Corruption impedes development and human rights, Ban says on International Day

9 December 2008

Corruption is partly to blame for the current global financial crisis and is also an obstacle to the achievement of development and human rights goals, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, calling for stepped up efforts to wipe out the scourge.

Greed and corruption have to some degree propelled the economic turmoil, leading to a plummeting of confidence in the financial system and the loss of life savings of many people around the world, Mr. Ban said in a message marking International Anti-Corruption Day.

“This is bad enough, yet another silent financial crisis afflicting the world’s poorest people attracts far less attention,” he said.

Throughout the developing world, billions of dollars urgently needed for health care, education, clean water and infrastructure are drained through bribes and other offenses.

“This makes it harder to provide basic services and achieve the Millennium Development Goals [MDGs],” the Secretary-General noted, referring to the eight anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline. “It denies people their fundamental human rights.”

The UN is taking action against the scourge, he said, through the UN Convention against Corruption, which contains strong measures to boost integrity that are applicable to both the public and private sectors.

Nearly 130 nations are Parties to the pact, which entered into force in December 2005.

Mr. Ban said today that the global financial crisis underscores the necessity for stepped up regulation, and under the UN Convention, bank secrecy is no longer an obstacle to recovering stolen assets.

“It is not only governments and financial institutions that need to do more to prevent corruption and strengthen integrity,” he said. “Corruption affects us all.”

The head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today called for greater adherence to the Convention.

“The world’s anti-corruption treaty should be the basis for strengthening integrity and oversight and curbing economic crime,” said Antonio Maria Costa, UNODC Executive Director.

“If more governments and businesses implemented the Convention, we wouldn’t be in such a mess,” he added.

For her part, the UN Independent Expert on the question of human rights and poverty today underscored how corruption threatens efforts to eliminate poverty.

“The very funds being allocated to poverty reduction programmes are too often diverted into the hands of corrupt elites,” said Magdalena Sepúlveda.

She also stressed that the scourge disproportionately affects women because they are “over-represented in the poorest social segments of society and under-represented in decision-making bodies,” calling for gender discrimination to be taken into account when formulating anti-corruption initiatives.

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