Manual Global Corruption Report 2004 : Special Focus: Political Corruption

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How does your country fare? The Global Corruption Report provides an overview of the state of corruption around the world. It covers national and international developments, institutional and legal change and activities within both the private sector and civil society for the period from July to June This year the Global Corruption Report focuses on political corruption.

It presents 34 country reports and the latest research on corruption. Political corruption is the abuse of entrusted power by political leaders for private gain.

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The scale of the problem can be vast. Corruption in political finance takes many forms, ranging from vote buying and the use of illicit funds to the sale of appointments and the abuse of state resources. Not all are illegal. Legal donations to political parties often result in policy changes, for example.

Pointing out that disparities in the legislative systems of different countries were diminishing accountability across borders, she emphasized the importance of seeking common ground and enabling collaborative mechanisms for sharing information and investigations. Delegates later participated in two interactive discussions featuring panellists from Government and civil society. Panellists stressed the importance of independent institutions, protection for whistle-blowers and respect for freedom of the press. Destroying everything in its path, it stifled growth and shattered trust between people and the Governments that served them, he noted.

Furthermore, corruption usually meant less investment, he said, explaining that when businesses could not trust that their contracts would be honoured or that anything going wrong would be remedied, they did not invest. Emphasizing that the primary responsibility for tackling corruption lay in the hands of Governments, he said they had the power to legislate, implement and to enforce.

However, they could not do it alone, he cautioned, calling for assistance from the media and the private sector. Civil society and academia were also key players because they monitored progress, he added, encouraging them to continue to use training, advocacy and technology to empower people against corruption. Society could not function equitably and efficiently when public officials, from doctors and police to judges and politicians, enriched themselves rather than performing their duties with integrity.

Corruption robbed funds from schools, hospitals, infrastructure and other vital services, he noted, adding that human trafficking and migrant smuggling, illicit financial flows and illegal trade in natural resources, weapons, drugs and cultural heritage were all made possible because of corruption. He went on to state that the Convention against Corruption represented a fundamental recognition that corruption was neither an acceptable cost of doing business nor a necessary evil, but simply an unacceptable crime.

The United Nations would continue to support Member States every step of the way, he pledged. Corruption enabled many other forms of crimes, he added, noting that the Convention had been instrumental in helping countries deal with other offences. Effective implementation of the Convention also had great potential to help meet targets relating to sustainable development. They could have been used to build schools, hospitals and roads, he noted.

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However, there were still many challenges in mobilizing support for the mechanism, he cautioned, calling on the international community to maintain its commitment by respecting time frames and providing necessary funds so that all countries could implement the Convention. Noting that trust in the ability of institutions to serve the people had come under question in recent years, she stressed that Governments and citizens could no longer afford to think of themselves as separate.

Corruption must be recognized as a transnational issue affecting all sectors of society. The Convention helped States to implement measures including various legal reform.

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Urging Member States to implement policies that would foster a culture of transparency and integrity, she outlined measures that Mexico had taken to punish corruption. The Government remained committed to fighting corruption in a holistic manner, including by working to strengthen the right to public information which greatly enhanced accountability. As part of its effort to strengthen action against international bribery, Mexico was working on a protocol that would allow it to effectively investigate and prosecute such crimes.

The recovery of stolen assets was another key area in which China had made significant strides, she said. Georgia had also introduced changes to legislation obliging public agencies to disclose public information, he said, noting that a new Freedom of Information Act would soon be presented for adoption by Parliament. Committed to the fight against corruption, Portugal sought to promote the rule of law, enhance citizenship, promote transparency and prevent conflicts of interests in pursuit of a fair society.

Honduras aimed to become a regional leader in transparency, she added, noting its joint national and regional efforts focused on fighting against corruption. Its severe effects on economic and social conditions were clear. He stressed the importance of independent judiciaries and press freedoms in ensuring that State abuses were known and could be addressed. It was essential to examine the finances of criminal structures, he continued, emphasizing the need to seize the assets of those involved in corruption. Organized crime lived and breathed through corruption, and yet the response of the international community and Governments had been rudimentary.

Several prosecutions had been carried out in recent years, but the most significant achievement was in the field of prevention, he said. Promoting the rule of law and human rights was a precondition for the fight against corruption, he emphasized. More work remained, however, including in addressing investigative challenges and the lack of adequate data.

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It was difficult to track and identify illicit income, he added, emphasizing that an international agreement on asset recovery would help to clearly define measures in recovering and confiscating stolen funds. It also continued to provide considerable financial support to the review mechanism. Joint projects between the review mechanism and the Russian Federation were being successfully carried out. While the United States remained focused on fighting corruption, commitment to the Convention on the part of States parties remained indispensable.

International mechanisms to address and fight bribery had directly improved national reputations, he noted, emphasizing that international cooperation through bilateral frameworks was essential to investigating and prosecuting criminals. The United States had seized or frozen billions of dollars in relation to corruption investigations, he said, adding that President Donald J. Trump had announced new plans to more effectively target those engaging in corruption and violating human rights. Emphasizing the independence of the prosecutors and the judiciary, she stressed that an independent justice system was of fundamental importance in a democratic society.

China had been aligning national legislation with the Convention by treating embezzlement and the bribery of foreign public officials as crimes, among other steps. The criminal law had been amended three times since the country became a signatory. Furthermore, the provision of international criminal judicial assistance was an ongoing process.

Emphasizing the importance of prevention, she said the Government was making significant efforts to that end by streamlining and decentralizing the administration and promoting openness in its own activities. MUNA said that, as an activist, he had found the advent of the Convention to be extraordinary.

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Noting that the recovery of stolen assets was especially important for Africa, he stressed that the Convention must be more robust in that area. There should be escrow accounts in which money could be deposited during corruption investigations, he suggested.