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The G8 on corruption: Dirty money is not safe anywhere

The language looks good, but it is actions that matter

The Group of Eight hit many of the right notes in their Statement on Fighting High-Level Corruption. The real test, however, will be in their actions; and the history of G8 action is decidedly mixed.

Transparency International welcomes the focus on denying safe haven to the corrupt and their illicitly acquired wealth. It is important that the signal is sent: dirty money is not safe anywhere.

But any global plan for cracking down on the “fruits of kleptocratic activities” must contain specific mechanisms for tracing and freezing these funds, wherever they are deposited. Only this way can the recovery or repatriation of stolen money be achieved.

While it is a positive sign that the G8 recognise the role of multilateral development banks in fighting corruption, the deadline they set – September 2006 - for banks to submit anti-corruption strategies to their membership is too tight to ensure a meaningful public consultation with civil society involvement.

Similarly, a call for global ratification of the United Nations Convention against Corruption is commendable, but should be addressed to the Group of Eight themselves, as five members have yet to ratify: Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. The Convention contains provisions on mutual legal assistance and asset recovery that will serve to enforce the high-level accountability being called for today.

The success of the UN Convention will ultimately rest on the ability of the international community to agree on and employ an effective monitoring mechanism that would create a climate of mutual accountability. It is vital that when the Conference of States Parties (the principle administrative body for the Convention) meets in Jordan in December, an effective monitoring mechanism is agreed.

Enforcement must be vigorously pursued by all countries, in particular, the “prosecut[ion]” of “corrupt public officials and those who bribe them”. While the statement calls for this to be “continued”, some members of the G8 have yet to start. In terms of overseas bribery, the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention represents the most powerful tool, criminalising bribe payments to foreign public officials.

Transparency International welcomes the reference to further effective peer evaluation of the OECD Convention’s implementation, but the test will be whether the G8 commit the necessary financial resources to support this process. As with all the promises made, proof of real commitment lies in outlining specific steps and committing the resources to support them.

The statement rightly points to corruption’s “devastating effect on democracy, the rule of law, and economic and social development”. Nothing less is at stake. For the world’s poor and those living in fragile states, we hope that the G8 takes their commitments seriously.

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Transparency International is the global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption.


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