Common commitment to combating corruption

By Yasmeen Abalqoloub

In June 2021, the United Nations General Assembly at its thirty-second special session adopted a political declaration entitled: “Our common commitment to effectively addressing challenges and implementing measures to prevent and combat corruption and strengthen international cooperation.”

This political declaration represents an important momentum for the fight against corruption. It further supports the implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), which is the only anticorruption universal legally binding instrument. In fact, the political declaration mirrors the UNCAC, and they share similar focus areas such as: preventative measures, criminalization and law enforcement, asset recovery, technical assistance and information exchange.

As for preventative measures, UN Members States demonstrate in the political declaration their commitment to adopt preventive measures and anticorruption policies in line with Chapter II of the UNCAC. This entails intensifying efforts to raise awareness of the dangers of corruption and to educate society about the importance of preventing and combating corruption.

Another area is criminalization and law enforcement which reflects Chapter III of the UNCAC. Member States are committed as per the declaration to criminalize corruption, investigate its crimes, and prosecute its perpetrators in both the public and private sectors. They are also committed to building capacity of law enforcement and judicial authorities, imposing deterrent penalties against natural and legal persons, and enacting anticorruption legislations.

With regards to international cooperation, UN Member States stressed on the importance of cooperating with each other to combat corruption through several mechanisms such as technical assistance, mutual legal assistance, and exchange of information. These commitments compliment Chapter IV of the UNCAC.

The declaration also mentions asset recovery, in line with Chapter V of the UNCAC. Member States declared that they seek to strengthen the capabilities of the competent authorities to trace, freeze, seize and confiscate the proceeds of crime, showing their commitment to recover the proceeds of corruption crimes.

A further focus area is technical assistance and the exchange of information (Chapter VI of the UNCAC). In the declaration, Member States reaffirm their commitment to provide full support to other countries, particularly developing countries, and benefit from the assistance by the United Nations bodies, specifically the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in capacity building and training.

Furthermore, Member States realize that corruption is an obstacle to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN Agenda 2030. For this reason, a specific section of the political declaration was entitled “Anti-corruption as an enabler for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” It was emphasized in that section that anticorruption and transparency are pillars for implementing the SDGs, specifically SDG 16: “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

Finally, the political declaration concludes with the commitment to advancing a forward-looking anti-corruption agenda and framework. Member States reiterate in this conclusion the importance of the UNCAC and its role in building the capacity of countries in combating corruption.

– Yasmeen Abalqoloub is an officer at International Cooperation Department, Kuwait Anticorruption Authority (Nazaha)

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