I thank you for inviting me to join you at this important meeting. I address you on behalf of the Secretary-General, who, as you understand, now is in South Africa to honour Nelson Mandela, a great champion of human rights and of the rule of law and a role model for millions of people around the world. I know you have marked his memory already at the meeting, but I think we should recall this wonderful person who meant so much, means so much to many people in the world.
I am very glad to see so many representatives from the world of business coming together here at the UN, together with civil society, Governments and the United Nations to mark International Anti-Corruption Day.
The detrimental and draining effects of corruption, as you know better than most, are directly or indirectly felt by, I would say, billions of people everywhere.
It is a huge problem and it is a serious challenge that affects and should unite us all.
Corruption defies and undermines fundamental human rights. It exacerbates poverty. It deepens inequality by diverting money sorely needed for health care, education and other essential services in our societies. And it in fact undermines institutions and the beliefs in the systems that we have created for these institutions. It is a very dangerous phenomenon.
It increases the costs of doing business. It distorts markets. It impedes economic growth.
It is driven by and feeds criminal activity. It results in malfunctioning state institutions and weak governance.
It is a barrier to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and our work for a more equitable and prosperous world.
That is why anti-corruption measures, transparency, the rule of law and good governance should be taken into account as we set global development priorities for the post-2015 period.
I am encouraged – and I commend Mr. Georg Kell in this work – that recent consultations convened by the UN Global Compact reveal a strong desire in the business world for good governance and the rule of law to be included in the post-2015 development agenda.
For over a decade, the United Nations has worked to include, embed in fact, the principles of social and environmental accountability, fair labour practices and anti-corruption into the global marketplace.
At the recent Global Compact Leaders Summit here in New York, the Secretary-General unveiled the Business Engagement Architecture, which is designed to scale up corporate contributions to the post-2015 development agenda.
Transparency and accountability are at its core.
It is clear that corruption is a challenge that not one segment of society can solve alone. We have to do it together. Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something.
To achieve sustainable results, we all must take up the fight – business alongside Governments, civil society, the United Nations and other international organizations. Already, global collective initiatives are bringing critical actors together.
Let us also recall that technology can play a valuable role in promoting transparency and reducing risks. Of course on one side, there is also risk involved with technology, for instance look at the area of cyber security. But as one government official said recently, “You cannot bribe a computer.”
In the last ten years, the business world has increasingly recognized their role in fighting corruption.
It is promising that so many companies have given priority to advancing good governance.
For instance, a Call to Action launched by the Global Compact and partners is mobilizing the private sector and Governments to engage in transparent procurement – very important.
Guidelines are also being developed to help fight corruption in the sensitive sports and hospitality sectors, and I was glad to hear the comments by our Russian colleague right now.
However, we are far from a critical mass. We still have a long way to go.
We have not yet achieved the necessary depth of engagement and action, and I must say regretfully, many businesses still exacerbate the problem by giving in to corrupt practices. We must be aware of that and deal with that.
I urge you to engage with the Global Compact, to join the Call to Action and to ask Governments to give priority to anti-corruption measures in the post-2015 development agenda.
The United Nations is committed to fulfilling its obligations.
We operate in some of the world’s most unstable and volatile environments. We face corruption risks that can undermine our efforts to advance development, peace and human rights.
In response, we have developed a strict system of internal controls. We continue to remain vigilant and work hard to set an example.
It is important for all of us to embrace principles of ethics and principles of integrity, to act against corruption and to do business based on fair competition and good governance.
Let us together take a collective stand against this poisonous social, political and economic disease that affects all countries.
To achieve an equitable, inclusive and prosperous future for all, free of corruption, we must foster a culture of transparency, accountability and rule of law.
You can count on the Secretary-General and me in advancing this important cause.
I thank you.