Chief executives boost UN program on corruption

Bob Tippee

An important United Nations fight against corruption received a boost this month from the chief executives of 24 international companies.

The executives signed a letter to UN Sec. Gen. Ban Ki-moon supporting the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and calling for action on a crucial but slow-moving program element.

Launched in December 2003, UNCAC addresses prevention, criminalization, international cooperation, and asset recovery. So far, 140 countries have signed the convention, and 136 have ratified it.

The laggard UNCAC element is implementation review, which the first Conference of States Parties (COSP), held in 2006, described as "of paramount importance."

According to the anticorruption group Transparency International (TI), a UN working group has been trying to define the review mechanism and will meet again on May 11-13 and Aug. 31-Sept. 2. The issue will be a priority agenda item at the third COSP, in Doha the week of Nov. 9.

"Because of the complexity of a decision-making process involving 140 governments," TI says, "unless controversial issues can be resolved well in advance, the prospects for Doha are poor."

Implementation became divisive at the second COSP, held in Bali in January 2008. Warning against the onset of "a holding pattern," a TI press release after that meeting said contentious issues included "the form a country progress review program should take" and "terms of the transparency of the process and the participation of civil society."

Companies probably see trouble in an agreement with potential to compromise their international contracts in any way. At the same time, they must recognize how corruption impedes economic development and weakens the social foundations of expatriate business.

Signatory companies in the letter calling for action on an implementation review mechanism are Anglo American PLC, AngloGold Ashanti Co., BASF AG, Bhoruka Power Corp. Ltd., EADS, Fluor Corp., Fuji Xerox Co. Ltd., GDF Suez, General Electric Co., IKEA Group, Infosys Technologies Ltd., Kanoria Chemicals & Industries Ltd., Li & Fung Group, Newmont Mining Corp., Novartis International AG, Petronas, Royal Dutch Shell PLC, SAP AG, Sinosteel Corp., Solvay, TAQA, Tata Sons, TNT NV, and Zurich Financial Group.

(Online May 8, 2009; author's e-mail:

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