By John Brandolino
In 2003, on the occasion of adoption of the UN Convention against Corruption by the General Assembly, late Secretary General Kofi Annan remarked: “Corruption is an insidious plague that has a wide range of corrosive effects on societies. It undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to violations of human rights, distorts markets, erodes the quality of life and allows organized crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish. This evil phenomenon is found in all countries—big and small, rich and poor—but it is in the developing world that its effects are most destructive. Corruption hurts the poor disproportionately by diverting funds intended for development, undermining a Government’s ability to provide basic services, feeding inequality and injustice and discouraging foreign aid and investment. Corruption is a key element in economic underperformance and a major obstacle to poverty alleviation and development.”
The African Union has estimated that a notable portion of Africa’s gross domestic product is lost to corruption. The consequent loss in investment and innovation further aggravate these financial losses to development.
As the only legally-binding universal anti-corruption instrument, the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) is a unique tool in supporting States in the establishment of strong governance systems. Thanks to its Implementation Review Mechanism – a peer-review process – we are able to identify States’ specific needs, challenges and good practices. After having facilitated more than 200 reviews since 2009, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has been able to gather a vast amount of information allowing us to determine the status of implementation as well as to provide information on global and regional trends in the fight against corruption.
Throughout its negotiation, adoption and subsequent implementation, Nigeria exercised exemplary leadership being among the first of a total of 186 countries to sign and ratify the Convention. Nigeria pressed for the creation of a meaningful implementation review mechanism for the Convention in order to monitor the effective implementation by all States parties. Nigeria also sponsored many ground-breaking resolutions adopted by the Conference of States Parties to the Convention to enhance the implementation of Chapter V of the Convention on Asset Recovery.
The public launch of the 2nd cycle review report today is yet another testimony to Nigeria’s commitment and seriousness of purpose in transforming the Convention into tangible anti-corruption results.
At the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, we stand ready to continue supporting the Government and people of Nigeria in their efforts to fast track the implementation of UNCAC. We are keen to ensure that countries integrate the recommendations received during their review into existing anti-corruption strategies and action plans. At the same time, it is critical for donors and technical assistance providers to take cognizance of the UNCAC implementation review reports and align their interventions accordingly.
At UNODC, we support States through policy advise, legislative drafting support, institution building and domestic coordination, training of anti-corruption practitioners and the facilitation of international cooperation.
We also assist countries in the development of analytical work and knowledge products in order to promote evidence-based policy making. One notable example of this work specific to Nigeria involves the 2nd survey of bribery and related forms of corruption which we look forward to launch jointly with the National Bureau of Statistics on 6 December.
The results of this second survey on corruption in Nigeria will allow the Government and the people of Nigeria to not only assess the achievements that have been recorded in tackling corruption, but also provide a framework for evaluating the future impact. It is our sincere hope, that the survey together with the 2nd cycle UNCAC implementation review report will assist in identifying possible gaps in the anti-corruption agenda and help to recalibrate, refocus and adjust, where needed.
In addition, and with the goal of educating and empowering youth, UNODC has expanded its Education for Justice initiative to provide tools and materials that can be used by teachers and students alike to strengthen value systems, change attitudes, improve the understanding of the dynamics and impact of corruption, and build anti-corruption skills and expertise.
In the area of asset recovery, an issue of particular concern to Nigeria, we continue to support States and financial centres through the joint World Bank-UNODC Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative in achieving a more systematic, reliable and timely return of stolen assets.
While we are confident that our contributions to the global anti-corruption agenda have a catalytic effect, we must remain realistic. Eventually we only will be able to tackle corruption successfully if all stakeholders work in concert. Only when Governments, civil society, the international community and donors join forces, will we be able to make substantial and sustainable change. It is therefore critical that we also on this International Anti-Corruption Day must stand #UnitedAgainstCorruption.
* Brandolino is Director for Treaty Affairs, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime