DEPUTY SECRETARY VERMA: Good afternoon, everyone. I just want to say upfront that I know, from personal experience, how important it is for the public sector and the private sector to come together.

I’ve spent about a third of my career in the private sector – most recently serving as the General Counsel of a large, publicly-traded company. So I’ve lived in your shoes as well and on the government side, and happy to be representing the State Department and Secretary Blinken as the Deputy Secretary for Management [and Resources].

But this fight – and victory in this this fight can only be earned through common action across the public and private sectors.

Let’s begin by placing this moment in the context of history: 

Seventy-five years ago yesterday, the United Nations rallied the world – a world still reeling from the horrors of war and the Holocaust – around a simple yet radical principle: 

That the “equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family [are] the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.”

These first words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ignited a promise that was meant to light the globe ever since. It was a pledge to see every individual as valuable, every life as precious, and everyone as equal in the eyes of the law.

We haven’t always carried that torch the way we should. But its call still matters: for how we counter repression, how we combat atrocities, how we hold ourselves and others accountable to the highest standards of international norms – it matters. 

This anniversary is all too relevant to our gathering here. Because this week, we remain focused on that foundation of freedom, justice, and peace – and how corruption threatens to unravel it. 

We are focused on the infrastructure of democratic governance, public safety, economic fairness, and inclusive prosperity – and how corruption seeks to undermine it. 

We are focused on corruption, as President Biden deemed it, as a core national security interest – and what we can do, together, to wage the fight against it.

None of us are immune from the impacts of this challenge. And all of us have a stake in tackling it. Governments cannot solve it alone. Companies cannot confront it alone. NGOs cannot address it alone. 

This is going to require a true team effort. The kind of collaboration that sees us sharing information, leveraging different groups’ expertise, and promoting best practices. The kind of unity of purpose and action that form the heart of the UN and the backbone of this forum.

Here in the United States, the Biden-Harris Administration has made this a key priority from the start.

At the Summit for Democracy in 2021, we released the first-ever U.S. Strategy on Countering Corruption. And as part of making that strategy real, the State Department launched the Global Initiative to Galvanize the Private Sector as Partners in Combating Corruption. 

Now, that may be a long title. But far more important, it’s a framework for regular dialogue and the scaffolding for collective action. 

It helps us implement Principle Ten of the UN Convention Against Corruption – that “businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.” 

And each day, our team takes tangible steps to make our vision real. 

We are implementing projects designed to increase integrity in infrastructure and supply chains, promote responsible corporate engagement with the public sector, and support the use of technology to boost transparency and accountability.

We are collaborating with agencies across our government to combat foreign bribery in international business transactions, because a corruption-free economic environment is a pre-requisite for equitable growth.

We are acting in multilateral settings like the UN, the G20, APEC, and OECD on enforcing the Anti-Bribery Convention; advancing compliance measures in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework; and building anti-corruption capacity among prosecutors, judges, and law enforcement.

Finally, we are serving as a resource for companies in dealing with foreign governments on corruption issues – and working to strengthen justice sector institutions, promote good governance, and create a fairer economic system.

These efforts are ongoing, and they will continue and they will grow. 

To that end, in the year ahead, the State Department and OECD will roll out the Infrastructure Anti-Corruption Toolbox – a mechanism meant to empower actors across the infrastructure value chain to prevent, detect, report, and deter corruption throughout the lifecycle of infrastructure projects.

This is just one key piece of a larger anti-corruption puzzle that is constantly evolving and expanding. 

And I can promise you: our leadership in this broader fight will not flag or falter. This is too important. This is too important to your businesses and workers. And this is too central to our belief in political freedom and democratic renewal. 

It’s fitting that we should convene in the hometown of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Because our fight against corruption and his campaign for civil rights share a common thread: they are both vital fronts in the battle for justice. 

Speaking from the pulpit at the nearby Ebenezer Baptist Church – right around this time of year, on Christmas 1967 – Dr. King reminded us that “if we are to have peace on earth…our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.”

Today, we are bringing that global outlook to a cause that demands it. That transcends borders, sectors, industries, countries, continents. That cries out for action among governments, businesses, and civil society. That impacts our economies and our security. 

Simply put: countering corruption must remain a priority, for the UN, for the United States, and for all of us. And together, I have no doubt that it will stay at the top of our agenda for peace and prosperity, for human dignity and human rights, long into the future. 

Thank you again, to all of you, for being our partners in this effort. 

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future