Moderator’s Introductory Remarks: Robert Leventhal, Director of Anti-Corruption and Governance Initiatives, U.S. Department of State
Economic and Environmental Forum First Preparatory Meeting
Dublin, Ireland, April 23, 2012
Good morning. It is my honor, and pleasure, to serve as moderator for the first panel of this meeting, which focuses on multilateral anti-corruption instruments and regional initiatives. This discussion will set the backdrop for each of the subsequent panels, which focus on specific aspects of good practices in preventing or combating corruption and improving governance and transparency.
In a moment I will introduce the distinguished panelists, who will each speak for 10-12 minutes. We will then open the floor for questions and comments. I hope we will have a participatory and interactive session, so I ask that questions and comments be focused and to the point. I have been asked to ensure that we have sufficient time for discussion, so I will do my best to enforce time limits for the panelists and those intervening from the floor.
Before we get going, a few comments to set the stage.
There has been tremendous activity in the area of international frameworks and standards to address corruption in the last 15 plus years. OSCE participating States have contributed to and are very involved in these initiatives.
We now have a series of regional anti-corruption treaties, including the Council of Europe Conventions, subscribed to by many OSCE participating States, but also the African Union Convention, an Arab League Convention in negotiation, and the very first of them all, the Inter-American Convention against Corruption. The Council of Europe Conventions are paired with GRECO, a monitoring body that conducts rigorous peer reviews for compliance with CoE standards. These reviews have focused on such key and cutting-edge issues as transparency in political finance – and, given all the news about campaign finance in the last year, that review was an interesting experience for the United States – and now preventive measures for the judiciary, prosecution, and parliament.
OSCE participating States also make up the majority of the States Parties of the Anti-Bribery Convention, an instrument focused on combating the bribery of foreign public officials by individuals pursuing business interests. The States Parties, through the OECD Working Group on Bribery, have pressed each other to adopt effective foreign bribery legislation and are now focusing on the critical goal of stronger implementation and enforcement. To be frank, relatively few countries have completed a significant number of enforcement actions, which falls short of the aspirations of the Convention and, for that matter, of similar provisions in the Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention and UNCAC. But the number has been increasing, with recent action by Germany, the UK, the United States, and Italy, and the completed cases have had an important deterrent effect. The Russian Federation’s accession strengthens the membership, and other major emerging economies have stepped up their engagement with the Working Group on Bribery with an eye toward possible accession.
Almost all OSCE participating States are States Parties to UNCAC, and make up a significant portion of the 160 UNCAC parties. UNCAC’s comprehensive scope and potentially universal reach make it an important instrument. States Parties took a critical step forward two years ago with the adoption and launch of an implementation review process based on peer reviews. These reviews help countries identify shortcomings and technical assistance needs, and help them target and prioritize reform. There was significant support for the position that UNCAC reviews should include site visits and involvement of civil society (as is the case for the OECD, GRECO, and Inter-American reviews), and publication of the entire report, to bolster the impact and credibility of the reviews. But Parties did not reach consensus, and as a result these elements are optional. It will be interesting to hear UNODC’s report on how the first year or two of the reviews have been proceeding, including with respect to these elements. UNCAC has also been the framework for expert work on key areas such as asset recovery and prevention – an area in which Mr. Aboudrar’s government showed particular interest in and leadership as host of the last UNCAC Conference of States Parties, which produced the Marrakesh Declaration on Prevention.
I’ll note that the United States is a party to UNCAC, the Anti-Bribery Convention, and the Inter-American Convention, and is a member of GRECO, and is a strong supporter of these multilateral frameworks. We were reviewed by all four mechanisms during an 18 month period in 2010-2011! In each case, by the way, our review benefitted from independent, technical input from civil society and business, and the reports and recommendations are publicly available.
With this strong normative framework, it may be argued that we know what we have to do. Now the challenge is finding the wherewithal to do it. Many countries, parties to one or several of these conventions, are increasing their hard work to implement them – not just through adoption of laws, but through their enforcement and application in practice. Our panelists from the international organizations that serve as secretariats for these treaties may want to share their sense of the main challenges to application in practice and enforcement, including which measures are proving the most difficult. Seeing the head of an anti-corruption body here, we may reflect on challenges some anti-corruption authorities face in establishing the necessary resources and specialization, in preserving their independence, and in resisting attacks when they are successful. This is an area where the G20 has spoken, and where the World Bank and others are bringing new attention to bear on countries’ situations and putting new l earning at their disposal. Considering the presence of Ms. Savran, we may reflect on how networks, the OECD’s and many other more specialized ones in the region, can promote policy dialogue, sharing of good practices, and case cooperation. And we may generate ideas of how OSCE can contribute, perhaps not with a focus on new standards, but on assisting in implementation.
Mr. Aboudrar’s presence also raises another potential line of discussion, in light of the increased interest in the MENA region in anti-corruption reform and the impetus of the recent transitions. Are there experiences, lessons learned, and models that OSCE participating States can share, in particular those who went through relatively recent transitions themselves in pursuing such reforms? How can OSCE and the OCEEA foster or facilitate that exchange?
Now let me introduce our panelists. I am fortunate, as each is not only an accomplished professional in this field, but each is also a friend.