Archive for the ‘United Nations’ Category

Addressing Corruption In An Era Of Climate Change

Friday, November 6th, 2015

Climate ChangeProfessor Juliet Sorensen (Northwestern University School of Law) and Northwestern Law students Michelle Kennedy and Cassandra Myers are attending the Sixth Conference of the State Parties (CoSP) to the United Nations Convention against Corruption in St. Petersburg, Russia. For more on the opening of the Conference, see here and hereOver the next few days, FCPA Professor will be publishing various posts regarding the proceedings.  

This post is from Michelle Kennedy.

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With the Paris Conference on Climate Change 2015 coming up at the end of this month, the relationship between climate change and corruption could not be more relevant. The panel that explored this topic presented unique perspectives that provided a comprehensive view of the complex issues at hand, which range from the increased frequency of natural disasters to the growing impact of the forestry sector.

To open the discussion, Tim Steele, the Senior Advisor on Anti-Corruption of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Southern & Eastern Africa, emphasized the urgency of the issue. The adverse effects of climate change include rising oceans, depleting forests, and an increased frequency of natural disasters, which is why he insists that this issue be addressed before it is too late.

“Catastrophe causes opportunity,” Steele urged, which was elaborated upon by Professor Juliet Sorensen of the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University School of Law and the co-author of the upcoming book, Public Corruption and the Law: Local, National, and International. She explained that because we are living in a world with a sharply increased frequency of natural disasters, there has also emerged the need to recover from these natural disasters more quickly. This recovery necessitates an infusion of public funds from the federal government, international organizations, and state and local resources, in order to meet the basic human needs of the victims and to rebuild the community. The vast funds that arrive quickly create ample opportunity for corruption, thus exemplifying the causal relationship between catastrophe and opportunity. For example, if recovery funds are corruptly used to award contracts to builders based on relationships rather than merit, this may result in sub par buildings and poorly constructed roads. If a natural disaster strikes again, then the damage will be greater than it otherwise would have been without corruption. The community then needs to be rebuilt again, thus perpetuating the cycle and displaying the urgent need to address corruption in an era of climate change. Sorensen urged, however, that there are encouraging opportunities in both law and policy to address these issues, such as the Disaster Fraud Task Force at the United States Department of Justice, which deals with all aspects of fraud mismanagement and corruption in the wake of natural disasters. On an international level, the European Union Emergency Response Coordination Centre is a new resource that provides real time monitoring and immediate reactions to natural disasters.

In order to assist the countries that suffer the worst effects of climate change, the polluting countries have made monetary contributions, known as climate finance, as explained by Rukshana Nanayakkara of the Asia Pacific Department of Transparency International. This financial support provided by developed countries for mitigation and adaptation action in developing countries is expected to reach $100 billion by 2020. This vast amount of money involved displays the ample opportunity for the corrupt diversion of funds.

To ensure that these climate adaptation funds are administered in a transparent manner, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (“OECD”) conducts vigorous evaluations on its member countries to determine whether they are effectively pursuing allegations of bribery in the context of publicly funded post-disaster projects. Moving forward, Leah Ambler of the OECD Anti-Corruption Division proposed that combatting the significant risks involved in climate finance be accomplished by an increase in corruption risk awareness initiatives, active enforcement of anti-corruption laws, collaboration with the private sector to ensure effective anti-bribery compliance programs, and independent implementation of new regulatory schemes related to climate change mitigation.

The Benefits and Tribulations of Open Data in Decreasing Corruption

Friday, November 6th, 2015

Open DataProfessor Juliet Sorensen (Northwestern University School of Law) and Northwestern Law students Michelle Kennedy and Cassandra Myers are attending the Sixth Conference of the State Parties (CoSP) to the United Nations Convention against Corruption in St. Petersburg, Russia. For more on the opening of the Conference, see here and hereOver the next few days, FCPA Professor will be publishing various posts regarding the proceedings.  

This post is from Cassandra Myers.

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Keeping the public informed and involved in the fight against corruption can be a valuable accountability tool. Nations have long struggled to find a mechanism to better incorporate public oversight without creating intrusion.

Open data may be the answer.

Yesterday at the United Nations Convention Against Corruption Special Event, “(How) Can Open Data Prevent and Fight Corruption?,” several panelists suggested that open data directly increases government accountability and correspondingly lowers incidences of corruption. Open data describes internal information that the government publishes to the public in an accessible and understandable manner.

While critics may argue that government information has been available for years through legal channels, the concept of open data focuses on the ability of a user to easily access and understand the material. A person could then compare and analyze figures to comprehend a data set’s implications. The information gives every citizen the ability to examine his or her government, and the transparency holds governments accountable, particularly regarding their expenses. The effort hopes to increase faith in all areas of government and deter individuals who may otherwise pursue corrupt practices. As Samuel De Jaegere, a UNODC Representative, described, “If you’re involved in corruption, you end up being a victim yourself.”

The panel served as an update on Resolution 5/4 from the 2013 Convention Against Corruption in Panama City, Panama, which urged countries to increase transparency by enhancing methods for the public to obtain information. Rita Karasartieva of the Societal Analysis Public Association described the open data interface implemented in the Kyrgyz Republic as a case study. The database is available over the internet and individuals can view particular government data in a simple interface by filtering for different categories—such as budget data and contract bid results.

The inclusivity was positive on a transparency front. However, as Karasartieva bluntly pointed out, “there were some problems.” When a country creates a data system, but does not teach individuals how to use or process that information in a meaningful way, public dissatisfaction can, and likely will, result. The daily update of information to the data system in one municipality caused a “bombard[ment]” of requests to the local Parliament, demanding the government reduce completely legitimate spending that people considered frivolous.

This response led panelists to largely agree on one caveat to open data systems: the unprocessed numbers published by the government are prone to confusion. Most of those accessing the public data did not have a coherent means of analyzing it to draw statistically significant conclusions. Rather, the public took issue with raw numbers, which can seem high for any government expense. Karasartieva explained that “It’s not enough to know how much has been spent on a school; you need to know what this money has changed at that school.” The problem limits the utility of the open data and potentially hurts the transparency effort by creating fervor over non-corrupt practices.

However, in describing many of the open data successes in Africa, De Jaegere promised that making data clear and accessible was only the beginning of the open data movement. Before the member countries focus on helping every individual analyze the given records, it is important to push more countries to establish publicly accessible data in general.

The presentation ended with descriptions of some of the large efforts of open data and the resulting accountability’s effect on everyday citizens’ lives. For example, when the United Kingdom began publishing heart surgery success rates by hospital, individuals could choose their care, and survival rates improved by 50%. Similarly, when Tanzania promoted inclusivity by creating a hotline for citizens when scarce water wells ran dry, the government could respond to provide more water quickly. Open data takes many forms, but the ultimate message is the same: the accountability of the government and the inclusivity of the people improved lives.

Combating Corruption Through Education

Friday, November 6th, 2015

educationProfessor Juliet Sorensen (Northwestern University School of Law) and Northwestern Law students Michelle Kennedy and Cassandra Myers are attending the Sixth Conference of the State Parties (CoSP) to the United Nations Convention against Corruption in St. Petersburg, Russia. For more on the opening of the Conference, see here and hereOver the next few days, FCPA Professor will be publishing various posts regarding the proceedings.  

This post is from Michelle Kennedy.

The Anti-Corruption Academic Initiative (“ACAD”) is a collaborative academic project that aims to produce support tools for academic institutions in order to encourage the teaching of anti-corruption issues through several disciplines. On Wednesday, the ACAD Initiative organized a panel discussion that highlighted the importance of using education to combat corruption. The ACAD, which provides its teaching materials free of charge online, has held meetings around the world to bring together professors who have experience in teaching anti-corruption with those have not to discuss lessons learned and provide support.

The panelists expressed the view that the role of academia is central in the fight against corruption. Through his teaching, Professor Nikos Passas at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University aims to give meaning to what effective implementation of the UNCAC looks like and to explore sustainable anti-corruption measures. He highlighted the need for educators at the university level to build sustainable initiatives in five central categories. The first is capacity building, which includes a deep awareness of anti-corruption issues and the policy measures necessary to address them. The second is the sustainability of anti-corruption, which requires that educators go beyond the law in order to create a culture of integrity. The third encompasses the understanding of the unique context in which corruption exists, which can be strengthened by including civil society in the discussion. The fourth is the independence of the educators and their ability to be transparent in order to provide pragmatic, realistic expectations rather than overpromising and underperforming. The final category of necessary initiatives is the sharing of results through communication and publication. Professor Gerry Ferguson of the University of Victoria Law in Canada has aided in this initiative by providing a free e-text book entitled Global Corruption: Law, Theory and Practice, available online at the ACAD Initiative website.

In addition to these priorities in anti-corruption education, Professor Speedy Rice of Washington and Lee University School of Law emphasized that teaching must go beyond the formal classroom setting. He connects students in his classroom with students from around the world via video conferencing to enhance the anti-corruption discussion. He has also brought a group of his students to countries in the developing world such as Liberia, where they design and implement anti-corruption workshop programs and interact with community members.

Professor Ligia Maura Costa, who teaches MBA students in Brazil, said that as an educator she is actually thankful for the recent corruption scandals in her country, like that of FIFA, because it shows her students that there are real consequences for violating the UNCAC. She emphasizes to her MBA students that it is possible to earn sustainable profits for a corporation without accepting or making bribes. Moreover, engaging in corruption will cause long-term damage to a company’s reputation and to one’s career that will far outweigh any short-tern benefits of engaging in corrupt practices.

In looking to the future, the ACAD envisions a continued integrated approach to the study of corruption. Corruption issues cannot be divorced from the issues of organized crime, drug trafficking, and international human rights. Because there have been qualitative reports of a significant increase in curricula that includes anti-corruption teachings across disciplines, the ACAD appears to be moving forward in achieving this integrated approach.

Increasing Awareness And Cooperation To Thwart Cultural Heritage Corruption

Friday, November 6th, 2015

heritageProfessor Juliet Sorensen (Northwestern University School of Law) and Northwestern Law students Michelle Kennedy and Cassandra Myers are attending the Sixth Conference of the State Parties (CoSP) to the United Nations Convention against Corruption in St. Petersburg, Russia. For more on the opening of the Conference, see here and hereOver the next few days, FCPA Professor will be publishing various posts regarding the proceedings.  

This post is from Cassandra Myers.

In an age where governments take broad measures to reduce corruption, the illicit trade of artifacts and cultural pieces is often overlooked. Over a million archaeological relics have been stolen and sold on the black market, and corruption frequently serves as the medium for their illegal export.

Corruption invades the legitimate trading of artifacts and artwork in a variety of circumstances. As a commander of the Carabinieri Department for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, Captain Francesco Provenza stated that public officials may intentionally mislabel important pieces of art as licensed to be exported or forge documentation for private parties falsely declaring that an artistic piece belongs to another country. Corruption among public servants has caused countries to lose invaluable pieces of culture that are fundamental to their history. This cultural trafficking amounts to a loss of between $3.5 and $6.5 billion each year, according to Celso Coracini, a Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer with the Corruption and Economic Crime Branch at UNODC.

To stem the tide of illegal artifacts trafficking, several state parties have established dedicated police forces to oversee the administration, investigate potential crimes, and enforce the proper regulations for the artistic relics in their countries. Italy serves as the example with their dedicated Carabinieri Department for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, which is a branch of the Ministry of Culture. The country is described as the “national center of gravity for analysis and intelligence, on behalf of all the national police forces.” Members of the Carabinieri work with university academics, scientists, and archaeologists to identify priceless heritage pieces, develop archaeological maps to preserve sites, and classify pieces for a comprehensive database.

Italy’s database supplements Interpol’s own records and serves as one of the most innovative responses to curbing corruption in the trading of historical pieces. It keeps track of all cultural items stolen from their proper country and contains information accurately identifying the artifacts to combat corruption. Currently, over 45,000 objects are catalogued. The data includes entries reported by 129 member countries, and proponents are seeking to expand its reach.

Because of the inherent international character of arts smuggling, even dedicated police forces can face difficulties in recovering significant pieces. Support among countries can be difficult to coordinate. Commander Provenza asserted that “to fight these forms of crime, international cooperation has always been fundamental” in returning historical pieces to their proper origins. The lack of a coherent strategy spanning all state parties hurts the recovery effort of every country.

As a direct result, the existing database contains many informational holes—almost all the entries describe European art, though historical theft occurs all over the globe. A comprehensive database has an “important preventative aspect,” as smugglers frequently focus their efforts on uninventoried items to avoid detection. The world “need[s] databases that are accurate and comprehensive,” because the absence of one “presents a number of challenges to our law enforcement and border protection,” according to Jason Reichelt, the Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer of the Corruption and Economic Crime Branch at UNODC.

Increasing international cooperation could largely minimize the black market for artifacts. This would mean more countries incorporating their artwork into the database and assisting with individual investigations. Likewise, each nation should begin training their customs authority employees in taking preventative measures against smuggling and corruption in general.

The remedies can only be implemented if member countries acknowledge the broader problem of the cultural smuggling market according to Arkan El Seblani, a manager of the Regional Project on Anti-Corruption and Integrity in Arab Countries of the United Nations Development Programme. He insisted that raising awareness was necessary and that effective solutions are “about the community of people who take [the] tools and use them.”

Preserving the world’s history means eliminating the theft of significant works of art and culture. It can only be achieved through international cooperation.

International Efforts in Support of the Recovery of Stolen Assets

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

Asset RecoveryProfessor Juliet Sorensen (Northwestern University School of Law) and Northwestern Law students Michelle Kennedy and Cassandra Myers are attending the Sixth Conference of the State Parties (CoSP) to the United Nations Convention against Corruption in St. Petersburg, Russia. For more on the opening of the Conference, see here and hereOver the next few days, FCPA Professor will be publishing various posts regarding the proceedings.  

This post is from Michelle Kennedy.

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A central challenge to addressing corruption is the recovery of assets that were stolen through the course of the corrupt activity. This process, which requires complex international cooperation when the assets are secreted overseas, was explored in depth at an all-day special event that joined several important actors.

The Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (“StAR”), a partnership between the World Bank Group and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, facilitates the return of stolen assets by setting international standards and enhancing communication among countries. In order to act as an effective intermediary, StAR must receive an official request from the country itself, not from private parties. Surprisingly, the average time that StAR takes to respond to country requests ranges between just twenty-one days and four and a half months. StAR also provides case-based technical training to enable the participating countries to effectively deal with the asset recovery issues themselves. A common critique of the program, however, is that developing countries do not have the necessary resources to retain and maintain the components of an effective domestic asset recovery program, such as investigators and experts. StAR’s response that its purpose is to aid countries in asset recovery, not to do the job for them.

A central challenge StAR faces involves countries that have and continue to undergo dramatic changes in governance, which disrupts any programs StAR has helped implement. Similarly, a lack of mobilization and good will from certain countries creates roadblocks for compliant countries to effectively recover stolen assets. Overall though, StAR has successfully returned $28.8 million in stolen assets as well as $58 million worth of physical assets. In two examples discussed today, StAR aided Tunisia in overcoming the influx of corruption after its 2011 revolution by organizing meetings between Tunisian judges and their foreign counterparts to aid them in dealing with corruption cases. It also recently helped Mongolia in equipping its domestic law enforcement organizations with the necessary tools to trace, identify, and recover stolen assets as well as draft a handbook that is to be formally approved within the month.

In terms of available resources, the UNODC has created a Digest of Asset Recovery Cases, which highlights notable corruption cases and traces the recovery of the stolen assets involved. Within the next year, the UNODC will release a new resource, entitled the Effective Management and Disposal of Seized/Frozen and Confiscated Assets, to help states strengthen their domestic management of assets that are seized from corrupt networks. Countries who manage asset recovery funds in a transparent manner are more likely to receive support from other countries, which highlights the prominent theme that international cooperation is essential to improving the overall recovery of stolen assets. Another new resource is the “Silver Notice” now issued by Interpol, which aids countries in locating, identifying, monitoring, and seizing or freezing the confiscation of assets. This provides countries the opportunity to alert one another of any movement of illicit assets and thus enhance the speed of international cooperation.

To conclude the panel, Switzerland presented its 2014 draft of Proposed Practical Guidelines for Efficient Asset Recovery, which has yet to be officially adopted. The overall message was that the preliminary investigation phase of asset recovery is the most important, given that corrupt individuals are becoming increasingly clever and more aware of when they are suspected of possessing illegal proceeds or fruits of crime. States must therefore carefully identify their targets, create a clear strategy, and exhibit patience to ensure that their investigation of stolen assets and eventual recovery proves successful.