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Cablegate: Un Anti-Corruption Conference (March 17-18, 2008)

VZCZCXRO2163
RR RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #0877/01 0831234
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 231234Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6390
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BAGHDAD 000877

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

ECON/I, NEA/I, INL/I, IO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EAID IZ KCOR PGOV PREL SOCI
SUBJECT: UN ANTI-CORRUPTION CONFERENCE (MARCH 17-18, 2008)

REFTEL: BAGHDAD 00069

1. (U) Summary. As part of its portfolio of activities to support
good governance, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), in
coordination with the office of Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih,
organized an international Anti-Corruption Conference in Baghdad on
March 17-18, 2008 at al-Rasheed Hotel, entitled "International
Compact with Iraq: Initiative on Good Governance and Anti-Corruption
- Conference on UN Convention Against Corruption." Funding for the
conference was provided by the European Commission. The conference
was chaired by the United Nations Special Representative of the
Secretary General for Iraq, Mr. Staffan de Mistura, and the keynote

SIPDIS
address was given by United Nations Under-Secretary General and
Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Mr. Antonio
Maria Costa. Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh offered welcome
remarks. More than 200 Government of Iraq (GOI) officials, Iraqi
academics, NGO activists, and international guests attended the
opening session; domestic and international press were well
represented, also. End summary.

SECOND TIME A CHARM

2. (U) On March 17-18, 2008, for the second time in three months,
the city of Baghdad hosted a major international anti-corruption
conference. As a follow-up to its successful January 3, 2008
conference on anti-corruption, GOI officials, including Deputy Prime
Minister Dr. Barham Salih and the heads of the GOI's major
anti-corruption bodies (the Joint Anti-Corruption Council - JACC;
the Board of Supreme Audit - BSA; the Commission of Integrity - COI;
the Iraqi Inspectors General - IIG; and the Council of
Representatives' Integrity Committee - COR/IC) contributed
statements on the GoI's progress in countering corruption. Other
participants included the World Bank's Baghdad representative and
Iraqi NGO activists. Topics included "Institutional Development and
Capacity Building"; "Criminalization and Law Enforcement"; and "The
Role of Non-State Actors, Media, and Civil Society."

RATIFICATION OF THE UN CONVENTION AGAINST CORRUPTION

3. (U) In August 2007, the COR approved the GOI's becoming a
signatory to the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC); later
that month, the President and both Vice Presidents counter-signed
the measure, legally allowing the GOI to become a signatory to the
UNCAC. In the months since that signing, however, the status of the
GOI's efforts to become a signatory has been shrouded in mystery:
confusion reigns as to the exact status of the effort. Emboffs were
advised that the paperwork may be either still at Ministry of
Foreign Affairs (MFA) in Baghdad or has been forwarded to the GOI's
representatives at the UN Mission in Geneva or to the Permanent
Representative at UNHQ in NYC. The United Nations Office on Drugs
and Crime (UNODC), as the office in charge of the UNCAC, has
promised to work with the GOI to unravel the confusion post haste.

THE INTERNATIONAL COMPACT WITH IRAQ

4. (U) As part of its responsibilities under the International
Compact for Iraq (ICI), the GOI pledged to tackle corruption in both
the public and private sectors. ICI commitments include a pledge to
develop by the end of 2008 a comprehensive system of internal and
external controls within the government, including audits (a key
anti-corruption measure in Iraq, where so much money is generated
from oil revenue), to battle corruption. Also by the end of 2008,
the GOI must complete a master plan for its anti-corruption
agencies, as well as ratifying and implementing the UNCAC and other
relevant international agreements. These mandates were addressed
throughout the two-day conference, including during an
end-of-conference statement by Dr. Ali Allak, Chairman of the Joint
Anti-Corruption Council (JACC). UNDP and the GOI are drafting a
"Baghdad Declaration on Combating Corruption" stating the "going
forward" efforts on the GOI to battle corruption; post will share
the final version with NEA/I when it is released.

FOCUS ON INSTITUTIONAL ROLES

5. (U) More than 200 people attended the opening session of the
conference. Following welcoming remarks from Deputy Prime Minister
Barhem Salih and opening remarks by UN Special Representative of the
Secretary General for Iraq, Mr. Staffan de Mistura, the keynote

SIPDIS
address was delivered by UN Under-Secretary General and Director of
UNODC, Mr. Antonio Maria Costa ("UNCAC: Building Public Trust in
Government"), who explained that the UNCAC would "help the rule of
law prevail over the rule of the bribe in Iraq." He also noted that
"where government control is weak, strongmen take law enforcement
and public money into their own hands, creating a vicious circle of
insecurity and corruption." He called for a national
anti-corruption strategy and invited the GOI to strengthen the role
of the Joint Anti-Corruption Council as a mechanism to promote
better coordination among the different bodies in charge of fighting
corruption. Costa also introduced the UNODC-World Bank Stolen Asset

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Recovery Initiative (StAR), a technical capacity-building initiative
to support implementation of the UNCAC, assess the strength of
participants' asset-recovery regimes and foster cooperation on asset
recovery among UNCAC-signatory states. (Note: Costa did not/not
specifically invite Iraq to participate in the StAR Initiative.
Several Iraqi participants were nonetheless quick to welcome the
prospect of asset recovery assistance, perhaps not understanding
that the StAR Initiative is a capacity-building project, not an
operational effort to recover stolen revenues. End note.)

6. (U) Dr. Ali Allak, Chairman of the JACC, discussed the "Role of
Key Iraqi Institutions" in battling corruption, while Sheik Sabah
al-Saedi, Chairman of the COR/IC, spoke of the "Importance of the
Integrity Commission." Dr. Abdul Bassit Al Turki, President of the
BSA, discussed "The Role of the BSA," while the newly appointed
Commissioner of the COI, Raheem al-Ugaili, elucidated his plans for
guiding the COI in the upcoming months. Dr. Adel Muhsen Abdullah,
Inspector General of the Ministry of Health, spoke on the "Role of
the Inspectors General," and Mr. Simon Stolp, representative of the
World Bank in Baghdad, discussed the "World Bank's Anti-Corruption
Programs."

VOICES IN THE WILDERNESS

7. (U) The remainder of the first day, plus all of the second day,
was dedicated to group discussions on "Institutional Development and
Capacity Building," "Criminalization and Law Enforcement," "The Role
of Non-state Actors (Media and NGO's)," and "Coordination and
Cooperation against Corruption." Discussions among the Iraqi
participants were thoughtful and forward-looking, but the sparse
attendance of these sessions was a major disappointment for the
conference's organizers and participants. While each session's
average of only two dozen participants did not negatively affect the
quality of the discussions, the input would have been greater had
more officials and journalists attended.

NEXT STEPS

8. (U) The Iraqi participants acknowledged that corruption is a
corrosive force that destroys trust in public institutions, robs a
country of its development, distorts economic growth, reinforces
inequality, deprives the poor of basic services, funds violence and
terrorism, and empowers organized crime. They also recognized that
corruption is one of the main challenges for Iraq's efforts to
create a stable and democratic government. They agreed that the
fight against corruption cannot be left to the government alone, but
that civil society must undertake an essential role in combating
corruption by raising public awareness and promoting accountability
and transparency.

9. (U) In a follow-up meeting the day after the UNCAC's conclusion,
EmbOffs met with UNDP officials to discuss the next steps. Salient
points from the meeting follow below:

a) UNODC will continue to work with the GOI to complete the
necessary documentation for Iraq to become a signatory to the
UNCAC;

b) A UNAMI D/SRSG, who is dual-hatted as Resident Coordinator for
the UNIraq Country Team, will also act as the Resident
Representative for UNDP. UNDP staff will continue to be based in
Amman, but will make more frequent visits to Baghdad, inter alia, to
implement the anti-corruption initiatives discussed at the
conference;

c) UNDP will continue its capacity-building program with BSA,
programming $6,000,000 over the next three years for Phase II of the
project;

d) UNDP hopes to use seed money to begin technical assistance and
capacity-building programs with CoI and the IIGs later this year.
If these pilot projects go well, UNDP will solicit additional
financial support from Trust Fund donors;

e) UNDP will begin a media training program later this year;

f) EmbOffs will hold frequent anti-corruption coordination meetings
with UNDP reps during their visits to Baghdad.

10. (U) Comment: UNDP-Amman staffers deserve tremendous credit for
pulling this conference together. UNDP's initial effort to organize
a conference on corruption issues started more than eight months
ago, but only gathered momentum toward the end of 2007. Conference
organizers reported excellent cooperation from the offices of Prime
Minister Maliki and DPM Barham Saleh, as well as strong support from
the individual anti-corruption agencies. Organizing this event from
afar presented more than logistical challenges: UNDP-Amman staffers
were not familiar with the initiatives presented at the GOI's
January 2008 anti-corruption conference nor the on-going activities

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to implement the GOI's own anti-corruption benchmarks. For the UN
initiatives announced at this conference to succeed, UNDP and UNODC
will need to have representatives in Baghdad -- even if it is only
through more frequent TDY visits -- regularly engaging their Iraqi
partners and keeping track of the shifting dynamics between key
anti-corruption players.

CROCKER

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