Pacific States commended for stronger commitment to combatting corruption
(Suva, Fiji) – Back in 2005, Pacific Islands Forum Leaders called for members to ratify and implement the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). In 2011, three more Pacific Island countries acceded to UNCAC – doubling the number of ratifying States parties in the Pacific. Vanuatu, Cook Islands and Marshall Islands joined Papua New Guinea (PNG), Fiji and Palau as States parties.
Other countries are also seeing the value of joining the UNCAC family. Following a workshop on UNCAC organized in October 2011, Solomon Islands Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon Peter Shanel, stated, “I have given strong instructions to my officials to expedite the process of accession. We recognize that corruption disproportionately hurts the poor and we want to take action. As a Minister of Government, I see the importance of ratification as a symbol of our Government’s commitment to deal with corruption.”
UNCAC is the first comprehensive framework endorsed by the international community, and represents a landmark global consensus on the issue of corruption. Recognizing the cross-border nature of corruption, the Convention binds State parties to cooperate with one another in the investigation and prosecution of offenders. More importantly, countries are bound to cooperate with other state parties in tracing, freezing and confiscation the proceeds of corruption, as well as actually the returning those monies to the originating country.
Manager of the UNDP Pacific Centre, Mr Garry Wiseman, in commenting on the progress made noted that “while it is very encouraging to see more Pacific countries acceding to UNCAC, implementation is what is most important. Corruption robs countries of scarce resources that they can plough back into development, which makes it even more important for our Pacific countries to deal with this problem urgently. Every cent that is wasted through corruption is money that could have – and should have – been used to achieve national development goals.”
A number of Pacific Island countries are making some progression the area of implementation. For example, in September 2011, PNG endorsed a comprehensive national anti-corruption strategy to guide its efforts to address this serious problem. The PNG Government has indicated its intention to enact legislation to protect public officials who make complaints about corruption and to establish an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), which would have powers to prevent, investigate and prosecute corruption. At a workshop in Solomon Islands on UNCAC in October 2011, MP’s agreed to accede to the Convention and specifically prioritized the need to explore options for establishing an ICAC. In Vanuatu, the Government is also reviewing their Leadership Code and Ombudsman Acts in an effort to strengthen the capacity of the Ombudsman to address issues around misconduct and corruption.
Strengthening institutions has also been coupled with efforts to improve laws. In September 2011, Marshall Islands amended its Criminal Code to strengthen its provisions on bribery and other corruption offences. The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is also looking at strengthening their laws on financial disclosure by leaders. Tonga and Vanuatu are currently developing policies and laws that would entrench the public’s right to access information.
In fact, it is absolutely essential that the public are also brought in as partners in the fight against corruption. Articles 12 and 13 of UNCAC specifically recognize the importance of private sector and civil society involvement in anti-corruption activities.
“We know that corruption erodes citizens’ confidence and trust in public institutions, exacerbates poverty and hinders socio-economic development efforts but that understanding is not enough. Citizens and civil society must step up their efforts in combating corruption by engaging and collaborating with others,” said Ms Koila Kabu, Transparency International (TI) Fiji’s Executive Director. “Furthermore, TI Fiji believes transparency in decision-making, accountability in leadership and integrity, are universal principles essential in curbing corruption, both at local and national level. It will continue to uphold these values and support initiatives targeted at mobilizing endeavours and canvassing commitment to combat it.”
International Anti-Corruption Day is being celebrated throughout the Pacific this year. These efforts will make the Pacific part of the global effort to recognize the importance of tackling corruption in order to support inclusive, accountability and transparency national development.
Shobhna Decloitre, Communications Specialist on tel (679) 3300399 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Isikeli Valemei, Governance Associate on tel (679) 3300399 or email@example.com