UN Calls for Multilateral Approach to Combat Corruption

António Guterres 

A concerted global drive to frontally tackle corruption got a boost recently through the adoption of a resolution by the UN General Assembly which called on Heads of governments and representatives of Member States and parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption to muster the required political will to address the problem.

It was an outcome of deliberations at United Nations Headquarters from June 2 to 4, 2021 for the special session of the General Assembly on challenges and measures to prevent and combat corruption and strengthen international cooperation, convened in accordance with Assembly resolution 73/191 of December 17, 2018.

While acknowledging the fact that the challenges have been exacerbated by the ongoing effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it nevertheless urged governments and relevant institutions to renew efforts in tackling corruption.

“We pledge to prevent and combat corruption and strengthen international cooperation in a manner consistent with our obligations with regard to and respect for all human rights, justice, democracy and the rule of law at all levels, and we will uphold the purposes and principles set forth in the Charter of the United Nations,  the fundamental principles of international law, as well as the United Nations Convention against Corruption and the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, 4 including, inter alia, respect for the principles of sovereign equality and the territorial integrity of States and of non-intervention in the domestic affairs of other States, in our fight against corruption,” it said.

The resolution expressed the need for a common commitment to effectively address challenges and implement measures to prevent and combat corruption and strengthen international cooperation.

“We welcome the fact that 187 parties have ratified or acceded to the Convention, thus making it an instrument enjoying a status very close to universal adherence, and in this regard we urge all States and competent regional economic integration organizations, within the limits of their competence, that have not yet done so to consider ratifying or acceding to the Convention as a matter of priority,” it said.

“We reaffirm our support for the bodies created under the Convention, most notably the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption and the Mechanism for the Review of Implementation of the Convention, which are leading to important improvements and progress in the implementation of anti-corruption measures in many States parties,” it added.

The resolution  also  called for accountable and transparent institutions, comprehensive and balanced anti-corruption frameworks and approaches at all levels and committed enforcement by all jurisdictions in accordance with national legislative systems, as well as prevention, anti-corruption education, training, effective international cooperation and asset recovery, and recognizes the strategic importance of promoting holistic and multidisciplinary approaches to countering it in line with the purposes and principles of the Convention.

“We will step up our efforts to promote and effectively implement our anti – corruption obligations and robust commitments under the international anti- corruption architecture, which we as a community have created together, and will further work towards finding synergies and common solutions. We take note of the efforts of international and regional organizations and forums in preventing and combating corruption and of the important tools to effectively prevent and counter corruption contained in the Convention against Corruption and in the Organized Crime Convention, and in other international and regional instruments, including those recalled in the preamble of the Convention against Corruption,” it said.

The resolution, while acknowledging that the prevention and fight against all forms of corruption is the responsibility of all States, also emphasised the need for the society/citizenry to join the struggle to ensure a strong, fair, effective, and impartial outcome.

the Resolution said:“We are concerned about the seriousness of the problems and threats posed by corruption to the stability and security of societies, undermining the institutions and values of democracy, our  ethical values and justice and jeopardizing sustainable development and the rule of law.”

“We bear in mind that no country can effectively combat corruption alone, that preventing and combating corruption, including complex cases such as those involving multiple national jurisdictions and vast quantities of assets, is a responsibility of all States and that promoting, facilitating and supporting international cooperation and technical assistance  in the prevention of  and fight against corruption, including in asset recovery, constitutes one of the main purposes of the Convention

“We note that no country is free of corruption and that, overall, while progress in preventing and combating corruption has been made, those efforts are not enough, and we commit to doing more to address remaining gaps and existing and emerging challenges and difficulties, in particular in the implementation of the Convention. Therefore, we recognize the need for our intensified efforts.”

Furthermore, the resolution commended the role of  civil society, academia, the private sector and the media in identifying, detecting and  reporting on cases of corruption, adding that  the General Assembly “will take appropriate measures, within our means and in accordance with the fundamental principles of domestic law, to promote the active participation of individuals and groups outside the public sector, such as civil society, non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations and the private sector, in the prevention of and the fight against corruption and to raise public awareness regarding the existence, causes and gravity of and the threat posed by corruption.”

The statement also acknowledged the importance of raising public awareness regarding the existence, causes, gravity and negative consequences of corruption, and the appropriate tools available to prevent and combat it, including undertaking public information activities that contribute to non-tolerance of corruption and through education and training programmes.

It noted: “We commit to developing integrated, balanced and comprehensive approaches to promoting the rule of law at all levels, including through the full and effective use of the Convention.We highlight the 15 years of implementation of the Convention, and we recognize that corruption is a local and a transnational phenomenon that affects all societies and undermines economies, making international cooperation to prevent and combat it essential. We pledge to pursue a multilateral approach in preventing and combating corruption, and reaffirm our strong commitment to the Convention as the most comprehensive legally binding universal instrument on corruption, and to integrating it into our domestic legal systems, as necessary.”