Strengthening Integrity to Promote Development

Dimitri Vlassis, 13th IACC, Plenary Thematic Discussion, Development

Plenary 4, remarks by:

Mr. Dimitri Vlassis

Chief, Corruption and Economic Crime Section


Secretary, Conference of the States Parties to the

United Nations Convention against Corruption


Athens, 2 November 2008

Strengthening Integrity to Promote Development


·        Sustainable Globalisation requires economic growth and social stability.

·        The biggest killer of both – in countries rich and poor – is corruption.

·        Corruption undermines economic growthby breaking the rules on which the financial system should be based – you don’t need to look far to see plenty of examples.

·        Corruption breaks trustin government and erodes the legitimacy of institutions – public and private. This can lead to social instability. Lack of trust in institutions breeds also apathy, which is as serious as instability as it attacks democracy at its roots.

·        And corruption retards development by stealing the public’s money that is needed to build schools, roads, sanitation and healthcare.

·        That is why, although the rule of law is not one of the Millennium Development Goals, we argue that it is the key to unlocking them all.

·        This includes strengthening integrity. And the best global blueprint for that is the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

·        How can the UNCAC promote sustainable globalization?  Let me suggest 3 ways.

1.     UNCAC as insurance policy

·        First, UNCAC should be used as an insurance policy – in a broad sense for both developed and developing countries.

·        It is an insurance policy for development and the means employed to promote and sustain it -- so both providers and recipients of development assistance make sure that assistance gets into the hands of those for whom it is intended.

·        This is not just a book-keeping issue (to make sure money is well spent). It is also a question of good governance.

·        UNCAC  is the most universal  and most comprehensive means for building integrity – it should be universally applied, not only by States Parties, but also by development agencies and banks. 

·        UNCAC offers a transparent and common framework. It is the product of an inclusive and fully participatory process and, most importantly, the product of consensus.  It is unique in that respect.

·        Using UNCAC as the common benchmark – the goal to which we all aspire – is thus easy.  We have all taken part in negotiating it and we all agree it is the crystallization of our common efforts.  By using the UNCAC, we play by the same rules.    

·        This is the best way of increasing aid effectiveness and strengthening integrity, while avoiding double standards or shifting goalposts.

·        States Parties can demonstrate their commitment to integrity by implementing the Convention – being a partner in development integrity (in the broadest sense).

·        It will build confidence and ensure that money is well spent.

·        Indeed, the private sector (particularly banks and financial companies) could go a long way in rebuilding trust by applying the UNCAC principles in their work.

2.     Governance and integrity 

·        My second point is the link between governance and integrity.

·        Governance and development are not separate agendas. Indeed, you can’t have one without the other.

·        Since integrity is a key aspect of good governance, implementing the Convention will strengthen political and economic accountability.

·        The lynchpin and enabling factor is technical assistance --  an integral part of the UNCAC

·        Therefore, UNCAC is not only an insurance policy, it can be a down payment for building good/clean governance.

·        The challenge, therefore, is how to effectively deliver technical assistance.

3. Corruption as a lubricant  

·        That brings me to my third and final point, the need to prevent corruption from enabling other crimes.

·        At the moment, corruption is the lubricant for crimes that hurt sustainable globalisation, i.e.

- the bribery that enables environmental crimes;

- counterfeit medicines that harm rather than help the sick;

- illegal checkpoints along highways that hinder trade;

- the fraud that rips off investors or diverts aid or investment into private pockets;

·        It is very often small transactions, as much as large-scale fraud, that threaten development and human security.

·        Implementation of the UNCAC, as well as national anti-corruption strategies, can introduce a “culture of integrity”.

The impact of globalization

·        Need global solutions to global problems. We have that solution, with the UNCAC. The corrupt use the openness of globalization to shield illicit assets and launder money. The UNCAC fights back by eliminating bank secrecy as an impediment to anti-corruption efforts. It strengthens international cooperation and has specific robust and totally new, groundbreaking provisions to recover stolen assets and ensure their return.

·        Globalization has raised awareness of the problem on a truly international level. The UNCAC has the potential of eliminating safe havens – to ensure that perpetrators have nowhere to hide and will not enjoy the fruits of their crime.

·        NGOs, civil society, and the media are blowing the whistle – not only in their own country, but to expose corruption around the world.   

·        In short, building integrity is the cornerstone of sustainable globalization. This can be achieved by the implementation of the world’s only universal anti-corruption instrument (UNCAC), and the local action it calls for to prevent corruption, strengthen checks and balances in the system, and change mindsets about something that is a crime, not a normal way of conducting business.

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