Interview with the Chair of the UNCAC Coalition Coordination Committee

This time we spoke with Slagjana Taseva, Chair of UNCAC Coalition Coordination Committee, about her impressions on the 4th edition of the Conference Of State Parties (CoSP4). Background: The United Nations Convention against Corruption United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) is the first global framework for world-wide anti-corruption efforts. It has been ratified by 154 countries. Within the UNCAC framework, by Article 63, the CoSP to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption was established “to improve the capacity of and cooperation between state parties to achieve the objectives set forth in the Convention and to promote and review its implementation”. Last week (24 to 28 October) governmental delegations met in Marrakesh for the 4th session of the CoSP. The UNCAC coalition, a global network of over 310 civil society organisations (CSOs) which is promoting the ratification, implementation and monitoring of the UNCAC joined the discussions in Marrakesh.

1. Which were the key objectives for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) at the CoSP?

There were two key objectives for our coalition of more than 310 organisations: improving asset recovery and anti-money laundering mechanisms through some very specific recommendations; and the re-affirmation of civil society’s role in the review process. We were successful in our advocacy on the asset recovery. The attention of governments focussed on this issue as a result of the Arab Spring. Based on a resolution by the Government of Egypt (ultimately put forward by the G77 and China) there was indeed significant progress in this area, and our Coalition was pleased with this outcome.

However, effectiveness of these measures may be ultimately undermined by the absence of a civil society voice. Although the great majority of delegations were in favour of full CSO involvement, we had a disappointing outcome regarding the participation of civil society as observers in the Implementation Review Group (IRG). There remained a small group of influential negative governments that managed for the near term to limit NGO involvement to a civil society “briefing” by the UNCAC Secretariat at the end of IRG meetings as well as the opportunity to submit written reports (like the ones we submitted to COSP4). The decision to exclude civil society observers in the IRG was taken despite UNCAC language calling for CSO participation in anti-corruption, and a UN Office of Legal Affairs opinion confirming that Rule 17 of the Conference Rules of Procedure should also apply to the UNCAC IRG meetings unless otherwise decided by the COSP.

2. The first year of UNCAC Review Process has passed, what is your assessment of the second year of review regarding government openness to civil society participation?

The good news is that the great majority of countries going through the review process are actively looking for CSO involvement. Also, our country reports are receiving favourable comments and are seen as important inputs. Therefore we have ample opportunity to demonstrate the positive and constructive role that CSOs can play in the review process. This will help us in the long run to raise again the issue of full CSO participation in the convention’s review of implementation.

3. The recovery of stolen assets has been a key issue on the agenda at this year’s CoSP. In your opinion what has been the outcomes in regards to recovery of stolen assets?

There were some welcomed developments during the conference in Marrakesh, namely a commitment on the prevention of corruption agreed by states and the strengthening of the stolen asset recovery framework, an issue that is particularly important to countries such as Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, and others that have alleged public money was siphoned off by corrupt elites and stashed overseas. But, as mentioned before, the effectiveness of these measures may be ultimately undermined by the absence of a civil society voice.

4. How can the IACC in Brazil next year catalyse what CSO and governments attending the CoSP are trying to achieve?

Given the experience from the CoSP 4, the IACC in Brazil next year may create an opportunity for more informal consultation between the CSO and the governments before CoSP5. In addition it could be an opportunity to share ideas with the Open Government Partnership, an initiative that sparked an excitement in this arena. Almost every government delegation spoke in the plenary in Marrakesh about the Arab Spring, corruption and the revolt of civil society but little of that translated into changed behaviour at the conference — with the exception of the strengthening of the asset recovery framework. CoSP should remain the strongest tool for facilitating implementation of the UNCAC as the global anticorruption instrument, but if the UNCAC is indeed losing some of it’s shine despite recent events, it may mean that we will need to re -double our efforts at the IACC by building positive partnership between civil society and governments to ensure that the convention is implemented effectively.


(Please note that we have corrected parts of the introduction to this interview. The orginal text said that the UNCAC has been acknowledged by 148 countries, whereas it should read has been ratified by 154 countries. )