Opening Statement at the OSCE Economic and Environmental Dimension Implementation Meeting

OSCE Economic and Environmental Dimension (Photo:OSCE)

Opening Statement at the OSCE Economic and Environmental Dimension Implementation Meeting

As delivered by Bahram Rajaee, Political Officer
October 18, 2021

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Good morning, representatives and distinguished guests. I would like to begin by thanking Ambassador Funered and the Swedish OSCE Chairpersonship, and the Coordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities, Ambassador Hasani, for organizing this Economic and Environmental Dimension Implementation Meeting. Thank you, as well, to Minister Fridh and Deputy Minister Fino for your contributions this morning.

EEDIM is an opportunity to examine how well we participating States have been implementing our commitments. We welcome this year’s timely focus on anticorruption and good governance. As a community we made progress with the Tirana Ministerial Council decision on combating corruption, which focused on how technology can further prevent corruption and promote transparency. The July cross-dimensional conference organized by the Swedish Chairpersonship and the CiO’s Special Representative for Combating Corruption, Professor Anita Ramasastry, offered a moment for us to follow up and highlight priority concerns. There is much more to do.

Corruption has a substantial negative impact on economies around the world. In developing countries, funds lost to corruption are estimated at ten times the amount of official development assistance. Corruption also erodes the trust and confidence of citizens in their public institutions and denies equal access to public services. That is why so many popular protests around the world are driven by corruption-related grievances. In addition, “strategic corruption” is a foreign policy tool used by some states to advance geopolitical interests, including the covert funneling of money for the purpose of undermining democratic institutions and processes. Corrupt actors also work with professional enablers to take advantage of vulnerabilities in our financial and regulatory system to launder and hide their ill-gotten gains, often with troubling ease.

In the United States, we are taking strong action. On June 3, President Biden released the National Security Study Memorandum on the Fight Against Corruption, formally establishing the fight against corruption as a core national security interest of the United States. Through a whole-of-government review process associated with that Memorandum, we are assessing how we and our partners can modernize, coordinate, and resource efforts to better fight corruption; tackle illicit finance; hold corrupt actors accountable; build international partnerships; and strengthen our engagement and support for civil society and media. We look forward to working with our partners and allies, including here at the OSCE, on these efforts.

As President Biden has said, “Corruption attacks the foundations of democratic institutions, drives and intensifies extremism, and makes it easier for authoritarian regimes to corrode democratic governance… Fighting corruption is not just good governance. It is self-defense.”

The OSCE as a regional security organization must seriously address the impacts of corruption across all three dimensions of security. To arbitrarily and inflexibly relegate aspects of fighting corruption to one OSCE dimension or another fundamentally misunderstands the issue of corruption.

So what more can OSCE as an institution do to combat this scourge? First, we need to be accountable for fulfillment of our commitments. Today’s meeting provides an opportunity for frank dialogue about where progress has been made and where we can do more. We could also consider tools such as annual surveys of actions taken to fulfill identified commitments. Second, we need to reach out to sectors outside the government and learn their perspectives on the problem, the specific issues that need to be addressed, and opportunities for collaboration. We must partner with the private sector, civil society, and the media to reveal corruption, foster public oversight and accountability, and address the weak governance and poor human rights conditions that both cultivate and are exacerbated by corruption.

This afternoon our delegation will co-sponsor a side-event with the Group of Friends on the Environment that will include perspectives from several NGOs on women’s leadership in combating wildlife and timber trafficking and related corruption. We invite all delegations to attend this event which seeks to illustrate the scope and complexity of these inter-related challenges. In the afternoon panel session, you will also hear from a U.S. colleague who will discuss in more detail how the United States is working with the private sector to harness its significant resources and central position in the global financial sector as part of our comprehensive anticorruption efforts.

The United States looks forward to hearing over these two days about best practices, reviewing how participating States are implementing their commitments in this important area, and discussing how the OSCE can help.

Thank you, Madam Chair.