Coalition Against Corruption Identifies Access to Information as Priority Issue Ahead of COSP

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The United Nations Coalition Against Corruption (UNCAC) has identified progress on access to information and ‘Beneficial Ownership’ as two priority issues for the civil society community to be discussed at the Fifth Session of the Conference of States Parties (COSP) scheduled to hold in Panama later this year.  These issues were highlighted in a letter sent to members of Working Group on Prevention signed by Christine Clough of Global Final Integrity (member of the Coalition Coordination Committee) and Lydia Medland of Access Info Europe (Coalition regional coordinator for Europe).

The letter provided recommended actions for improving access to information and beneficial ownership transparency as well as a brief explanation of their importance from the view of Civil Society representation.

The Coalition noted that: “Access to information is vital for civil society organisations and members of the public to be able to fulfil their role of participating in anti-corruption efforts. Greater transparency of beneficial ownership is critical for reducing the ability of corrupt officials to launder and use their ill-gotten gains in the global economy, which would reduce the appeal of engaging in large-scale corruption.”

UNCAC asked the COSP to call on States Parties to adopt laws that protect the right of access to information in line with international standards and where these already exist, they should ensure that these laws are being properly adopted and implemented in practice. It also recommended that member States should instruct the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to develop interpretative notes to accompany the Self-Assessment Questionnaire prepared for the next cycle of the Implementation Review Process.

UNCAC said:“The right to information has been recognized as a human right by the UN Human Rights Committee, a move supported by a number of decisions of the Inter- American Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights, and by the recognition of access to public documents as a fundamental right in the European Union.”

On beneficial ownership, the UNCAC Coalition proposed that signatories to the UNCAC should require the disclosure of beneficial ownership for all companies, trusts and foundations. This, they said: “will bolster existing anti-money laundering laws.”

It also recommended that this information should be added to existing registry lists, so that the information is available to the public and compliance is simple.

In addition, it said: “In line with the above, Member States should instruct UNODC to publish guidance for the Self-Assessment Questionnaire stating that States that do not have a registry of beneficial ownership should be deemed non-compliant, and States with a registry that is not public should be deemed partially compliant.”

It reminded state parties of Article 14 (1) (a) calls on UNCAC State Parties to institute comprehensive money laundering regulations and oversight for financial institutions, including a recommendation for record-keeping of beneficial ownership.