The international community has come a long way from the days when corruption was a “necessary evil” --mentioned in hushed tones or accepted as an immutable cultural practice. Yet, much work remains to be done. The World Bank estimates that $20-40 billion dollars is diverted annually from the coffers of developing nations through high-level corruption.
Corruption -- from bribes for basic public services to major embezzlement of tax income -- inflicts substantial costs upon the economy, society, security, and the rule of law. Preventing and combating corruption requires cooperation from the international community. As President Obama stated, the fight against corruption "is one of the great struggles of our time."
The United States and our partners are tackling this struggle head on. Just last month, from November 25-29, more than 1,500 people -- ministers, senior officials, anticorruption experts, and representatives of international organizations and civil society -- from more than 150 countries convened in Panama City, Panama, for the Fifth Conference of States Parties (COSP) of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). Brooke Darby, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), led the U.S. delegation and delivered opening remarks.
This COSP coincided with the tenth anniversary of the year that the UNCAC established a framework for tackling the scourge of corruption. The UNCAC obliges States Parties to criminalize acts of corruption and commit to measures promoting prevention, international cooperation, asset recovery, and technical assistance. The UNCAC also has a Review Mechanism that promotes implementation of the Convention through peer review. You can read the review of the United States on INL’s website.
States Parties at this COSP renewed their commitment to implement the UNCAC and unanimously adopted resolutions to promote practical measures to advance international cooperation in asset recovery; to enhance engagement with the private sector to combat corruption; and to reaffirm a commitment to preventing corruption. Working closely with the delegation from Nigeria, the United States put forth a resolution that will facilitate international cooperation on asset recovery to help return proceeds of corruption to the countries from which they were stolen. The United States also co-sponsored resolutions on the private sector; the prevention of corruption; the contribution of youth in fostering a culture of respect for the rule of law; and the implementation of the criminalization provisions of the UNCAC.
It was heartening to see the dedication of so many people from around the world working late into the night throughout the COSP in an effort to contribute to the realization of a world in which transparency and integrity are valued and promoted, where companies and entrepreneurs can compete fairly, and where corrupt actors are held accountable and denied the ability to benefit from their corruption.
The United States is committed to partnering with other countries, civil society, the private sector, and other stakeholders to combat corruption, and contributes approximately $1 billion annually to support anti-corruption and good governance activities around the globe.
About the Author: Alyce Ahn serves as a Foreign Affairs Officer in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).
Editor's Note: December 9 marks International Anti-Corrution Day. Visit the UN website for more information on international efforts to combat corruption, and go to the INL website for details on U.S. initiatives to support international anti-corruption goals.