'It is time to accelerate progress in the fight against corruption in the Americas,' said Transparency International (TI), the not-for-profit anti-corruption organization, in an appeal to members of the Organization of American States, who meet on 2-4 June 2002 at the OAS General Assembly in Bridgetown, Barbados.
At the Third Summit of the Americas in Quebec in April 2001, heads of state recognized that: "corruption undermines core democratic values, challenges political stability and economic growth, and thus threatens vital interests in our Hemisphere."
Yet, six years after the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption was adopted, several states, including Brazil, have still not ratified it, and a follow-up process to evaluate implementation is only now getting underway. Moreover, at the current pace of reviewing the implementation of the Convention, many more years will pass before even one review of the key commitments is completed.
In a letter to the OAS Secretary General, César Gaviria, dated 17 May 2002 (attached at the end of this release), TI expressed concern that this slow pace threatens to "undermine support for the Convention and the credibility of the follow-up process".
TI urges the member-states to make a commitment to take the following steps:
- Accelerate the timetable for the first round of evaluations to bring the deadline for completion forward to 31 December 2003 instead of late 2004. Complete a review of countries' progress on all key commitments for a report to the next Summit of the Americas, currently anticipated in 2005.
- Show the necessary political will and, together with multilateral financial institutions, provide the resources that are urgently needed for an effective and timely evaluation process.
The OAS is to be commended for its efforts to make information available on its web site (www.oas.org) and for opening meetings to civil society. As the process moves forward, it is
critical that all countries share information with citizens on how they have implemented the convention and that they provide opportunities for citizens to provide candid, credible and independent evaluations. TI Chairman Peter Eigen underscored that "the key to an effective fight against corruption is participation by civil society and the private sector. Their objective assessment and active involvement is essential to begin the transition from legal obligations to actual reform, including changes in practice and behavior."
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 roadmap for reform and have supported the OAS efforts to promote implementation and enforcement.
TI chapters, including chapters from Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, USA, and Canada, have just met in Mexico to define a common strategy on how to accompany the OAS efforts to promote reform and review progress. This work is being carried out in cooperation with other professional organizations in the different countries.
The Inter-American Convention Against Corruption sets out a road map for a comprehensive attack on corruption. It commits the member-states of the OAS 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 whistleblower protection.
The TI chapters in the Americas have taken a constructive approach to cooperation with the OAS in order to make the regional convention enforceable. In 1999, for instance, together with the Inter-American Bar Association and the American University, TI organized a "Roundtable of Experts", which provided insight into monitoring instruments used in other international agreements, and their relevance and implications for taking similar action in the case of the region's Convention. In 2000 TI-Ecuador and TI-Chile prepared a report regarding the changes needed in their national legislation to meet the requirements of the above-mentioned Convention. TI has also submitted a series of recommendations and comments on the methodology and questionnaire of the first round of evaluation - available at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Appendix: Letter from TI chapters of the Americas to OAS Secretary General, César Gaviria, 17 May 2002.
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