19th International Anti-Corruption Conference

Closing Plenary: Shaping the 2030 Agenda for Trust, Truth and Transparency

December 4, 2020

Distinguished speakers,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to be here with you here in the closing plenary of the 19th IACC.

I would like to congratulate the IACC Council, Transparency International and the Government of Republic of Korea, represented by the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission, for the great success of this year’s IACC, with more than 500 speakers, 120 workshops, and thousands of participants from around the world. I would also like to thank the partners of the IACC series, BMZ, GIZ, DANIDA, and the US Department of State.

This year’s IACC is taking place at a particularly critical time, as the world is experiencing the devastating consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Up to 100 million more people are being pushed into extreme poverty in 2020, 1.4 billion children have been affected by school closures, and more than 1.4 million confirmed deaths from COVID-19 have been recorded. The pandemic is hitting all human development dimensions hard, in all countries, almost at the same time. And corruption is undermining our efforts to respond and recover.

However, despite the unprecedented shocks, countries have choices on how to build forward better, to a world that is greener, more resilient, more inclusive, and more sustainable.

To do so we must restore trust, defend the truth, and ensure transparency and integrity in political leadership, institutions, businesses and societies. We must strengthen the global fight against corruption. This is a fight that UNDP is deeply committed to, in its own operations, as well as in the support we provide to UN member states.

With this background, I would like to share some reflections in three key areas.

An integrated approach to anti-corruption for sustainable development

First and foremost, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that we need an integrated approach, not only in crisis response and recovery, but also to building forward better for sustainable development. The COVID-19 pandemic is not just a health, humanitarian, or socio-economic crisis. It is also a governance crisis, testing the resilience of governance institutions to respond to and recover from the crisis.

Where there are insufficient oversight and accountability measures during COVID-19, we see the impact of corruption being felt across healthcare services, policymaking, and the procurement of medical supplies and equipment, including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and ventilators.

We also see the potential for mismanagement of funds destined for pandemic response, including the provision of social safety nets and economic stimulus packages.

Corruption is, of course, not just a challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic, it undermines all development efforts and depletes valuable resources for development financing. Estimates show that corruption costs developing countries US$1.26 trillion per year, while businesses and individuals pay an estimated US$1.5 trillion in bribes annually.

In the health sector alone, it is estimated that more than US$500 billion is lost to corruption annually, more than the total cost of global Universal Healthcare Coverage.

These lost resources could otherwise be used to ensure that everyone has the right to access basic services like health and education.

This is why we need an integrated and collective approach, with a mindset for cooperation and collaboration across public and private sectors, to ensure anti-corruption is a part of all development efforts – to build greener economies, eradicate poverty in all its forms, provide universal and inclusive healthcare and education, and build resilient institutions and societies. 

To support the international community’s efforts to address corruption challenges at global, regional and national levels, the United Nations system has developed a Common Position on Corruption, reflecting a common vision for UN support to Member States, and as a contribution to the 2021 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on corruption.

UNDP together with WHO, Global Fund and the World Bank have also set up the Anti-Corruption, Transparency and Accountability (ACTA) for Health Alliance to support countries in mitigating corruption risks in the health sector, to reinforce our shared vision and integrated approach.

Reflecting on the outcomes of the 19th IACC

This IACC has demonstrated the priorities and commitment of the global anti-corruption community in our collective action against corruption. During the week, there has been a wealth of discussion on topics related to truth, trust and transparency. We have taken stock together of global progress on anti-corruption across a spectrum of emerging challenges, including tackling corruption risks in our existential fight to protect our world against climate change and environmental degradation.

This IACC also focused on the use of digital technologies for anti-corruption efforts. We know that technology has incredible potential to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency in public finance management, procurement processes and service delivery. New technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain technology and big data analytics bring enormous opportunities to enhance anti-corruption efforts, but we need to prevent their misuse, and safeguard data protection and privacy. UNDP’s upcoming report on ‘New Technologies for Sustainable Development: From the perspectives of integrity, trust and anti-corruption’ highlights the need for effective digital governance, regulatory mechanisms and sustained investments in digital infrastructure, including efforts to bridge the digital divide.

The way forward: Moving from commitment to action to build forward better

As I wrap up, I would note that now is the time to move from commitment to action in our anti-corruption efforts, beyond recovery, towards 2030. In the last two decades, the global anti-corruption community has established global, regional and national anti-corruption commitments in the form of conventions, normative frameworks, legislation, and institutions, but there is much still to do to ensure that they are effective. We need to make these commitments more actionable and put in place effective mechanisms to hold stakeholders accountable.

Measuring the impact of anti-corruption initiatives and strategies is an important step. We need to collect more data, including on illicit financial flows, beneficial ownership issues, and strengthen our measurement of corruption itself.

We also need to ensure that we are collecting gender-disaggregated data, to understand the different perspectives and experiences of women and men.

And we need to strengthen the monitoring of SDG 16, as foundational to the integrated and indivisible vision of Agenda 2030.

In closing, I trust that the Seoul Declaration will truly reflect the essence of the IACC and our commitment and joint action in preventing and addressing corruption, as we look towards 2030.

Thank you!