Address at expert meeting on corruption involving vast quantities of assets

State Secretary Marianne Hagen's opening address at the meeting in Peru.

Check against delivery

Secretary General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Peru,
Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour for me to be here today at the opening ceremony of this global expert group meeting on corruption involving vast quantities of assets.

Earlier this fall (10 September), the Security Council discussed the links between corruption, illegal trafficking in weapons, narcotics and people, and terrorism and violent extremism.

UNSG Guterres has referred to the World Economic Forum estimate that the annual global costs of corruption amount to at least USD 2.6 trillion (2 600 000 000 000), approximately 5 % of global GDP. This is a staggering amount to be lining criminals’ pockets at a time when we are still not on track to reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Meanwhile, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) has estimated that global military expenditure in 2017 amounted to USD 1.74 trillion (1 739 000 000 000).

This gives serious food for thought. The cost of corruption is even greater than the huge amount of military expenditure globally. And there are links between the two. No wonder then, that corruption has finally made it onto the agenda of the Security Council!

The detrimental economic, social, political, environmental and security effects of corruption – in all its manifestations – are well known. Let me quote UNSG Guterres again: ‘Corruption breeds disillusion with government and governance and is often at the root of political dysfunction and social disunity. (…) Corruption robs schools, hospitals and others of vitally needed funds.’

Corruption drives a vicious cycle. It undermines human rights and democracy. It is a symptom of market failure. It discourages sound investments. It breeds inequality, exclusion, poverty, frustration, authoritarian populism and violence.  

Analyses of corruption distinguish between petty corruption and grand or large-scale corruption. The latter is usually associated with greed at the top levels of society and unholy alliances between the public sector, private companies and financial institutions.

Organised crime, money laundering, illicit financial flows to safe havens, complex company structures, veils of secrecy and hidden beneficiaries are well known elements. Significant amounts of money are involved and many cases extend across multiple jurisdictions.

Paradoxically, the availability of natural resources that could generate valuable income for sustainable development very often leads to huge inequalities between a few rich at the top and the poor masses on the bottom of society.

Large-scale corruption, or grand corruption, or what the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) refers to as ‘corruption involving vast quantities of assets’, is the most serious form of corruption.

At the 7th Conference of the States Parties to UNCAC in November 2017, Norway, Peru and Chile spearheaded a resolution on preventing and combatting this form of corruption.

We were very pleased that the resolution was adopted by consensus. This was the first time in UNCAC’s 15-year history that states managed to reach agreement on measures to prevent and combat corruption involving vast quantities of assets.

The resolution was co-sponsored by 19 countries from four continents, and represents a step forward in international efforts to prevent and combat the most serious forms of corruption.

I am delighted to see that such a large group of distinguished experts have gathered here in Lima to explore how states can strengthen their efforts to prevent and counter large-scale corruption.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 16 and 17 in our ambitious, transformative and comprehensive 2030 Agenda include targets on fighting corruption, bribery and illicit financial flows, promoting the rule of law, developing effective, accountable and transparent institutions, and enhancing the global partnership for development.

The 186 State Parties to UNCAC have pledged to effectively prevent and combat corruption. 193 states are committed to the 2030 Agenda.

We need to discuss ways forward in both our joint and individual efforts to counter corruption at all levels. We need to break the ‘resource curse’. We need more integrity, more ethical leadership. We need more – much more – transparency and accountability. We need independent, professional and adequately resourced prevention efforts, investigations and legal processes. We know that long-term, systemic and comprehensive anti-corruption efforts at local, national and international levels are critical for progress.  

I wish you every success in the important work you are here to do. I hope that you will come up with some innovative recommendations on operative measures that can enable the anti-corruption movement to take a big leap forward.

 

Go to the top