Anti-corruption conventions: A new fight

The anti-corruption movement and its partners are readying for their next battle in the fight against abuses and the disregard for transparency, integrity and accountability.

 Yet the location is not in a boardroom or in parliament, but in a convention centre in Doha, Qatar. Here, representatives from governments and civil society will be convening discussions — between the 9th and 13th of November — that will impact the future of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). The Doha meeting marks the third Conference of States Parties (CoSP) since UNCAC entered into force in 2005.

 Doha is a critical juncture that will determine whether an effective and viable monitoring system for UNCAC is set up, a sub-optimal alternative is chosen or a decision on the whole matter is postponed until the next CoSP. Four years after the convention has entered into force, there is still no common review mechanism — a failing that TI and partners have been pushing hard to correct.

Strong blocking nations will make agreeing on a good monitoring system at Doha nearly impossible. Proposals currently on the table undermine the spirit and letter of the convention. They call for monitoring the UNCAC without civil society involvement, country visits or publicly releasing the findings.

The success of Doha for UNCAC and its effective monitoring is important not only for the anti-corruption movement but companies concerned with running efficient operations and organisations fighting for issues ranging from development to human rights.

UNCAC is the only worldwide agreement which covers corruption in the private and public sector. Its five chapters include articles that address civil society participation, asset recovery, money laundering, and mutual legal and technical assistance. While there are regional anti-corruption conventions, such as for Africa and Latin America, none cover all these issues or offer a global approach to addressing today’s problems, including the systemic failings revealed as a result of the financial crisis.

There are currently 141 ratifying nations to UNCAC, although some conspicuous countries are missing from the list: Germany, Japan, India, Ireland, Thailand and Singapore, among others.

TI has been working with other civil society organisations (CSOs) to lobby governments and the private sector ahead of Doha through the UNCAC Civil Society Coalition. For example, over 300 CSOs from more than 85 countries have signed onto a coalition statement calling for states parties to UNCAC to adopt a transparent, accountable and effective system to monitor implementation of the convention.

This partnership and collaboration reaches to the root of why conventions are needed on overseeing global issues such as corruption.

According to the TI Anti-Corruption Plain Language Guide, the term means “international and regional agreements signed or formally adopted through ratification by multiple states that establish rules and standards on issues which are typically cross-border in nature and require a common approach for effective, multilateral cooperation”.

The definition’s focus on ‘standards’, a ‘common approach’ and ‘cooperation’ captures the importance of ensuring that the countries which have ratified UNCAC are abiding by their promises. Having an effective review mechanism is the only way this will happen.

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