Call for a Transparent and Inclusive Review Mechanism

 The good news is that the review mechanism for the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) is up and running since July 2010! At the beginning of July the Implementation Review group met for the first time and selected the countries to be reviewed in the first five-year cycle. Those include 26 countries in the first year and about 40 in the second. An ambitious programme. What subjects will it cover? Criminalisation, enforcement and international cooperation. Crucial topics will be reviewed including independence of enforcement agencies, enforcement against bribery and embezzlement, liability of companies, bank secrecy, protection of whistleblowers and the highly important topic of mutual legal assistance between country law enforcement offices.
The question is: Will the review mechanism be effective? This will partly depend on whether UNODC, the secretariat for the UNCAC, has enough resources to carry out such a demanding programme. But equally important will be whether the review process will be transparent and inclusive. That would mean reviewed countries agree to include in their reviews the following three important elements: (1) civil society and private sector inputs to the reviews; (2) country visits and (3) prompt publication of country self-assessments and full final reports. These are crucial elements of the review process that were left optional by the resolution establishing the review mechanism. These are essential for a credible review process. And now is the time to establish the right precedents.

Since all of this was left optional, it is of critical importance that civil society and private sector get active at the country level in promoting the opt-ins, in monitoring the review process and in making well-founded submissions with their views on the implementation of the relevant articles. For CSOs in the approximately 70 countries in the first and second years of the review process the time for action is now! Time to contact your government focal point about the review process. Time to let them know that we will be monitoring their decisions about inclusiveness and participation. Time to prepare quality inputs to the process. The first round of reviews is due to end in March 2011, though some of the reviews will undoubtedly be delayed.

Civil society participation and transparency are also at stake in the ongoing discussions about whether NGOs should be accorded observer status in the Implementation Review Group (IRG), which is the subsidiary body that oversees the UNCAC review process. The UN Office of Legal Affairs was consulted on this matter and issued a Legal Opinion in August in favour of allowing such observer status – see the Legal Opinion here. However, to date the IRG has reached interim decisions excluding NGO observers from their meetings.

The above considerations have led he UNCAC Coalition, a global network of over 240 civil society organisations in 100 countries, to call on States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to ensure that the newly functioning UNCAC review mechanism is transparent and participatory at all levels. You can find that statement here.

Gillian Dell, December 2010.


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