The devastating and far-reaching consequences of corruption are well known and affect every country in the world. Corruption fosters poverty and inequality and is an obstacle to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Yet, twenty years after countries came together to adopt the United Nations Convention against Corruption, the only truly global legally binding anti-corruption treaty, corruption continues to make headlines, anti-corruption activists face threats, whistle-blowers are persecuted, and corrupt actors too often enjoy impunity from prosecution and hide their stolen assets in safe havens. Since the inception of the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group (ACWG) 2010, the group has been a platform for the world’s leading economies to set standards and exchange good practices in fighting corruption and promoting integrity. Under the Indian G20 Presidency in 2023, the ACWG adopted high-level principles on three key topics, namely on asset recovery; law enforcement cooperation and information sharing; and on promoting integrity and effectiveness of anti-corruption bodies. These topics are of high relevance and importance for the global fight against corruption, as well as for India’s own anti-corruption agenda. The adoption of these deliverables is timely, as in particular international cooperation and asset recovery are two areas where more progress is needed. The challenges countries encounter in international cooperation illustrate how no matter how well a country is equipped domestically, it is largely impossible to make a dent against corruption alone and we must work together to effectively combat it. Law enforcement cooperation and information sharing are essential tools for detecting, investigating, prosecuting, and sanctioning corruption offences, especially those involving complex cross-border schemes and networks. Through the High-Level Principles on Strengthening Law Enforcement related to International Cooperation and Information Sharing for Combatting Corruption, the G20 ACWG identifies the main challenges and opportunities in this field, and proposes concrete actions and recommendations to overcome them, such as by working more closely together through formal and informal communication to exchange information vital for investigating, prosecuting and sanctioning acts of corruption; or by improving our collective understanding of emerging technologies and mitigating measures to prevent their misuse. The principles also promote the use of networks for information sharing, such as UNODC’s Global Operational Network of Anti-Corruption Law Enforcement Authorities, which connects 163 anti-corruption authorities from 92 countries.
As emphasized by G20 Ministers responsible for anti-corruption gathered in Kolkata in August, it is now time to implement the commitments countries agreed on. G20 countries can work with each other and with the global community in improving the efficiency of international cooperation and asset recovery processes, including by closely cooperating with and delivering technical assistance to countries that face challenges in recovering stolen assets that are direly needed for sustainable development.
Asset recovery is the process of returning stolen or illicitly acquired assets to their rightful owners, often the countries and people who have been deprived of their resources by corrupt officials. Asset recovery is not only a matter of justice and accountability, but also a means to deter future corruption, restore public trust, and support sustainable development. The ACWG adopted High-Level Principles on Strengthening Asset Recovery Mechanisms for combatting Corruption, which provide guidance for G20 countries and other stakeholders on how to enhance their legal frameworks, institutional capacities, and international cooperation in this area. The principles and best practices also address some of the challenges and barriers that hinder effective asset recovery, such as differences in legal systems, a lack of capacity, or a lack of coordination among relevant actors. By setting a focus on how to effectively use open-source information and resources, such as property records, companies registers or beneficial ownership information, the principles make concrete suggestions on how to more effectively detect stolen assets. UNODC also welcomes the focus of the Indian G20 Presidency on the gender dimensions in anti-corruption strategies and the goal to ensure women’s full, equal and meaningful participation and leadership in preventing and combatting corruption. The Women20 engagement group will without doubt continue to push forward on its aim of ensuring that gender considerations are mainstreamed into G20 discussions and translated into the G20 Leaders’ Declaration as policies and commitments that foster gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.
As emphasized by G20 Ministers responsible for anti-corruption gathered in Kolkata in August, it is now time to implement the commitments countries agreed on. G20 countries can work with each other and with the global community in improving the efficiency of international cooperation and asset recovery processes, including by closely cooperating with and delivering technical assistance to countries that face challenges in recovering stolen assets that are direly needed for sustainable development. This December, States will assemble in Atlanta at the tenth session of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, exactly twenty years after countries came together to adopt the United Nations Convention against Corruption, the only truly global legally binding anti-corruption treaty. This will be an opportunity to take stock of the progress we have made in ensuring that corrupt actors do not enjoy impunity from prosecution and cannot hide their stolen assets in safe havens.
(Press Information Bureau-PIB, Srinagar has mailed this article to “Kashmir Horizon” fot publication in this newspaper. Brigitte oversees the Corruption and Economic Crime Branch which is responsible for providing policy, normative and substantive support to States for the implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption. The Branch delivers technical assistance in various corruption-related thematic areas, such as prevention, education, asset recovery, international cooperation, integrity in the criminal justice system and sports. The author is Chief of the Corruption and Economic Crime Branch at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime –UNODC. The views, opinions, facts, assumptions, presumptions and conclusions expressed in this article are those of the author and aren’t necessarily in accord with the views of “Kashmir Horizon”.)