President of the UN General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir says the effect of corruption was detrimental to all of society, which should be addressed even ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bozkir said this on Wednesday, the first day of a special session convened to galvanise political will to fight the scourge.
“We cannot pretend that there were no issues before the COVID-19 pandemic. Transnational financial crime and corruption are unfortunately commonplace in our interconnected, interdependent world,” said Bozkir.
He said that corruption affected decision-making processes and remained one of the most critical challenges for States, institutions, and communities.
From corroding public trust, to weakening the rule of law and destabilizing peacebuilding efforts, to undermining human rights, the president outlined the negative repercussions of corruption.
“It hits the poor, marginalised and vulnerable people hardest and impedes progress towards gender equality and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“We cannot allow corruption to continue; we will not,” he added.
Bozkir highlighted the need to build upon existing progress, including through the UN Conventions against Transnational Organised Crime and Corruption; the international conferences on financing for development, which resulted in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.
“It resulted in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the High-Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity for Achieving the 2030 Agenda (FACTI Panel).
“And the UNGASS Political Declaration to tackle corruption; builds upon existing architecture to provide the international community with “a roadmap for the future”.
“It will guide Member States in their work to fight corruption and money-laundering, as well as critical efforts to recover assets and prevent illicit financial flows”, which derail SDGs progress. Corruption thrives in a crisis,” Bozkir said.
In addition, he noted that corrupt actors had exploited the unprecedented strain that the COVID-19 pandemic had put on supply chains, infrastructure and systems around the world.
Amidst a complex global vaccine roll-out effort, he urged policymakers to “leverage this special session” to take concrete measures to prevent and address corruption by closing loopholes and putting safeguards in place.
“We must learn from this experience because the next crisis will come, and we will need to be prepared to meet it when it does.
“I am inviting attendees to a high-level support event on Thursday, on addressing corruption in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The international community must continue adapting to new and emerging challenges. We will not recover from this global economic downturn without a concerted effort to end corruption,” Bozkir said.
According to him, each Member State, and indeed each individual, had a responsibility to be vigilant, to take preventive measures and to uphold the rule of law, without exception.
The special Session of the General Assembly on Challenges and Measures to Prevent and Combat Corruption and Strengthen International Cooperation, which began on Wednesday, is expected to end on Friday.