Statement on the pernicious impact of corruption on trade and development at event celebrating the 50th Anniversary of UNCITRAL

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4 July 2017

VIENNA, 4 July (UN Information Service) – On behalf of the UN Office at Vienna, I wish the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) a happy 50th birthday.

UNCITRAL’s contribution to international trade during that half century has been immense.

Through your collective efforts you have helped unify international trade laws, while gaining acceptance for best customs and practices.

Close alliances have been forged with other UN organizations, including the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), as well as the UN Conference on Trade and Development.

UNCITRAL, today, is recognized globally as the UN body improving trade, raising living standards, and creating new opportunities through modern and fair business transactions.

And now, in my capacity as the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, let me turn to a subject of high importance for both UNODC and UNCITRAL.

UNODC, like UNCITRAL, acknowledges the powerful relationship between trade and development as articulated in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

International trade helps reduce poverty and promotes job and wealth creation.

If, however, the 2030 Agenda is bold in setting out the many positives, it is equally resolute in guarding against the negatives that can damage this dynamic bond.

With its ability to exacerbate social inclusion, ruin trust and weaken institutions, corruption is one of the greatest threats to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Fears over corruption’s ability to drive its roots deep into societies and to harm economies have been specifically recognized in Goal 16 of the 2030 Agenda on peaceful and inclusive societies.

An international consensus has emerged that corruption is a governance challenge that must be overcome, if we are to move forward on both trade and sustainable development.

Integrity in the procurement process is a key principle in fair business and trade. A strong procurement system is indispensable for achieving a country’s development objectives.

In the absence of the necessary goods, schools could not be equipped, hospital beds would stay empty and universities would remain closed.

Badly needed infrastructure, including security facilities, would not be constructed.

The cost of public procurement amounts to 30 per cent of a country’s GDP, making it the largest single area of government spending.

Due to its size, and involvement in public-private sector relations, procurement is extremely vulnerable to corruption.

Procurement is, therefore, an area of primary concern given its impact on public administration and sound government policies.

The UN Convention against Corruption recognizes the importance of integrity in procurement and stresses that greater transparency, competition, and objective criteria in decision-making are essential elements of this process.

UNODC is helping countries to implement the convention by working to prevent and criminalize corruption, as well as build increased cooperation to eliminate its malicious impact.

We are promoting the recovery of assets, in partnership with the World Bank, through our Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative – the StAR initiative.

Allow me to reinforce this message by stressing that prevention is far better than the pursuit of any possible cure.

To do this, more investment is needed in education and the encouragement of increased civic participation by young people.

A new generation needs to come forward who reject corruption not just because it is a crime, but because they have been taught to appreciate the terrible impact it has on people’s lives.

The importance of strong institutions to fend off corruption cannot be ignored. This crime feeds off other crimes, but it is rampant when institutions are weak and the rule of law absent.

And finally, we need to strengthen the international cooperation that unites us all against corruption and can help build the action necessary to defeat it.

Thank you.

Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna Yury Fedotov