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Civil society seeks to support efforts to combat corruption in the Americas

Participation in process critical to implementation of the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption

In a significant step toward transparency and participation, the Organization of American States (OAS) Committee of Experts, an intergovernmental group meeting this week in Washington, heard from Transparency International (TI) and other civil society organizations as part of its peer review process for evaluating government compliance with the Inter-American Convention against Corruption. "We trust that the positive and constructive atmosphere at yesterday's meeting will encourage the Committee of Experts to seek similar consultations with civil society prior to future state party reviews," says Transparency International, the world's leading non-profit organization engaged in the fight against corruption.

TI National Chapters and other civil society groups in Argentina, Colombia, Nicaragua and Paraguay, the first four countries to be reviewed, submitted written evaluations of government compliance with the Convention, in parallel with the self-evaluation carried out by each of the governments. Some submissions are posted online at www.oas.org. The civil society submissions and verbal presentations provided substantive and incisive commentary about government compliance and demonstrated that while every country is distinct, there are common impediments, such as inadequate separation of powers, weak judicial systems and lack of access to information.

"We hope that the Committee of Experts appreciated the additional value civil society brings to making certain that the Convention achieves its objective of reducing corruption,"says Rosa Ines Ospina Vice Chair of Transparency International and President of Transparencia por Colombia. "Opening up this peer review process to civil society promotes a more accurate assessment, more relevant recommendations for further reforms, and a positive environment for prompt implementation of the necessary reforms."

TI commends the Committee of Experts for engaging in dialogue with civil society at yesterday's meeting and those governments, which have permitted publication of country information on the OAS website. These actions follow on the significant efforts by the OAS in recent years to provide for civil society participation and greater transparency.

However, strengthening the Convention process in the future will require assurance that civil society will be consulted prior to future country reviews and that all government submissions will be published. The Final Country Reports, which will recommend the reforms needed to comply with the convention, should be published as soon as they are approved. "The Final Reports will provide a road map for further reform and should be followed up promptly by governments in co-operation with civil society in their countries," says Transparency International. "This will help ensure that recommendations are implemented and sustainable and that non-compliance will be reported."

TI chapters across the Americas are making full implementation of the Convention a priority in order to reduce corruption in their countries. Civil society participation will be critical to achieving this objective.

Notes: The Inter-American Convention Against Corruption sets out a road map for a comprehensive attack on corruption. Parties commit to criminalize a wide range of corrupt acts; step up enforcement; enhance legal and judicial cooperation; and strengthen preventive measures, such as codes of conduct for public officials, disclosure of assets, and whistle blower protection. Transparency International national chapters across the Americas have supported a regional anti-corruption effort since the 1994 Summit of the Americas. They view the Convention as an important plan for reform and have supported the OAS efforts to promote implementation and enforcement.


For any press enquiries please contact

Berlin:
Regional Director for Latin America
Ms Silke Pfeiffer
Tel: +49-30-3438 2045/2060
Email: spfeiffer@transparency.org

USA:
OAS Project Co-ordinator
Ms Diane Kohn
Tel: +1 202 296 7730
Email: tiusa@aol.com