United Nations Convention against Corruption: The International Aspects of Corruption
How much do you know about the United Nations Convention against Corruption?
Corruption is a complex social, political, and economic phenomenon that affects all countries especially undermines democratic institutions, slows economic development, and contributes to governmental instability.
It is a severe impediment to the rule of law and sustainable development. It attacks the foundation of democratic institutions by distorting electoral processes, perverting the rule of law, and creating bureaucratic quagmires whose only reason for existing is the solicitation of bribes.
That is why the field of anti-corruption legislation requires all countries to reform national legislation to meet the international standards set by the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions; the Council of Europe’s Criminal Law Convention on Corruption; and the United Nations Convention against Corruption (hereinafter referred to as the OECD, Council of Europe and UN Conventions).
Corruption Definition by the United Nations
As defined by the United Nations itself, the definition of Corruption is:
A complex social, political, and economic phenomenon that affects all countries. Corruption undermines democratic institutions, slows economic development, and contributes to governmental instability. Corruption attacks the foundation of democratic institutions by distorting electoral processes, perverting the rule of law, and creating bureaucratic quagmires whose only reason for existing is the soliciting of bribes.UNODC’s Action against Corruption and Economic Crime
The International community recognized the need for a global, legally-binding instrument dealing with corruption. The United Nations 2003 adopted the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), working on this area. Once adopted, it needed two years to enter into force in December 2005, and 81 countries of the UN ratified the convention in January 2007 (187 Parties as of 6th of February 2020).
With this critical step, the UN clarified that the fight against corruption had started. Having all the national legislations meet the international standards made it easier for the countries to cooperate and conduct international investigations and help each other regarding this matter.
At first, the Legislative Guide for the Implementation of the United Nations Conventions against Corruption was developed as well as a Technical Guide to provide practical support to State Parties in implementing the main provisions under the UN Convention. That is the most comprehensive anti-corruption tool providing the broadest range of corruption offenses, including active and passive bribery.
With these actions, international criminal standards were introduced, and other offenses were determined with the possibility to be enforced by the authorities. Some of them were obstruction of justice, illicit enrichment, and embezzlement. In addition to these actions, UNCAC prescribes preventive measures, international cooperation, and technical assistance. But, only some provisions of the Conventions are mandatory for the countries.
This fact makes it more complex for implementation. It is simply because states must first identify where and how their legislation falls below the standards of the convention and change it. For example, if domestic law does not incriminate the bribery of foreign public officials, it cannot be enforced accordingly. Or, when the definition of incrimination does not include part of the international definition of the offense, so it cannot be processed in front of the court and sanctioned accordingly. So all the countries, when they find differences in their domestic laws, must rectify those deficiencies so the cooperation can go smoothly and fluently.
When a country changes the law to fulfill the international criteria, it can just extend the existing one, i.e., the existing offenses, which is a positive approach to change or write a new and more complex law and assure certainty and stability of the law.
We need to make sure that governments meet the terms of anti-corruption conventions. The best way is for countries to oversee each other’s progress. This means they need effective monitoring systems.
The international conventions require their parties to provide practical, proportionate, and dissuasive civil, administrative or criminal sanctions for these activities. This is a must. Without it, the conventions are just meaningless written papers.
Corruption at the Heart of the United Nations
You may be wondering of the mentioned title, but unfortunately, it’s true;
FOR over a year, investigators have pored over questions of mismanagement and corruption at the United Nations. On Monday, August 8th, they produced their firmest—and most painful—conclusions to date. An independent commission has found that Benon Sevan, the former head of the UN’s oil-for-food program in Iraq, “corruptly benefited” from kickbacks while he was in charge. Another UN official from the procurement office is accused of soliciting bribes. The UN’s biggest-ever humanitarian undertaking seems to have become its biggest-ever scandal.
A harsh light began to shine on Mr. Sevan after his name appeared on documents found in Iraq after the American-led invasion of 2003. Under the program he ran, Iraq, though shackled by trade sanctions, could sell oil to buy food and medicine for its people. But the Iraqis negotiated the right to choose buyers and sellers in the program. This gave Saddam Hussein’s government the ability to use oil concessions as a way to buy friends and influence. Among those alleged to have been bribed with oil, vouchers are several European politicians.
Final Remarks About the United Nations Convention Against Corruption
Good systems are impartial, transparent, and cost-effective. The best way to achieve them is to involve civil society. Our independent input brings credibility to a monitoring process. To help countries meet anti-corruption requirements, we can help check how well a government is doing. We, the active citizens, should highlight improvements and gaps. This gives governments feedback on their performance.
Corruption is an execrable matter that we need to eliminate from our countries to straighten justice and the rule of law.