2 December 2013

Africa: Anti-Corruption Activists Fail to Win Better Access to UN Meetings

Anti-graft activists fought a losing battle on Friday to be given greater access to future meetings of states that have signed up to the U.N. Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).

The activists, attending the UNCAC conference in Panama, lobbied for observer status at a number of meetings to which they are currently denied entry, but nine countries voted for the meetings to remain closed to outsiders, thwarting the activists' efforts.

"This was an occasion for all those opposing corruption to come together and consolidate, but a small group of determined countries are still keeping NGO observers out of important discussions," Vincent Lazatin, a representative of the UNCAC Coalition, said in a statement.

"This weakens the international community's global anti-corruption efforts, because NGO expertise is missing," Lazatin added.

The UNCAC coalition, a group of over 350 civil society anti-corruption watchdogs, had hoped to have their involvement in UNCAC meetings added to the proposed agenda for the next UNCAC conference, scheduled to be in Russia in 2015, and it had support from a number of countries.

"Civil society plays an active role in preventing and fighting corruption. Hence, it is important to cooperate with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) when promoting the implementation of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption," said a memo written at the conference and signed by Chile, El Salvador, Mexico, Peru, Norway and Switzerland.

The memo ended by proposing that the issue of civil society participation be discussed at the 2015 conference in Russia.

However, despite support from the memo's signatories and others, any reference to civil society participation in the agenda was blocked. This had the knock-on effect that no proposed agenda for the 2015 conference could be negotiated.

The countries that blocked the proposal included China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan and Venezuela.

The United Nations Convention against Corruption was adopted in 2003 and came into force in December 2005.

It requires ratifying states to prevent and criminalise corruption, promote international cooperation, recover stolen assets and improve technical assistance and information exchange in tackling fraud, bribery and graft in both the private and public sectors.


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