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The 2030 Agenda has established anti-corruption as a global imperative on which hinges the achievement of all sustainable development goals. Credit: UNDP.


As prepared for delivery.

Excellencies, Honourable Ministers, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to join you today at this opening plenary of the 18th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC).

UNDP is proud to be a co-partner of the IACC series since 2003. We particularly acknowledge the Government of Denmark, Transparency International (TI), the IACC Council, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ) for their dedication in convening this important biennial forum.

When we take stock of progress in anti-corruption efforts, two challenges remain at the heart of current debates: how we can foster a stronger nexus between anti-corruption initiatives and the development, peace and security agendas; and, how we can move from commitment to action.

In my short intervention this morning, allow me to address these two important issues.

Corruption is a complex challenge that continues to persist in many countries across the world. It has a direct impact on the three dimensions of sustainable development – social, economic and environmental – and affects each of the five pillars of the 2030 agenda: people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships.
The scale of corruption remains worrisome. Estimates show that businesses and individuals pay an estimated $1.5 trillion in bribes annually, and the developing world loses enormous sums in illicit financial flows, totalling over $1 trillion in 2013.   Global Financial Integrity estimates illicit outflows to be 10 times higher than official development aid received.  

Undoubtedly, measures used to estimate the cost of corruption have limitations, and we need to continue our efforts to improve these instruments. While imperfect, they help  to get a better sense of the scale and reach of corruption.  

Money lost to corruption is, essentially, development denied to those at risk of being left behind. Accumulated, lost budgetary resources exceed the estimated $10 trillion of resources required to end poverty by 2030.

From a human development perspective, people’s freedoms, choices and opportunities continue to be undermined by corrupt practices that distort income distribution and public expenditure decisions.  

The indirect costs of corruption are also worrying. Corruption erodes people’s trust in the justice system and in the legitimacy of political and economic institutions. When corruption undermines the checks and balances that safeguard our societies, it poses serious threats to peace and security at the national, regional and international levels.
More than 1.8 billion people today live in areas affected by conflict, violence and fragility . This number is projected to grow to 2.3 billion by 2030, unless current trends are reversed. Corruption is one of the biggest obstacles to strengthening governance institutions in those contexts.

As recognised by the UN Security Council and General Assembly, there is growing understanding that corruption and related governance deficiencies must be addressed as part of an integrated response to the threat of conflict – from prevention to peacebuilding and from recovery to reconstruction. Failure to do so risks further conflicts, violent extremism and instability.

Sustainable development, peace and security are fundamentally interlinked. Without tackling corruption in all its forms, we cannot hope to achieve the peaceful, just and inclusive societies needed to advance the whole 2030 Agenda.  

There is also greater realization that the impact of a failure to live up to the many governance challenges we are facing today, including combating corruption, is manifesting itself through rising levels of inequality, inadequate social protection, extreme nationalism, refugee and migration crises, violent conflicts, cascading effects of climate change, and the ethical gaps in how we deal with runaway technology .

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides us with a new opportunity to bring together anti-corruption with the development, peace and security agendas.

The 2030 Agenda has established anti-corruption as a global imperative on which hinges the achievement of all sustainable development goals. Goal 16 is rooted in human rights and highlights the importance of strengthening institutions and governance in our pledge to leave no one behind.

We also have the opportunity to advance the anti-corruption agenda through the implementation of the UN Convention Against Corruption, which has now reached near-universal ratification , providing a comprehensive global framework to fight corruption in alignment with the 2030 Agenda.

UNDP, through its field offices and programmes in more than 170 countries and territories, works together with other agencies and partners to provide integrated anti-corruption support for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.

Together we have a unique opportunity to accelerate efforts and move from promises to actions. Allow me to share 3 key takeaway messages as we move forward on the 2030 Agenda.

First, I highlight the importance of leveraging on innovation and harnessing the benefits of technology in meeting the SDGs.

New technologies have the potential to enable more effective and participatory forms of accountability and transparency.

While innovations have the potential to undermine democratic processes, the opportunities created by investments in a next generation of open and participatory governance are also unprecedented. Imagine the potential for global data sharing in support of accountability and transparency. And the examples of using innovations for greater state effectiveness are growing and beginning to alter the relations between the State, people, corporations and civil society. For example, digital mapping of the capital city of Freetown in Sierra Leone shows over 200,000 houses, while the traditional paper-based property tax register currently records fewer than 2,000 dwellings .  

Another example is from the Philippines, where UNDP is currently partnering with Google to create the DevelopmentLIVE platform, which will enable citizens and the government to mitigate corruption in SDG-related infrastructure projects through live-streaming their monitoring activities.

Second, we must put an end to impunity if we want to achieve peaceful, just and inclusive societies that protect the civil liberties of all people. Breaking the culture of corruption and impunity requires an integrated governance and peace-building approach that involves, among other things, efforts to strengthen the rule of law, ensure equal access to justice, and improve public access to information. There can be no sustainable peace and development in societies plagued by impunity or endemic corruption. There can also be no peace or justice when people are discriminated against because they are unable to overcome illegal hurdles that prevent them from enjoying their rights. We must effectively uphold civic space and protect the basic liberties of all people to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies.

My final point is that converting the global anti-corruption momentum into concrete actions will require a concerted effort of all sections of society.

Open dialogues, the sharing of knowledge and experiences, and constructive discussions around the challenges faced in fighting corruption, can help build trust and collective actions among the different stakeholders involved, fill the gaps in anti-corruption knowledge, and generate concrete solutions to fight corruption more effectively and better link our anti-corruption efforts to accelerate progress on the 2030 Agenda.

I hope that this IACC will help to build a stronger nexus between anti-corruption and the development, peace and security agendas, and translate our commitment to fight corruption into concrete actions while continuing to improve our approaches to foster more responsive, accountable and transparent systems of governance.

Thank you.