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Forests | 31 October 2003

United Nations Convention against Corruption

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United Nations Convention against Corruption

Foreword by Kofi A. Annan, UN Secretary General:

Corruption is an insidious plague that has a wide range of corrosive effects
on societies. It undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to violations
of human rights, distorts markets, erodes the quality of life and allows organized
crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish.
This evil phenomenon is found in all countries—big and small, rich and
poor—but it is in the developing world that its effects are most destructive.
Corruption hurts the poor disproportionately by diverting funds intended for
development, undermining a Government’s ability to provide basic services,
feeding inequality and injustice and discouraging foreign aid and investment.
Corruption is a key element in economic underperformance and a major obsta-
cle to poverty alleviation and development.
I am therefore very happy that we now have a new instrument to address
this scourge at the global level. The adoption of the United Nations Convention
against Corruption will send a clear message that the international community
is determined to prevent and control corruption. It will warn the corrupt that
betrayal of the public trust will no longer be tolerated. And it will reaffirm the
importance of core values such as honesty, respect for the rule of law, account-
ability and transparency in promoting development and making the world a
better place for all.
The new Convention is a remarkable achievement, and it complements
another landmark instrument, the United Nations Convention against
Transnational Organized Crime, which entered into force just a month ago. It
is balanced, strong and pragmatic, and it offers a new framework for effective
action and international cooperation.
The Convention introduces a comprehensive set of standards, measures
and rules that all countries can apply in order to strengthen their legal and
regulatory regimes to fight corruption. It calls for preventive measures and the
criminalization of the most prevalent forms of corruption in both public and
private sectors. And it makes a major breakthrough by requiring Member States
to return assets obtained through corruption to the country from which they
were stolen.
These provisions—the first of their kind—introduce a new fundamental
principle, as well as a framework for stronger cooperation between States to
prevent and detect corruption and to return the proceeds. Corrupt officials will
in future find fewer ways to hide their illicit gains. This is a particularly impor-
tant issue for many developing countries where corrupt high officials have
plundered the national wealth and where new Governments badly need
resources to reconstruct and rehabilitate their societies.
For the United Nations, the Convention is the culmination of work that
started many years ago, when the word corruption was hardly ever uttered in
official circles. It took systematic efforts, first at the technical, and then gradu-
ally at the political, level to put the fight against corruption on the global
agenda. Both the Monterrey International Conference on Financing for Devel-
opment and the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development
offered opportunities for Governments to express their determination to attack
corruption and to make many more people aware of the devastating effect that
corruption has on development.
The Convention is also the result of long and difficult negotiations. Many
complex issues and many concerns from different quarters had to be addressed.
It was a formidable challenge to produce, in less than two years, an instrument
that reflects all those concerns. All countries had to show flexibility and make
concessions. But we can be proud of the result.
Allow me to congratulate the members of the bureau of the Ad Hoc
Committee for the Negotiation of a Convention against Corruption on their
hard work and leadership, and to pay a special tribute to the Committee’s late
Chairman, Ambassador Héctor Charry Samper of Colombia, for his wise guid-
ance and his dedication. I am sure all here share my sorrow that he is not with
us to celebrate this great success.
The adoption of the new Convention will be a remarkable achievement.
But let us be clear: it is only a beginning. We must build on the momentum
achieved to ensure that the Convention enters into force as soon as possible. I
urge all Member States to attend the Signing Conference in Merida, Mexico,
in December, and to ratify the Convention at the earliest possible date.
If fully enforced, this new instrument can make a real difference to the
quality of life of millions of people around the world. And by removing one of
the biggest obstacles to development it can help us achieve the Millennium
Development Goals. Be assured that the United Nations Secretariat, and in
particular the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, will do whatever it
can to support the efforts of States to eliminate the scourge of corruption from
the face of the Earth. It is a big challenge, but I think that, together, we can
make a difference.

Kofi A. Annan