Helen Clark: Statement at the High Level Plenary Meeting on The role of good governance and the Post-2015 Development Agenda

09 Dec 2013

Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
Opening statement at the High Level Plenary Meeting on The role of good governance and the Post-2015 Development Agenda on the occasion of the commemoration of International Anti-Corruption Day 2013
UN HQ, New York, 9 December, 9:30am

It is a pleasure to join all present at today’s event to mark International Anti-Corruption Day – a day on which we salute all those working to end corruption and improve governance around the world. UNDP is pleased to be a co-organiser of this event. 

In the fight against corruption, everyone has a stake. In its work around the world UNDP sees: 

  • Businesses, large and small, wanting an enabling environment to support the growth of jobs, trade, and commerce; 
  • public servants, advocates, and civil society leaders working to improve the prospects of their communities and countries; and
  • women and men, young and old, seeking to improve their lives and the prospects of their families. 

Corruption stands in the way of all these sectors reaching their full potential. In the face of corruption, well-intentioned people lower their expectations of what is possible. The frustration which results is corrosive of trust in governance, of the rule of law, and of human development. 

The Panel we will hear from shortly is asked to consider how fighting corruption and achieving better governance can be achieved, including through the post-2015 global development agenda. To frame our discussion, let me reflect briefly on the scale of the corruption challenge and offer grounds for optimism about our collective efforts to fight it.

The World Bank estimates that corruption can cost a country up to seventeen per cent of its GDP. Corruption prevents public and private investment from going where it is most needed, drives up costs, and distorts public priorities. The World Economic Forum, in its 2011 Report on Global Risks labeled “the illegal economy nexus”, which includes corruption, organized crime and illicit trade, as one of the top three threats to global progress. The worst of the consequences are born by the poor. 

The global consultations on priorities for the post-2015 agenda revealed, however, that citizens around the world have had enough. When the 1.6 million people who took part were asked to rank their priorities for post-2015, a desire for honest and effective governance was ranked very high. People everywhere want governments to focus on effective management of public and natural resources, and they want quality public services. Tackling corruption is critical for that.

It was clear that people understand very well how essential good governance is for growth and development.  Good governance is supported by citizen engagement. Those involved in the post-2015 consultations want to continue to be heard on these issues and to hold their governments accountable for their performance. This is a conducive environment in which to make progress in the fight against corruption.

Around the world we now see more governments adopting tougher laws against corruption, establishing dedicated units to fight it, and ratifying the UN Convention against Corruption. 

The impact of tax havens and illicit transfers on development is also receiving growing attention, and that is positive for developing countries. For example:

  • At the G8 meeting in June, leaders recognised the extent to which tax havens and illicit transfers result in revenue losses for developing countries. They agreed to automatic exchanges of information between tax authorities and pledged to share this information with developing countries. 
  • In September, G20 leaders built on this momentum by committing to helping developing countries close tax havens and to promoting greater integrity in the public and private sectors. 

Global Financial Integrity, a USA-based think-tank, has suggested that the combined loss to developing countries of illicit financial flows could be as much as US$1 trillion each year. Such sums applied to development would make a significant impact. To this end, it is critical to support the strengthening of the institutional and administrative capacities needed to generate revenues, allocate them fairly, and disburse them effectively to get development results. 

UNDP works in more than 100 countries to build capacities to combat corruption. We support, for example, the engagement of citizens in monitoring service delivery; the anonymous reporting of corrupt practices; and the integration of anti-corruption mechanisms in climate change strategies; 

The fight against corruption is critical to maximizing human and sustainable development. I now turn to our panel to discuss how the post-2015 agenda could and should be designed to address governance deficits, engage people and motivate state and non-state actors to act to curb corruption.

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Leadership
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Helen Clark became the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme on 17 April 2009, and is the first woman to lead the organization.

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