Mr. Chairman, we are pleased to be here in this beautiful city of Marrakesh for the biennial gathering of the parties to the UN Convention against Corruption. I would like to thank the Kingdom of Morocco for the warm hospitality shown to all the delegations that have traveled here, including the U.S. delegation. I would also like to recognize the leadership Morocco has shown, not only in hosting the Conference, but also in contributing to important activities in this region: Morocco hosted the fruitful June Multi-stakeholder Dialogue on Anticorruption and the Rule of Law in the Arab Region, and it will be become the chair of the Arab Anticorruption and Integrity Network, with which the United States is proud to partner. With this backdrop, we look forward to a productive week.
Mr. Chairman, so much has been accomplished since this Conference last met in Doha in November 2009. In less than two years, a vision articulated in Doha has been transformed into a functioning review mechanism. Our experts have met four times in Vienna under the new Implementation Review Group. Sixty-eight individual country reviews involving combinations of over 130 countries are either ongoing or have been finalized. In addition, our experts met for the first time ever in 2010 to focus exclusively on implementation of the prevention chapter, and have met twice since Doha to focus exclusively on asset recovery. Throughout this blitz of intersessional activity, we have collaborated with a wide range of signatories, other Member States, international organizations, and others outside government. It has indeed been a notable period of development for our efforts to implement the Convention.
While Doha was a Conference that created new processes, Marrakesh is important as a Conference where we have a chance to reflect upon our primary goal – that is, implementing the convention. Specifically, how do we consolidate and build upon our accomplishments to date on the wide range of activities that fall under the authority of this Conference.
The Review Mechanism, of course, is among our newest endeavors. It is an important process that we must preserve, but which we can always seek to improve. We have had approximately eighteen months of experience operating the mechanism and have learned a lot. The hard work of the Secretariat and our governmental experts – which should be commended -- is beginning to bear fruit. We are starting to compile useful information about implementation and are identifying potential areas for technical assistance. But we need to address whether there are more efficient ways in which governments can complete the self assessment software, and assess the utility of the high volume of information gathered through the self-assessment process. We can do better in identifying efficiencies that will save time and money – like reducing the number of pages that need to be translated and sharpening the focus of executive summaries and reports and making them more consistent. States Parties should assume more responsibility and accountability for the financing of the mechanism, particularly through increased Implementation Review Group oversight. Given today’s financial atmosphere and the need for financial discipline, we must avoid any supplemental or backdoor processes for seeking UN Regular Budget funding. We should also find ways to shorten the time it takes for individual country reviews – we need to do better than finalizing only seven reports in eighteen months.
The Prevention Working Group has met twice and has had some challenges in trying to gain momentum. The prevention chapter—Chapter 2—covers a wide range of topics, and one of the difficulties has been ensuring that the right experts are contributing to the work. Even so, every expert that has attended the working group sessions agrees that prevention is an important component of our anticorruption efforts, and we should not wait until the second round of the review process to focus on Chapter 2. This Conference should extend the mandate of the group, and charge it with finding ways to ensure that we get the right experts to each meeting and that we use this as a forum to learn from the experiences of all the 154 States Parties committed to implementing Chapter 2.
Asset recovery is another important focus of our intersessional work. We welcome the efforts of Egypt and others to bring their recent experiences to the table and work constructively to find ways to facilitate international cooperation in this area. We are confident that our practitioners can improve their cooperation on recovering assets if they take the time occasionally to put themselves in the shoes of those on the other side of the issue -- in other words, for requested states to attempt to understand the perspective of requesting states, and vice versa.. Progress has been made in the development of tools to assist policymakers and practitioners – some of this work coming from the Asset Recovery Working Group and from others outside that process. We should draw upon the fruits of any effort that supports effective asset recovery. But it is clear that despite this good effort, even more can be done to facilitate case cooperation and promote implementation of Chapter V. With this in mind, we should extend the mandate of the Asset Recovery Working Group and endorse a long term game plan for its work, with a focus on building trust, knowledge, and mutual support among practitioners.
Last but not least, international cooperation is another area that warrants our attention, most recently as a topic for the current review round. It affects our work on multiple fronts in the fight against corruption, including law enforcement and asset recovery. The work of the review mechanism is revealing that many countries feel they need help in this area, and the Conference should respond. We have already begun in the context of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) to get our experts together to address issues related to mutual legal assistance and extradition. Many of the issues raised in the UNTOC context are equally applicable in the UNCAC context. Indeed, the international cooperation provisions of both conventions are almost identical. Looking for efficiency, savings, and synergies, we believe that we should include international cooperation called for in the UNCAC, and maybe even other relevant UN conventions such as the drug conventions, as part of the ongoing work of the UNTOC international cooperation group.
Mr. Chairman, in summary, this week provides an important opportunity to take stock of the myriad of existing activities under the authority of this Conference and to ensure that these efforts are moving in the right direction.
The United States believes that our impressive and hard work over the past two years has been useful to our ultimate goal of implementing the Convention. We look forward to working with our partners in this room to find ways to improve the productivity of those efforts – not only during the course of this week, but also as the curtain closes on this gathering and we continue our collaboration during the intersessional period.