The 2015 Seoul Debates - a global platform to discuss effective measures to tackle corruption

Feb 9, 2015

Working group discussions for designing a roadmap on anti-corruption development solutions at the 2015 Seoul Debates (Photo: UNDP Seoul Policy Centre)

More than 80 anti-corruption experts gathered to draw lessons on how anti-corruption can be promoted as part of a wider development agenda when the UNDP Seoul Policy Centre (USPC) presented the 2015 Seoul Debates on 29-30 January 2015.

“From our own experiences, we understand the twists and turns as well as the practical realities in fighting corruption,” said H.E. Shin Dong-ik, Deputy Minister for Multilateral and Global Affairs of Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs in his congratulatory remarks. “As such, we possess unique know-how and seasoned insights to share with developing countries,” he added, mentioning that Korea wished to share the country’s lessons learnt over the past 50 years with other countries.

Mr. Haoliang Xu, Assistant Secretary General of the UN and Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and Pacific of UNDP, echoed this view:

“I believe that putting in perspective of Korea’s experience with other countries will be a great occasion to draw lessons on how anti-corruption can be promoted as part of a wider development agenda,” he said, and added that poor governance and entrenched systems of corruption remain a major challenge for human development as the costs of corruption equals more than 5% of global GDP.

H.E. Shin and Mr. Xu were speaking to representatives from anti-corruption agencies from Bhutan, China, Colombia, El Salvador, Indonesia, Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Uganda, Uzbekistan and Vietnam, representatives from international organizations including UNDP, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and OECD, as well as civil society representatives, and researchers.

At the event, Korea’s main corruption challenges during its rapid development, and innovative means of overcoming them were explored by experts from Korea Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission (ACRC), Supreme Prosecutor´s Office, Board of Audit, Seoul Metropolitan Government, Korea Institute for Public Administration, Transparency International Korea, as well as other prominent development practitioners and academics.

“Once corruption cases occur, they can inflict damage on public finances or put the lives and safety of people in danger in some extreme cases,” said ACRC Vice-Chair Ms. Kwak, Jin-Young. “In order to improve the effectiveness of anti-corruption policy, it is important to prevent corruption practices by determining environments and factors that cause corruption and addressing them in advance instead of detecting the cases afterwards.”

Anti-corruption tools such as Korea’s participatory audit system, e-governance tools and the UN Public Service Award-winning integrity assessments generated international participants’ interests while the punishment-side of anti-corruption efforts was also discussed.

“Fundamentally, the motive of corruption is to obtain financial profits. Therefore, it is required that proceeds of crime be thoroughly recovered in order to instill an impression that 'crime does not pay'. Getting rid of the cause of corruption can have general preventive effects against crime,” said Mr. Choi, Yun-Su, Chief Officer of Anti-Corruption Planning, Anti-Corruption Department, Supreme Prosecutor´s Office.

 The meeting gave international experts the chance for peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing on effective anti-corruption strategies, and to identify opportunities to build international partnerships on lessons learnt from Korea and other participating countries.

“We have a broad array laws including anti-corruption, whistleblowers’ and information laws and we hope that those will help us to achieve a better Uganda which is less bedeviled by corruption than it is now,” said Ms. Irene Mulyagonja Kakooza, Uganda’s Inspector General of Government, sharing how Uganda had surpassed its target to prosecute 50 cases of corruption per year, prosecuting 60 cases in 2012-2013. She also stressed the importance of working with all stakeholders both within and beyond the country.

Ms. Blanca Cardona, Team Leader of Democratic Governance Unit of UNDP Colombia, shared a transparency assessment tool developed with Transparency International Colombia for political parties to manage the integrity of political processes following the 2007 scandal in which paramilitaries had financed political campaigns. “We have been working with new instruments from UNDP side to be able to have more accountable political parties,” she said.

Participants agreed on the need for political will to fight corruption, but perspectives varied on the priorities and needs of their countries; while the importance of building strong anti-corruption systems was emphasized by some countries, a whole-society approach requiring every citizen’s engagement was also advocated by others.

“Fighting corruption shouldn’t be one agency or one actor in society’s problem. It should be society as a whole whether it be the government institutions, civil society, international actors or the public at large,” said Mr. Anga Timilsina, Programme Manager of the UNDP Global Anti-Corruption Initiative.

Participants voiced appreciation for the practical exchanges from different country contexts, and calling for continued networking and follow-up activities for the USPC Development Solutions Partnership on anti-corruption.

“It would be interesting to pilot the approaches or projects in a few countries, with dedicated support from Korea,” one expert said.

The 2015 Seoul Debates: Lessons learnt on Anti-Corruption from Korea and Around the World was organized in partnership with the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the Anti-Corruption & Civil Rights Commission of Korea (ACRC), with technical support from UNDP’s Global Anti-Corruption Initiative (GAIN), the UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub, and the UNDP Global Centre for Public Service Excellence in Singapore (GCPSE).

The meeting is part of the UNDP Seoul Policy Centre’s new Development Solutions Partnership on anti-corruption. The Development Solutions Partnerships (DSPs) is a new approach for USPC to connect Korea with the wider UNDP network as a knowledge broker and facilitator and enhance the Korea-UNDP partnership on strategic development issues.