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First Conference UN Convention Against Corruption

First Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention Against Corruption

Elizabeth Verville, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for International
Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs

Amman, Jordan
December 10, 2006

Mr. President, as this is the first opportunity for my delegation to speak, I would like to begin by congratulating you on your election as President of the 1st Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).

The United States is pleased to have become a party to the UNCAC on November 29, 2006, and we are pleased to join the many government and non-governmental representatives in this room who recognize the importance of the Convention to our individual and collective efforts to fight corruption.

As President Bush said in transmitting the UNCAC to the U.S. Senate, the fight against corruption is a foreign policy priority for the United States. Corruption facilitates crime and terrorism, hinders sustainable development, threatens democracy and undermines legitimate commerce and trade.

My government takes very seriously combating corruption within our own borders as well as around the world. We are investigating, prosecuting and convicting corrupt public officials at all levels of government -- local, state and federal.

In the last two years alone, the United States Justice Department has convicted 1,060 government employees of corruption offenses, including two sitting United States congressmen, federal and state government employees, and local police officers. Additionally, in fiscal year 2005, the Federal Bureau of Investigation increased its public corruption investigations by 25% over the previous year.

Enforcing our Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits U.S. companies, U.S. individuals, foreign companies that issue stock on U.S. capital markets, and others from bribing foreign government officials, remains a strong pillar in our anti-corruption efforts, and prosecutions under this law are increasing. We are also prosecuting corruption in the domestic procurement process and many other forms of fraud and corruption.

Earlier this year, President Bush launched an initiative to combat high-level grand public corruption, or "Kleptocracy." The President's Kleptocracy initiative seeks to prevent high-level corruption by, in part, denying safe haven to illicit assets and enhancing global capacity to return stolen assets to the people from whom they were taken.

The First Conference of the States Parties (COSP) provides a unique opportunity to initiate processes that will energize our efforts to implement the Convention and strengthen our individual and collective efforts against corruption.

We recognize that the global efforts to combat corruption emanate not only from governments, but also from their partners in the non-governmental and private sector who have raised awareness of these issues and supported countries' anti-corruption efforts for years. They have an important role in the international fight against corruption, and we encourage them to remain active in this process.

Ultimately, it is the governments that bear the responsibility of translating the words of the convention into action. The COSP can and should play a supportive and important role in this regard.

The role of the COSP should not be limited to a series of periodic conferences. Rather, it must foster and sustain action by governments and their partners in promoting and implementing the principles of the convention, converting good will and intentions into measurable progress.

My government believes there are four main areas for early COSP decision, and COSP action in each of these areas will strengthen implementation efforts.

First, the COSP should identify substantive priorities for initial attention. UNCAC is a comprehensive document that can be daunting to those who are charged with its practical implementation. We must identify priorities that we believe will get States Parties off to a good start in developing and strengthening their respective anticorruption regimes.

The United States believes the following are essential -- this list is not exhaustive -- elements of an effective anticorruption regime: (1) the criminalization of core corrupt conduct, (2) mechanisms to facilitate cooperation, particularly in asset recovery cases, and (3) key preventive measures, such as transparent and effective public procurement and financial management systems and access to public information.

Second, we believe the COSP should initiate a process for gathering useful information on implementation of the designated priority substantive areas.

A follow up or review process will be important to promoting effective implementation. We believe that engagement of the parties in providing information promptly to the Secretariat and other states parties -- i.e., to the COSP -- will be the critical first step in any meaningful review process. We also believe that information gathering should be initially geared towards identifying needs for technical assistance.

In this regard, this process could initially begin with a checklist that encourages a high-rate of response while providing digestible and useful information without requiring an unduly large effort on the part of States Parties.

The United States has submitted a proposal to the Secretariat of a draft checklist, focusing on identifying countries' needs for technical assistance and how this issue could be approached.

In addition to the use of a checklist to gather information, we would be open to testing a more rigorous information gathering process on a smaller pilot scale. We could open this pilot to countries that volunteer -- countries that wish to engage more actively in the exercise of providing information and identifying technical assistance needs. Such a pilot would be temporary or interim and subject to future evaluation as to its effectiveness and usefulness.

Third, the COSP must recognize the importance of the asset recovery chapter as a unique and critical part of UNCAC by considering special initiatives that will facilitate implementation and cooperation in the asset recovery area.

Fourth and last, the COSP should promote and facilitate technical assistance for UNCAC implementation. There is considerable donor interest in UNCAC, and the COSP has a unique opportunity to help inform potential donors and energize them.

We recognize the challenges of applying the principles of the Convention to international organizations, and we feel that it is an important area that will need further discussion and ultimately action by the COSP. We support UNODC Executive Director Costa's call to encourage international organizations to comply voluntarily.

As a final comment, while we must think creatively about what the COSP can do to promote implementation, we must also be realistic about what resources are available to support COSP initiatives. We are very optimistic that carefully crafted and useful COSP initiatives will find voluntary contributions and attention from within existing UNODC resources.

One way in which we can use our limited resources efficiently is to have an intergovernmental expert-oriented and issue based agenda for the next COSP, which would include working groups to promote interactive dialogue on implementation priorities.

Already States Parties have made good proposals, and the United States looks forward to working with others to make this meeting a productive, constructive and useful one. We also hope to continue our work and cooperation after the doors of this grand conference room are closed and we have all returned to our capitals.

Released on December 11, 2006

ENDS

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