December 11th, 2006 05:16 EST
UN Anti-Crime Chief Urges Progress in Fighting Global Corruption
The head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) urged governments gathered at a conference in Jordan today to take practical action to combat crimes such as bribery, embezzlement and influence-peddling in order to convince a skeptical public that it is possible to fight corruption.
Opening a high-level conference on corruption, Antonio Maria Costa said the international climate against corruption was changing, as reflected in high-profile criminal trials and even in the ousting of governments.
He also challenged participants to take more action. "Are you freezing, seizing and confiscating assets? Do you enforce codes of conduct for public officials, with disclosures of their annual earnings and assets? This would answer simple, yet tough, questions from the public, such as how certain officials own new Mercedes cars while earning $200 per month," he said.
The UN Convention against Corruption, which came into force a year ago, provides a global framework for effective action, he said. Nearly 150 countries have signed the Convention, the first legally binding international instrument against corruption, and 80 have so far ratified it.
All countries must learn how to protect witnesses and whistleblowers, how to deal with money-laundering and how to improve transparency in procurement contracts and the management of public finances. UNODC had the tools and expertise to assist them, the Executive Director added.
The first Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption, attended by ministers, policy-makers, parliamentarians, practitioners and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector, held at the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Centre on the Dead Sea, Jordan. It will continue until December 14.
Mr. Costa urged participants "not to go through the usual conference motions" but to take decisive steps to turn the Convention into the powerfu
hope that the conference would, as a minimum, make progress in establishing a mechanism for monitoring implementation of the Convention.
Getting international agreement on returning stolen assets to their countries of origin had been a major achievement of the Convention. "I urge you to take a political decision at this Conference in order to increase the capacity of States to prevent the diversion of assets and to help victims get their money back," he said.
Mr. Costa also urged companies to pass on good practices in fighting corruption to their business partners in countries where corruption was rife.
In addition, he said organizations such as the UN should apply the Convention in their own work. "Let us practice what we preach," he said.