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Civil Society challenges governments in Open Letter to Global Forum II

It is time for the talking to stop and the action against corruption to begin. This is the central message that civil society organisations from across the world will deliver when they place a set of key demands before the more than 100 governments gathering at the Second Global Forum on Fighting Corruption and Safeguarding Integrity in The Hague, The Netherlands from May 28-31, 2001.

The demands are as follows:

  • Acknowledge the catastrophic effects that corruption is having on our societies and on our planet.
  • Take immediate and effective measures to curb corruption in all its forms
  • Co-operate to return to the countries of origin the monies that corrupt leaders have looted from their treasuries
  • Put in place systems of mutual legal co-operation and enforcement that will ensure that there is no hiding place for the proceeds of corruption, and that there is no country where the corrupt can enjoy the profits of their crimes without fear of extradition and punishment.

Governments will come together in order to confirm their commitment to fight corruption and to discuss new strategies to curb corruption. It is expected that Ministers will adopt a Final Declaration, containing a number of ideas related to a future legal UN instrument against corruption, to the monitoring of the effectiveness of national anti-corruption strategies, and to best practices.

The demands of civil society organisations have been formulated in an Open Letter (attached), drawn up by the Dutch development organisation Hivos, the anti-corruption organisation Transparency International, and a number of Southern anti-corruption organisations. The letter has been signed by more than 200 civil society organisations from across the globe, including Human Rights Watch, Oxfam, the International Federation of Journalists, the International Commission of Jurists, the National Platform of Indigenous Peoples and Peasants of Guatemala (CONIC), and the Women's Platform of Bolivia and the Indonesian Federation of Peasant Unions (see www.hivos.nl). The letter will be formally presented to the host of the conference, the Dutch Minister of Justice, Mr Korthals, by Frances Akello, a grassroots anti-corruption campaigner in Soroti District, Uganda. The presentation will take place during the plenary session of Government Ministers on Thursday, May 31. (A list of signatories is available at http://www.hivos.nl)

For further information, please contact:

Eric Baars
Head of the Communication Department
Hivos
Tel: +31-(0)70-3765500, +31-(0)6-20415036

Chris Collier
Senior Policy Officer
Human Rights, Hivos
Tel: +31-(0)70-3765605, +31-(0)6-21238957

Jeff Lovitt
Head of Public Relations
Transparency International
Tel: +49-30-3430 8200
E-mail: press@transparency.org

Note to editors: Hivos has invited four African anti-corruption activists to participate in Global Forum II. They are John Makumbe, Chairman of Transparency International-Zimbabwe, Kivutha Kibwana, Chairman of the Centre of Law and Research International (Kenya), Augustine Muserero, Co-ordinator of the Uganda Debt Network (Uganda), and Frances Akello, Coordinator of the Osulel Rural Action Group, (Uganda).

On the afternoon of Wednesday, May 30, during the Forum's "parallel programme" they will describe the nature and extent of corruption in their societies, its consequences. They will also assess the role of their governments and the international community with respect to efforts to end corruption. The session will hear testimony on the effects of corruption at the community level, citizens' efforts to organise to combat it, and the results achieved. During the same session, Jeremy Pope, Executive Director of Transparency International, will highlight the need for the recovery of embezzled state funds and discuss mechanisms required to effect this.

Open Letter from Civil Society Organisations to the Second Global Forum on Fighting Corruption

Government Representatives and other distinguished participants,

We, as representatives drawn from a wide range of global civil society, welcome the establishment of the Global Forum on Fighting Corruption and its determination to develop effective principles and practices to prevent or combat corruption around the world. We have witnessed a number of positive developments since the first Forum was held two years ago. But in many parts of our world today, corruption is actually on the increase.

The consequences of worsening corruption for our societies and for our planet are dramatic. Corruption is a major factor underlying human rights violations of every description - economic and social no less than political and civil. Corruption creates political instability and conflict. It denies governments their legitimacy and people the protection the Rule of Law should provide. Corruption impacts daily on the lives of millions by eroding medical services, education systems, the honesty of the police and the provision and efficiency of public services in general. It foments the destruction of the environment and it causes avoidable death and destruction during natural disasters. In short, corruption exacerbates poverty and inequality, it discourages economic investment and development, and thus it attacks every value we global citizens share.

We make a special plea to all those countries whose institutions harbour the ill-gotten gains of public officials who have looted their countries and impoverished their peoples. We ask all countries to co-operate to secure the return of the looted wealth of those countries that have suffered most grievously from the consequences of corruption, particularly in Africa. But we also ask for systems of mutual legal co-operation and enforcement to be put in place that will ensure that there is no hiding place for the proceeds of corruption, and no country where the corrupt can enjoy the profits of their crimes without fear of extradition and punishment.

We further challenge governments represented at the Global Forum, both individually and collectively, to publicly commit themselves to undertake actions that we as civil society regard as crucial, namely actions that will:

  • Ensure that corruption is legally defined and criminalised, and that independent institutions and effective procedures are in place to investigate and prosecute corrupt acts - whether committed at home or abroad;
  • Uphold and strengthen the Rule of Law, the impartiality of police forces and the independence of the judiciary;
  • Ensure that immunity and privilege do not prevent corrupt public servants and politicians from being held accountable under the criminal law;
  • Ensure transparency in all aspects of national and international official activity, including legally guaranteed rights of citizens to access to information;
  • Guarantee and respect the freedom of opinion and expression;
  • Empower their citizens and encourage the participation of civil society in all aspects of public life;
  • Protect our democratic institutions from the risk of abuse by requiring political parties to make full and complete disclosure of their sources of funding;
  • Ensure full transparency in aid flows and international financial assistance so that citizens can hold their governments to account; and
  • Create an open and fair environment in which private sector activities can take place untainted by corruption and function in ways that bring benefits to all.

We look forward, in particular, to the early conclusion of a United Nations Convention against corruption, and look to governments to play an active part in achieving and implementing a landmark international instrument that will significantly increase mutual co-operation in the development of criminal law and the harmonisation of corruption offences to the benefit of the great mass of humankind.

In closing, we ask the governments here assembled to acknowledge the catastrophic effects that corruption is having on our societies and on our planet, and we urge governments to demonstrate their political will not by words alone, but by taking immediate and effective measures to curb corruption in all its forms. We look forward to the assessment of your efforts that will take place when civil society organisations gather at the 10th International Anti-Corruption Conference in Prague on 7-11 October, 2001.


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