Participation in the UN General Assembly High-Level Segment With Interventions from Member States

James A. Walsh
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Opening Remarks (U.S. Chair)
New York City
May 23, 2018

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, Under-Secretary-General Fedotov, President of the Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, distinguished delegates, it is a pleasure to be with you this morning.

Fifteen years ago, the international community joined together to sign a transformational document: a global legal framework for preventing and combating corruption. Since 2003, States Parties have implemented the Convention and today, we have much to show for it. Our frameworks, laws, and policies – and related international cooperation – are undoubtedly better today compared to 2003. However, our job is not finished.

The UNCAC provides us a common basis to take the necessary steps to prevent and combat corruption if we have enough political will and use the treaty effectively. In our collective efforts to prevent, criminalize, investigate, and prosecute corruption, and recover and return stolen assets, this Convention remains the comprehensive, global, legal framework for fighting corruption.

Our own commitment to the UNCAC remains resolute. The United States continues to aggressively address corruption and its corrosive effect on global security and prosperity. Our Department of Justice continues robust enforcement of our long-standing foreign anti-bribery statute, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). In 2017, the United States had the greatest number of individual prosecutions, convictions, and guilty pleas for FCPA cases ever. States Parties’ commitment to criminalize foreign bribery under the UNCAC is critical to global economic prosperity. Corruption undermines sustainable economic growth, and bribery contributes to a risky investment climate. But, when these standards are enforced, individuals are much less likely to request bribes. We have seen that prohibitions against bribes over time increase overseas competitiveness and improve national reputations. We call upon all States Parties to implement the Convention in this regard to collectively advance economic growth and security.

International cooperation, through bilateral frameworks and facilitated under UNCAC, is instrumental to investigating and prosecuting complex corruption cases. More and more cases and evidence cross borders. We remain committed to targeting ill-gotten gains and holding kleptocrats accountable, consistent with the Treaty. Through international cooperation and our Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, the United States has seized or frozen over $3.5 billion in corruption-related proceeds since 2010. The Department of Justice has returned more than $150 million in confiscated assets to date with another $30 million in process. We have also partnered closely with other governments to ensure that recovered proceeds of crime are returned in a manner that furthers the goals of transparency and oversight at all stages in the asset recovery process.

Additionally, in December 2017, President Trump announced financial sanctions and visa restrictions under the authority of a new Executive Order (E.O. 13818) and the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. These measures give the U.S. federal government new authority to impose targeted punitive measures on those who engage in public corruption, as well as serious human rights abuse. So far, the United States has sanctioned 13 individuals and 39 affiliates under this authority.

We also remain committed to having transparent and accountable systems in place to prevent corruption before it starts. In the last year, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) updated and modernized the regulations governing executive branch ethics education programs, restrictions on the acceptance of gifts by executive branch officials, and procedures for tracking high-level officials’ compliance with their agreements to avoid potential conflicts of interest. Our government has also embarked on a campaign to inform the public on ethics laws and the tools they can use to better hold government accountable.

Abroad, anti-corruption technical assistance and capacity building remains a significant component of our foreign policy. In our previous financial year, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provided approximately $117 million in foreign assistance to fight corruption. We have worked with partner countries to (1) create a culture of integrity to prevent corruption, (2) mitigate risks of corruption, (3) develop consequences of corruption through laws and law enforcement, and (4) strengthen civil society and oversight bodies. Our foreign assistance programs: build transparent, accountable institutions; support legislative reforms consistent with UNCAC; develop capacity of law enforcement, anticorruption authorities, and prosecutors to manage complex corruption cases; and support specialized units and anticorruption courts to enforce anticorruption laws.

As we implement the UNCAC, we must work with all sectors of society to fight corruption, including civil society and the private sector. We must continue to support their engagement in the Conference of States Parties to the Convention and its subsidiary bodies. We encourage all States Parties to engage more actively with civil society and to be accountable to their citizens by publishing their full final UNCAC reports online. These reports are incredibly useful tools to inform technical assistance programs related to implementation of the UNCAC.

We are cognizant that good-faith efforts by the United States or any single country will never be enough: we all must work together to adopt and enforce international standards of integrity, accountability, and transparency. As such, the United States looks forward to having our own policies and practices reviewed under the second cycle of the UNCAC Review Mechanism over the next year. I wish you much success as we work together to strengthen implementation of this important Convention.