of the Republic of Korea, said that one of the toughest challenges her country faced in fighting corruption during its turbulent history was eliminating nepotism and favoritism.  Among other measures, the Government implemented the Improper Solicitation and Graft Act in 2015, followed by the Conflict of Interest Act in early 2021.  It also launched, in 2020, the Corruption Investigation Office focusing on high-ranking officials.  Such reforms have proven to be effective, as seen by the Republic of Korea’s improved ranking in the Corruption Perceptions Index.  Looking ahead to the post-pandemic period, she said that integrity must be at the heart of anti-corruption policies.  Bribe-taking among public officials must be stopped and citizens’ expectations for fairness met.

ANGELOS BINIS, Governor of the Hellenic National Transparency Authority of Greece, said people around the world are more aware than ever of the negative impacts of corruption.  As a result, Governments are putting the issue higher on their list of priorities.  Echoing other speakers in stressing that technology must be a key part of efforts to enhance transparency and accountability, he said it can contribute to simplifying bureaucracy, streamline procedures and enhance productivity.  Efforts must also promote public trust, he said, noting that in the two years since its inception the Hellenic National Transparency Authority has already developed and incorporated new initiatives in such areas such as auditing and complaints management.  Greece is pursuing a more data-driven approach to public planning and has deployed digital tools that can raise red flags about possible instances of corruption.  In addition, he outlined efforts to raise awareness and promote citizens’ participation in anti-corruption efforts, while expressing support for renewed international cooperation to combat corruption at the global level.

MARAT AKHMETZHANOV, Chair of the Anti-Corruption Agency of Kazakhstan, said his country has been streamlining and accelerating its efforts to defeat corruption since its independence.  On the one hand, the country is easing its punishments for those who commit light or first-time offences, while hardening sentences for repeat offenders.  Outlining a range of political transparency initiatives, he recalled that the Government recently decriminalized slander and streamlined the process for holding political rallies.  It also developed an architecture for e-government, ensured easier public access to information and introduced a new user-friendly app.  As a result of such efforts, Kazakhstan has improved its ranking on the World Bank’s transparency index twofold in recent years.  He went on to note that digitization has also simplified the conduct of business in Kazakhstan, while spotlighting the benefits of the country’s digitized customs enforcement process and its electronic register of criminal offences.

WATCHARAPOL PRASARNRAJKIT, Police General and President of the National Anti‑Corruption Commission of Thailand, said that, since the Convention’s entry into force, corruption has evolved into many forms and today affects various areas of countries and societies.  The Political Declaration illustrates the sophistication of the challenges.  Addressing these issues is a priority for Thailand, he explained, while also calling for global action, particularly in denying safe haven to offenders and illicit assets, and ensuring safeguards are in place to prevent business, investment and immigration policies from being abused.  “Our presence here today is to send a strong signal that the international community stands united in the fight against corruption,” he said, and in tackling related threats that undermine institutions, ethical values, justice and sustainable development.

DIANA SALAZAR MENDEZ, Attorney General of Ecuador, noted that corruption is a multi-dimensional problem that affects development and human rights, especially of the most vulnerable groups.  Fighting corruption should be a global goal in the public and private spheres.  The structures of corruption are formed in the upper echelons of power, with increasing levels of sophistication.  Countries must work together since such crimes can go beyond national borders, she said, stressing the importance of international cooperation as well as global agreements and mechanisms.  Her country has ratified many instruments including the United Nations Convention against Corruption.  Institutional responses must include the independence of judiciary.

MUBARAK MAHMOUD OSMAN, Acting Attorney General of the Sudan, noting that his country is “among those who know the consequences of corruption”, said that after the peaceful revolution that took place recently, Sudan is rebuilding its institutions.  Several courts are considering corruption cases and the former President and other high-ranking officials are being investigated for illicit enrichment.  Highlighting the recent law on the recovery of assets, he said the Government is revising rules regarding procurement, while also implementing counter-terrorism legislation.  Sudan is using the Convention against Corruption as the bedrock of its anti-corruption policies, he said, adding:  “We need technical support.”

MOMČILO RADULOVIĆ, President of the Council of the Agency for Prevention of Corruption of Montenegro, recalled that his country became a signatory of the United Nations Convention against Corruption in 2006, shortly after the restoration of State independence.  “Our country has shown its strong determination to adopt and apply the best European experiences and practices,” he said, adding that creating a solid basis for reducing real and perceived levels of corruption requires an “unwavering response from society as a whole”.  He outlined various national efforts to that end, including the adoption of an action plan aimed at strengthening its judiciary and fundamental rights.  Positive results were recorded in a January 2021 report by Transparency International, which found Montenegro to be the only country in the Western Balkans to achieve better results than the world average in the Corruption Perceptions Index, he said.

AKMAL BURXONOV, Director of the Anti-Corruption Agency of Uzbekistan, outlined a range of anti-corruption reforms in his country, recalling that it has pursued a targeted policy to combat corruption since its earliest days of independence.  Today, Uzbekistan has entered a new phase of reforms with the adoption of a Presidential Decree, in June 2020, aimed at improving the effectiveness of public anti-corruption policies.  It established a new Anti-Corruption Agency, in line with Article 6 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, and has set ambitious goals to develop related legislation.  All State institutions currently work under an anti-corruption compliance control system, which regulates issues related to integrity, conflict of interest, ensuring openness and transparency, public procurement and assessment of corruption risks.  A system of anti-corruption training for civil servants is also being developed, he said, pointing out that Uzbekistan will host a global forum on anti-corruption later in 2021 where participants can share their relevant experience and knowledge.

SERI MOHD SALLEHHUDDIN BIN HASSAN, Director General of the National Centre for Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption of Malaysia, said a third wave of COVID-19 is currently emerging with an alarming rise in cases.  The increasing demand for basic goods, medical supplies and social welfare programmes could pose significant risks of corruption, especially in the areas of procurement, border control and enforcement.  Meanwhile, the abuse of new technologies risks creating a new breed of corruption, such as cyberthreats, requiring public agencies, corporate entities and societies to bolster their resilience and competencies.  Malaysia continues to strengthen good governance and integrity to fight corruption, including through its National Anti-Corruption Plan (2019-2023), which is aligned with the United Nations Convention against Corruption.  Among other new initiatives, the country is also committed to enhancing transparency through a new ombudsman law, which will be introduced to improve public complaints pertaining to maladministration by public agencies.

JAVED IQBAL, Chairperson of the National Accountability Bureau of Pakistan, said corruption holds back development and human rights in far too many places worldwide.  Trillions of dollars flow out of developing countries each year, a principal cause of their underdevelopment, poverty and political instability, costing $2.6 trillion annually.  It is therefore important to strengthen international cooperation to reinforce the global fight, investigate and prosecute crimes.  Despite asset recovery being one of the fundamental principles of the Convention against Corruption, he noted there seems to be greater challenges in returning assets to their countries of origin, with bureaucratic hurdles and legal barriers impeding effective international cooperation.  Stolen assets must be returned in full recognition of the sovereign rights of country of origin, he said, and financial institutions involved must be prosecuted. 

MUHANNAD HIJAZI, Chairperson of the Integrity and Anti-Corruption Commission of Jordan, said fertile terrain is prevalent for corrupt people to misuse countries and their resources.  The COVID-19 pandemic “provided convenient circumstances to corrupt people they could never dream of”, he said.  Jordan launched an anti-corruption commission which communicates with the public and private sectors, promoting national integrity, the rule of law, transparency, accountability and justice.  The Government also reviewed its national anti-corruption strategy, and ratified the Convention against Corruption, ensuring national legislation operates in line with it.  He noted the commission is empowered to investigate laundering of the proceeds of corruption, and monitor growth in the wealth of officials.  Jordan has also signed memoranda of understanding and bilateral agreements on the issue with States in the Middle East and North Africa, sharing its relatively advanced information.

The representative of Equatorial Guinea, noting that corruption must be considered in its many manifestations, drew attention to the way it destabilizes societies and undermines development.  Calling corruption “an evil that does not distinguish between States”, he said it affects the most vulnerable societies due to their systemic problems.  In keeping with his country’s goal of inclusive growth, the Government ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption as well as the African Union Convention on Prevention and Combating Corruption.  Noting that corruption works through influence-pedalling, bribery and extortion, he pointed out that certain multinationals are involved in such activities, along with public officials in some countries.  It is necessary to address such impunity, he said, adding that corruption is like a tango, and it takes two to tango.

The representative of Myanmar outlined the many negative consequences of corruption on rule of law, democracy, peace and sustainable development, especially in the developing world.  Corruption is an international problem that requires an international solution, he said, noting its disproportionate impact on the most marginalized people.  The adoption of United Nations Convention against Corruption gave the world a comprehensive instrument to combat corruption.  During the decades of military occupation in his country, fear and corruption held sway.  His Government has prioritized the prevention of corruption across institutions, he said, noting the anti-corruption law adopted to enhance transparency and accountability.  Myanmar’s sustainable development plan includes enforcement measures for its anti-corruption policy.  While the greed of a few military generals opened a dark chapter in the history of his country, its people are resilient and the international community must assist them in their democratic efforts.

The representative of Iraq said corruption prevents States from comprehensive development based on the rule of law.  Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals requires mobilizing local resources, but illicit financial flows are one of the main restrictions facing developing countries in mobilizing those resources.  Corruption is closely related to violence and terrorism, he stressed, but, while Iraq has fought terror militarily with help of international community, corruption is just as serious; it feeds violence and is a transnational cross‑border phenomenon.  “Terrorism can only be ended by drying up its financial resources,” he said, but, if the international community does not hold financial institutions responsible and apply appropriate sanctions on these criminals, there can be no comprehensive response to the scourge.  Calling for reform of the global financial system, he noted recovery of stolen assets will significantly assist developing countries.  The international community needs an e-government system to share information, track proceeds and investigate crimes.

The representative of Poland, associating himself with the European Union, said “corruption knows no border”, harming everyone, undermining trust, destroying societies and hampering development.  He stated the Political Declaration adopted by the Assembly demonstrates the international community’s commitment to address all challenges posed by the scourge.  Domestically, Poland’s anti-corruption bureau combats related crimes in public and local government institutions and activities detrimental to State economic interests.  All Polish civil servants receive anti-corruption training, he noted, and special police officers have implemented over a dozen projects, facilitating digital access to information, professional ethics and ways to report corruption, including among the police force itself.  Poland exchanges information with the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), including on corruption in sport, and is ready to exchange experience and good practices.

The representative of Spain noted that corruption causes a loss of public resources that would otherwise be able to support those who need it the most.  It threatens the credibility of States as well as international organizations.  Spain is fighting corruption through prevention measures as well as prosecution.  Its  institutions, civil society, media and citizens are committed to the defence of public values, she said, adding that Spain had introduced a legal framework to tackle illegal financing of political parties and other forms of corruption.  However, neither preventive nor punitive policies by themselves can eliminate corruption, she cautioned, adding that the most effective way to combat this phenomenon is to create a change in mentality and instil a culture of ethics.  Spain is committed to the Political Declaration, which will enable a global response to corruption.

The representative of Uruguay, noting stronger anti-corruption legislation enacted in his country, pointed to a recently adopted standard of conduct for public officials which sets out rules for their behaviour as well as a system of protection for whistle-blowers.  The Government is also enabling citizen participation in reporting irregularities, he said, adding that public officials and private citizens can denounce suspected acts of corruption, anonymously if they choose.   Welcoming the adoption of the Political Declaration, he noted that it is action-oriented, and commended the international community for adopting it by consensus. He also reiterated his country’s commitment to continue this fight at the national, regional and global levels.

KAHA IMNADZE (Georgia) described the Political Declaration adopted on 2 June as a step forward in the world’s joint efforts to eradicate all forms of corruption.  “Most importantly, this Declaration reaffirms the significance of international cooperation in the field of anti-corruption,” he stressed, reiterating Georgia’s commitment to implementing the Convention against Corruption and upholding the principles of democracy, rule of law, accountability, openness, fair elections and human rights.  Improving public service delivery, reducing bureaucracy, raising integrity in the public sector, ensuring citizen participation and freedom of information are the basis an effective Government where corruption cannot gain a foothold.  Outlining Georgia’s achievements to that end, he said the country is a leader in Eastern Europe with one of the region’s lowest corruption indicators.  However, that fight remains an ongoing process, and corruption prevention continues to be one of the Government’s top priorities.  In that vein, he spotlighted a range of interagency efforts conducted in line with the national Anti-Corruption Strategy and Action Plan, while noting several initiatives aimed at increasing access to public information. 

WEDO ATTO, Deputy Commissioner of the Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission of Ethiopia, said corruption is one of the main barriers preventing developing countries from achieving poverty reduction, economic growth, political stability and social development.  Welcoming the newfound global understanding of the threats posed by corruption — and how to deal with them through partnerships and alliances — he said Ethiopia places anti-corruption high on its own national priority list.  The country established the Federal Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission in 2001, which has now been executing wide-ranging activities for two decades.  Following the country’s transition, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accelerated those activities, and several Government officials and prominent personalities are now under investigation and prosecution.  Noting that one of the challenges in the fight against corruption is the fact that criminals often transfer their stolen assets to foreign jurisdictions, making asset recovery a difficult task, he underlined the need for greater international cooperation and strengthened practices amid the ongoing COVID-19 response.

NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia), calling corruption “the parent of poverty”, called for a multidisciplinary approach as well as effective international cooperation amongst States and other stakeholders.  The African Union Agenda 2063 recognizes that corruption erodes the development of a universal culture of good governance, democratic values, gender equality, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of the law, he said.  His country’s anti-corruption efforts were set in motion upon attainment of independence in 1990.  Though Namibia has strengthened its institutions, “the war is far from over and the fights are many”, he said.  Illicit financial flows remain a problem on the African continent, he said, also reminding delegates that the Convention against Corruption does not define corruption in a single form, because corruption is not only committed by criminal conduct, but also through political and administrative decisions.

The representative of Afghanistan said that President Ghani has made the fight against corruption a priority for his country, which is committed to learning from errors and applying international best practices to local realities.  The Government has implemented coordinated, effective anti-corruption strategies, including creation of an independent anti-corruption commission with a clear mandate in line with the Convention against Corruption.  It is adopting a new anti-corruption strategy in coordination with all stakeholders, including civil society and the donor community.  In enforcing asset recovery, Government officials who have not declared their assets will not be provided travel authorization.  Biometric data is also being collected on Government officials to manage employment and payroll, and an anti-corruption department will investigate high-ranking Government officers, including Cabinet ministers, to ensure complete transparency and access to justice.  Citing the direct link between corruption and organized crime, including drug smuggling across borders, she called for more cross-border networks.  Afghanistan is currently negotiating memoranda of understanding with eight countries related to the extradition of accused and convicted persons, cross-border crimes and asset recovery.

The representative of Rwanda noted the country is home to an iconic anti-corruption culture; however, the issue cannot be ignored, and national authorities, the private sector and civil society are working hard to put in place tools to fight the problem.  Strong mechanisms of investigation must be established to counter the scourge, with illicit financial flows and money-laundering investigated and prosecuted.  Member States and the international community must assist each other in asset recovery in an effort to ensure transparency, integrity and accountability.  Corruption must not be seen as inevitable.  “Otherwise it will be a waste of time to keep talking about it”, he stated.  Fighting corruption may have a political cost, but the price of not tackling it is much higher.  The responsibility lies with leaders at every level and must be tackled from the top down.

ZSUZSANNA HORVÁTH (Hungary) strongly condemned corruption in all its forms.  Since the change of regime in Hungary, there has been continuous political effort to take targeted action against corruption, and the country has acceded to all major anti-corruption conventions, such as the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, United Nations Convention against Corruption and the Council of Europe’s Criminal and Civil Law Conventions on Corruption.  At the national level, the fight against corruption is coordinated through multi-annual national action plans and under the framework of the new National Anti-corruption Strategy (2020-2022).  Hungary's anti-corruption policy pays special attention to prevention and crime‑detection, in the belief that effective action is only possible in a properly regulated and consistent legal environment.  Penalties are now more severe, public procurement rules are stricter than before and laws provide greater transparency.  Together with anti-corruption education, preventive tools and initiatives, those measures have helped advance the fight against corruption, with the number of related charges and prosecutions doubling between 2012 and 2016, she said.

CHRISTIAN BRAUN (Luxembourg) welcomed the adoption of the Political Declaration and the many expressions by Member States of their renewed commitments to combat corruption.  Noting that no society is immune from that phenomenon, he said that, as a donor country, Luxembourg shares public data on its development assistance expenditures and has joined onto various international initiatives to improve transparency in that area.  Outlining several examples of new measures put in place to address corruption, he said in 2020 Luxembourg signed a trilateral agreement on confiscated assets in a case related to a senior official.  It also adopted a new professional code for senior Government officials and has submitted it — along with other similar codes — to the Group of States against Corruption for evaluation.  Luxembourg will also host the office of a new public prosecutor who will be crucial to the European Union’s future efforts to combat corruption, he said.

DIEUDONNE MASSI GAMS, President of the Anti-Corruption Commission of Cameroon, recalled that his country established a National Anti-Corruption Commission in 2006.  That was followed, in 2010, by the development of a National Strategy for Fighting Corruption.  “There has been a change in the way we look at [corruption crimes]”, he said, recalling that while they used to be considered a taboo topic, addressing the phenomenon is now a top priority for his country and many others.  In Cameroon, whistle-blowers are now protected and there is significantly more oversight over public goods and funds.  Cameroon now also has a law against corruption, for the first time in its history.  Noting that countless assets have been stolen from his country and others across the continent, he appealed to the United Nations and other international actors to ensure that those funds are finally repatriated in order to finance the achievement of sustainable development targets.

The representative of Indonesia said corruption is a crime with complex social, political and transnational aspects, adapting to different contexts and circumstances.  He cited the misuse of emergency funds, which has robbed services of resources and, worse, will hinder post-pandemic recovery.  Noting international cooperation to recover criminal proceeds remains challenging on multiple levels, he cited national programmes and policies, including anti-corruption education and the liability of legal persons.  Indonesia’s initiatives include a database of implicated persons and politicians used to detect and deter crimes.  However, he asked the international community to cooperate in removing barriers to asset recovery.  It is crucial to understand the link between corruption and organized crime to build effective responses.  Achieving a world free of corruption will require stronger regional and multilateral forums, he stated.

The representative of United Republic of Tanzania said the impact of corruption is immeasurable, affecting the economy, politics and social development, as well as eroding the rule of law and driving inequality, with the poor suffering the most.  Addressing crimes and illicit financial flows, the United Republic of Tanzania has a national strategy and action plan to address corruption and governance, and it is building systems of integrity and transparency in public procurement, revenue collection and the use of resources.  The Government has established a special division of the High Court, mainly to hear cases of corruption and economic crimes.  It is advancing initiatives for the direct mandatory confiscation of such assets and has holistic provisions to trace and recover them.  Efforts are also under way to track public finances to improve value for money and accountability.  However, he stressed that multilateralism is the key, as corruption cannot be fought in isolation.  The Government is also improving policing resources and surveillance techniques.

For information media. Not an official record.