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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Opening Statement at the U.S. 3rd Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption

Elizabeth Verville
Deputy Assistant Secretary
Doha, Qatar
November 9, 2009


Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to begin by conveying our warmest gratitude to the Government of Qatar, including Attorney General Al Marri and his office for hosting this Conference and providing us a wonderful forum for our important work. It is a pleasure to be in Doha with our fellow States Parties, which have grown notably in number - indeed, by 70 percent - since our last meeting in 2007.

There are several reasons why the number of States Parties has grown so considerably since our previous meeting in Bali. This increasing number represents, of course, the importance that these states ascribe to the fight against corruption, and their dedicated work to guide the Convention through their respective domestic ratification processes.

But the growing number of States Parties also reveals another important and intangible element behind the Convention: the promise and hope that this UN Convention against Corruption holds out to all. This Convention inspires in many ways. It promises the tools we need to tackle corruption on a domestic and global scale. It provides hope that nations, both individually and collectively, will act to make a real difference against corruption worldwide. This hope is shared not only by governments, but by civil society, the private sector and our individual citizens who wish for a better life.

Today, almost four years after the Convention entered into force and almost seven years since it was first opened for signature, this flame of promise and hope still exists. However, the words of the Convention are not enough to keep that flame lit. We are at a stage where the hope of this Convention lies squarely in the actions of States Parties vigorously to implement their undertakings.

This is one reason why it is critical that we adopt a credible and effective review mechanism here in Doha. We are at a crossroads. We can choose to establish a credible review mechanism -- or we can choose delay, which will put our commitment in doubt. The hope of this Convention is in our hands.

A new UNCAC review mechanism, if developed properly, will provide a plethora of useful information on implementation and anticorruption efforts worldwide. We need it to help paint a better and larger picture of where we are achieving success, where we are encountering difficulties and where can we most productively target assistance. It will provide much needed comfort that States Parties are engaged in useful, and not hollow, introspection and are trying hard to improve and strengthen our anticorruption work with our fellow Parties.

However, taking action on just any review mechanism is not enough. Our action must be effective and transparent in order to make a difference and inspire hope. A review process that does not allow an open and frank dialogue between States Parties – and instead limits dialogue – is not a process that will be effective or inspire promise. A review process in which the final product of a review is kept confidential in a guarded box is not a process that will be effective or inspire promise. A review process that does not recognize the important role for those outside government in the fight against corruption -- a principle enshrined in the Convention – is not a process that is transparent. We must keep in mind that ours is a convention against corruption, which is all about transparency. A non-transparent review mechanism would be a contradiction in terms.

A brief word on funding for the review mechanism. Everyone in this room knows there will be no lack of funding for a mechanism that is credible and effective. We will easily be able to find ways to structure funding, voluntary or otherwise, to ensure consistency and impartiality. This issue should not be used as an excuse for failing to move forward. The real challenge before us today is to develop and adopt a useful process that not only deserves our funding but is also worthy of the inevitable hard work and expert resources that will be necessary to make it effective.

In addition to the review mechanism, there are other topics that deserve our attention during the coming week:

The Convention’s unique roadmap for facilitating asset recovery must remain a central focus. This subject has garnered the attention of past Conferences, the expert Working Group, and, more recently, of international organizations and groups outside the COSP. We tried to address asset recovery at a late stage in Bali, and we suffered as a result. I hope we can give this issue sufficient attention at an early stage during the coming week so that we can produce some ideas for maintaining momentum on this issue, taking advantage of the considerable outside interests to assist us.

The prevention chapter (Chapter 2) of the Convention is an innovative chapter that charts a rich and substantive course for preventing corruption from happening in the first place. However, we have not been able to address prevention during the work of previous Conferences. We hope that we will reverse this course during the current Conference by adopting a decision that recognizes and promotes our work in this area.

Technical assistance also permeates all of what we do under the Convention. This should also be a priority for our attention this week. During the intersessional meeting of the Technical Assistance Working Group, our experts discussed various ways to strengthen assistance efforts, including through in-country coordination, public-private partnerships and leveraging our work related to other anti-crime instruments. In addition, there seems to be common an effective review mechanism has the potential to provide accurate information that will contribute nicely to our work to promote technical assistance.

In conclusion, as our Attorney General has just stated here on Saturday at the Global Forum on Fighting Corruption, the United States is fully committed to this Convention. We are ready to assist the work of this Conference in whatever way necessary. By becoming a State Party, we -- as all State Parties -- acknowledged the need for collective and multilateral action to fight corruption. We signed up to something that was bigger and stronger than our individual domestic anticorruption efforts.

A central embodiment of this collective dynamic will be a new review mechanism. Only by sharing our individual experiences with implementing the Convention can we help strengthen the whole of our efforts. Our challenge this week is not to determine whether we should jump collectively into a new review mechanism. As State Parties, we have already committed to take that leap. Rather, our challenge is to ensure that we develop a credible, transparent and effective mechanism that demonstrates our collective commitment to the Convention and to each other to implement it.

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