About the Author: John M. Brandolino serves in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL).
I'm attending the 14th International Anticorruption Conference (IACC), currently being held in Bangkok through Saturday. Lively discussions and differing viewpoints are to be expected at this event involving nearly 200 speakers and sponsored and run by non-governmental organizations, such as Transparency International, that are highly vested and engaged in countering corruption.
Transparency International created the IACC in the 1980's, when very few people -- governmental and non-governmental alike -- were focusing on corruption. Now, the biennial gathering has become a premier event attracting over 1,500 individuals from all walks of government, businesses, and civil society. Inconceivable at the time of the first IACC, we now have a detailed global set of commitments against corruption -- the UN Convention against Corruption -- that have been legally embraced by over 140 countries, including the United States.
The U.S. Government policy is that we should encourage open discussion about corruption and how we can best prevent and combat it, despite the fact that the discussion can occasionally be directed towards us. Expert discussions allow a deeper look at the anticorruption actions of governments, and this inevitably leads to a better understanding about how to counter corruption.
It also over the long term paints a favorable picture of the United States. The various NGOs involved in organizing the IACC have recognized this by asking the United States to join the IACC's International Program Committee, the only government other than host government Thailand serving in this capacity. Officials from the State Department INL Bureau's anticorruption team worked closely with the IACC Board to help put together the agenda, including developing a new Leader's Forum during the opening plenary. Through the American Bar Association, we supported a number of panels and speakers. Secretary Clinton provided a video message during the opening session, highlighting recently unveiled multilateral anticorruption initiatives developed in the UN and G-20 with U.S. leadership.
In the end, any one of the 1,500 participants at this year's IACC will hear the occasional comment or criticism against the United States. But during the course of this 14th IACC they will also hear, among other things, about our unprecedented prosecutions against bribery of foreign officials, our tools to deny safe haven to corrupt officials, our financial disclosure systems, our actions to set an example as one of the first countries to be reviewed under the new mechanism for reviewing implementation of the UN Convention, our efforts to identify how organized crime and corruption converge and our numerous anticorruption technical assistance programs that we fund. Various U.S. officials, including me, are slated to join several of the workshops as panelists.
We do not fear an open discussion on corruption. Rather, we use our diplomatic and other skills to encourage and support a substantive and expert analysis of the issue. This, in turn, serves our interests by moving the international community forward against corruption and cementing our constructive place in much-needed and critical global partnerships against this scourge.