“Corruption is the thief of economic and social development; stealing the opportunities of ordinary people to progress and to prosper.”
Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in his address to the Fifth Session in Panama City, 2013
1 November 2015 – Corruption undermines democratic institutions, slows economic development and contributes to governmental instability. It is a key obstacle to progress and prosperity, hurting poor people disproportionately.
Corruption attacks the foundation of democratic institutions by distorting electoral processes, perverting the rule of law. Many people, especially the poor, women and minorities face the necessity of paying bribes to gain access to essential services.
Economic development is stunted because foreign direct investment is discouraged and small businesses often find it impossible to overcome the “start-up costs” required because of corruption.
The new development agenda adopted at a special summit of the General Assembly in New York in September 2015 sets out 17 Sustainable Development Goals which aim to create a life of dignity for all by 2030. Goal 16 aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. Substantially reducing corruption and bribery in all their forms is among the targets for this goal.
This cross-cutting goal is fundamental to realizing the whole post-2015 development agenda. As the head of UNODC, Yury Fedotov, said: “Thanks to the United Nations, Member States, and civil society, we now have a unique opportunity to tackle poverty, and promote health and development. But, barriers exist to the achievement of these targets, including drugs, crime, corruption and terrorism. Such threats erode social and economic development, and human rights, and flourish where the rule of law is weak and criminal justice ineffective.”
The costs of corruption are a heavy burden to bear. The African Union estimates that 25 per cent of the continent’s GDP (nearly 150 billion dollars) is lost due to corruption. Nations that fight corruption and improve their rule of law could increase their national income by 400 per cent.
Several studies provide evidence of the negative correlation between corruption and the quality of government spending, services and regulations. According to UNODC, corruption, bribery, theft and tax evasion cost some US $1.26 trillion for developing countries per year. The environment also suffers: the costs of water infrastructure are increased by corruption by as much as 40 per cent which equates to an additional US$12 billion a year needed to provide worldwide safe drinking water and sanitation.
How does the UN Office on Drugs and Crime help countries tackle corruption?
UNODC provides a broad range of support to Member States to improve their capacity to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute corruption. UNODC also supports countries by developing and coordinating technical assistance activities related to corruption at regional, national and international levels.
A team of anti-corruption advisers are present currently in South and South-East Asia, much of Africa as well as in the Caribbean and Central America, the Pacific, the Middle East and in the Small Island Developing States. Various anti-corruption programmes are also run from UNODC’s network of field offices. In the last two years, UNODC has implemented programmes in Afghanistan, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Panama, Paraguay and Timor-Leste.
In the last two years UNODC has supported 27 States to improve their domestic legislation to prevent and fight corruption and to ensure it is in compliance with the UN Convention against Corruption.
Strengthening national institutional and policy frameworks and the capacity of national authorities to fight corruption is important too. UNODC has been helping to train investigators, auditors and magistrates to detect corruption in Mozambique among other support.
Training programmes on investigating corruption, money laundering and asset recovery are being developed in Panama. Mock trial training courses for prosecutors and investigators have been held in Botswana, Tanzania and Uganda.
Specialized training on financial investigation and money laundering were held in Iraq, Morocco and the State of Palestine, and are ongoing for Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Thailand and Tunisia. Other types of assistance included support to develop intelligence bodies in Malawi or investigation manuals in Uganda.
In Egypt, a UNODC project provided assistance to increase the State’s capacity to detect and prosecute corruption cases and to deal with the recovery of assets of former leaders and other high-ranking officials who have engaged in widespread corruption. In Afghanistan, UNODC commenced a country-level anti-corruption assistance project this year and in Timor-Leste it is working to strengthen anti-corruption institutions.
As is emphasized in the Preamble to the UN Convention against Corruption, corruption poses a threat to the stability and security of societies, undermines the institutions and values of democracy and justice and jeopardizes sustainable development and the rule of law. As the guardian of the Convention, UNODC is committed to promoting good governance, integrity and transparency to help countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.