I would like to thank Canada, Ecuador, and The Netherlands for their leadership in convening us today. My minister was not able to join us today, but rest assured the United States agrees that corruption remains one of the greatest threats we face to democratic governance and global security. Accordingly, countering corruption, particularly grand corruption and kleptocracy, needs to be a fundamental part of our foreign policy and national security agenda.
Next year we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention against Corruption by the UN General Assembly. The UNCAC’s adoption marked a major turning point in the international fight against corruption. For the first time, at a truly global scale, countries agreed not only that corruption was a serious threat but also that we had to do something about it together.
In the two decades since, the international community has built a robust architecture to fight corruption. We have ratified a comprehensive international anti-corruption legal framework and established numerous networks and bodies to implement it.
The effort required to create this system has been immense, but the task ahead of us is no less daunting: we now need to ensure all countries – including our own – are effectively utilizing it and living up to the commitments we’ve made, as the statement of principles recognizes.
Strengthening implementation begins with domestic action and ensuring our governments and financial systems are not complicit in corruption and do not become safe havens for corrupt actors and their ill-gotten proceeds of crime.
This is why the United States is strengthening our own efforts to deny corrupt actors access to both our territory and our financial system. As an important step towards this goal, the United States has passed and begun implementing the Corporate Transparency Act to address deficiencies around beneficial ownership. We are also currently implementing our first ever Strategy on Countering Corruption. A major component of this strategy is enforcing a wide array of corruption-related sanctions and visa restrictions that block corrupt officials and often their families from enjoying their ill-gotten gains in the United States.
These types of accountability tools are most effective, however, when a wide number of countries have similar measures in place and actively enforce them. Last year, the United States launched the Democracies against Safe Haven Initiative. This initiative works to deny corrupt actors the ability to hide ill-gotten gains by encouraging like-minded partners to develop and actively implement anti-corruption sanctions and visa restriction regimes and coordinating on designations with partners who already have such authorities.
All countries are encouraged to participate in or support the goals of this initiative.
Another key component of closing the enforcement gap is ensuring effective cooperation and coordination between law enforcement agencies working on transnational corruption cases.
Thankfully, a number of networks and initiatives exist to facilitate this type of cooperation, collaboration, and knowledge sharing. Bodies such as the International Anti-Corruption Coordination Centre or the Asset Recovery Inter-Agency Networks are critical to promoting effective cooperation. Yet these networks are often underutilized. We must therefore dedicate more resources to promote these networks among countries that lack the capacity or understanding to use them effectively.
We agree that we must continue thinking creatively about ways to strengthen accountability. The United States does not, however, believe that an International Anti-Corruption Court is an effective way to do this. Given this, the United States cannot join the Statement of Principles, not withstanding our agreement with most of the rest of the text.
In particular, we believe the international community would be much better served by using its resources to enhance the capacity of governments to enforce their laws in their own nations, including through some of the activities I’ve already mentioned such as information sharing and capacity building.
We recognize that due to corruption, such domestic enforcement might not always be possible, particularly in kleptocracies. In these cases, our countries can demonstrate political will and act ourselves to promote accountability. We can use corruption-related financial sanctions and visa restrictions. And we can do a better job of working together, where possible, through related or parallel prosecutions to ensure corrupt leaders are brought to justice in our own jurisdictions.
We agree that we can, and must, do more to fight grand corruption and kleptocracy, and we appreciate the efforts by Canada, Ecuador, and The Netherlands to push us all to think how to achieve this objective. We look forward to continuing these discussions.