Accountability of Political Leaders noble

Ronald Noble, 10th IACC, Speech, Governance


Ronald Noble:

Mr. Prime Minister, Madam Chairperson, distinguished delegates, dear colleagues, I am generally humbled to be in your presence. Two years ago, at Durban, I addressed you as a delegate for Secretary General of Interpol. As the chairperson has just said, eleven months ago I was confirmed as the Secretary General, so I am pleased to be here not only to speak of the role of the police in fostering political commitment, but also to demonstrate the high priority that Interpol places on the issue of fighting corruption.

Interpol is a unique international organization. While it is made up of 179 countries committed to exchange police information, it has fewer than 200 full-time employees and 150 police officers at its headquarters in Lyons, France. What can such an organization provide in the struggle against corruption? The most important role we can play is to join with you as the representatives of civil society to create unique partnerships. Yes, we can and are developing codes of police conduct and establishing a library of best practices. Together, we are undertaking police integrity surveys and developing training manuals. Our last three general assemblies in Solun, Rhodes and Budapest enacted resolutions unanimously supporting anti-corruption initiatives and reaffirming these programs as high priorities.

However, the national police forces around the world do not have to act based on Interpol's guidance. We can provide leadership, but we cannot dictate to any police service. We can provide best practices, but no one needs to follow them. Thus, if we are to make progress against the problem of police corruption, we need your help to persuade civil societies, local governments, and the police about the importance of fighting corruption. I do not believe that democracy can flourish, that economies can grow and that human rights and dignity can be maintained without the citizens having confidence in the integrity of their police. This is a difficult and long-term struggle, as the Prime Minister has already indicated. Other priorities will arise, but we cannot forget that if our institutions do not continue to make progress towards eliminating the insidious disease of corruption, nothing else will much matter. Therefore I would personally like to thank the organizers of the 10th conference for the courage and commitment in insisting that this conference proceeds.

Interpol's general assembly was held two weeks ago in Budapest, when many believed that because of the events of September 11, we should not proceed. We, like you, stand shoulder to shoulder in saying that the work in fighting corruption here is as important as the world's fight against terrorism. It is true that on September 11 citizens of the world experienced unparalleled acts of violence and terror. These acts left a once vibrant city and its people initially devastated and although the dust and the rubble will be cleared away, the horror and scars will remain with us forever. As has been already indicated, I am a U. S. citizen and a resident of New York. I just returned from there yesterday, but it is important to know that among the thousands of people murdered in cold blood on that day were the citizens of 80 countries.

All of us were touched in some way by the events of September 11. The reaction of the international community was powerful. Condemnation of these barbaric acts was almost unanimous. The horror had touched people from all walks of life. Thousands rallied in the stricken city. Tens of thousands of offers of assistance were made. Last night, the long awaited or anticipated military response began. But the problem of terrorism cannot be won on a military battlefield. Terrorism, like corruption, requires civil society, local government, prosecutors and police to combine their efforts to bring those guilty to justice.

Let me briefly attempt to explain how the September 11 terrorist acts cannot be separated from the fight against corruption. Following the acts of September 11, we in law enforcement were awash with many new ideas; ideas on how to improve security and investigation processes. International cooperation had never been better. Arrests were executed in Hamburg and in the U. S. within hours after the tragedy. New security committees were formed. New legislation was introduced. The intelligence community, law enforcement, the financial institutions community, the airline industries and many others, each in their own way, tried to contribute something to ease the pain caused by the tragedy, to bring the guilty to justice, to prevent this from ever happening again.

Nevertheless, ladies and gentlemen, all of these good initiatives, these well-meaning intentions may amount to nothing if the potential for large-scale corruption remains. If customs, police and security professionals are corrupt, no expense of high-tech devices will provide our citizens the security they deserve. If corrupt public servants provide false identity documents, terrorists will move more freely throughout the world, and all of us and all of our society will remain threatened.

Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, the most sophisticated security systems, best structures, or trained and dedicated security personnel are useless if they are undermined from the inside by a simple act of corruption. The fact is that the strongest fortress will crumble if built upon sand. In addition to spending billions of dollars on improving our intelligence gathering systems and mechanisms and on new crime detection systems, we must also invest in people who operate them. Technological systems are good, but they are not enough.

So what do I mean by investing in people? We need to identify the people at risk, people in key positions, who for one reason or another are likely to be compromised, likely to be targets of organized crime, or any other group. These are not my ideas alone. These ideas came from people in Interpol who reached out to individuals from your community, such as Kevin Ford and Judge Keefe and others who will be named later in this conference. It is an effort that we have to engage in together.

Someone once said that for every problem there is a solution that is simple, elegant and wrong. In order to combat corruption effectively, we can no longer afford cheap, quick, and short-term solutions. In order to do the right thing, we need the uncompromising support of our political leaders. You as representatives of civil society are essential if we are to meet this challenge. I intend to make available to everyone who cares the guides and practices that Interpol's Secretariat General believes are essential to address the integrity needs of the world's police services. However, we must have your help to see that they are implemented.

At this conference, Interpol will be chairing two panels. My Director of Cabinet Stan Morris and Assistant Director for financial and high-tech crime Rainer Buhrer will represent Interpol. They have been long-time contributors to the fight against corruption, to this conference and to TI.

In conclusion, I am grateful and indeed honored to have been invited again, and hope that when we are together in two years, we can show continued progress - the world citizens deserve no less. Thank you very much.

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