Unchecked, corruption can choke off development, rob people of faith in their governments and sow the seeds of instability and conflict. But against this challenge, the Commonwealth has a tremendous opportunity to lead.
Corruption afflicts the Commonwealth in many ways. The Commonwealth includes both countries where vast amounts of wealth are stolen from the people and major financial centres that can be used to launder corrupt wealth. It is a community of nations with a set of shared values, shared sense of rule of law and a shared history of institutions. Because of all we share, the Commonwealth is a vital international forum to tackle this agenda.
Today, at the start of CHOGM 2015, we set out an aspiration for the Commonwealth to lead the world in tackling corruption and the laundering of the corrupt wealth around the Commonwealth.
Ahead of the proposed Anti-Corruption Summit in 2016, hosted in the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth can build a consensus on tangible steps to address corruption and on a leadership role that the Commonwealth can take.
These steps need thorough debate, but they should include:
1. Considering a formal Commonwealth scheme for cooperation and mutual legal assistance to fight corruption
2. Expanding the Commonwealth Secretariat’s existing technical support to anti-corruption agencies and bringing professionals and practitioners together to help countries exchange ideas and find solutions tailored to their needs
3. Learning from the insights of the Commonwealth Associations of Anti-Corruption Agencies and the Commonwealth Africa Anti-Corruption Centre
4. Strengthening Commonwealth financial centres to lead the world in standards of transparency, integrity and effective anti-money laundering systems
5. Ensuring that all Commonwealth States meet the standards of beneficial ownership transparency that the G20 has agreed
6. Building better frameworks for sharing information on corruption and money laundering risks, so that strengthening one financial centre does not displace the problem to another jurisdiction
7. Raising standards of access to information rights for the public and whistleblower protections, across the Commonwealth
8. Reviewing the legitimacy of immunity for officials that guarantee against criminal proceedings across the Commonwealth and whether it can be reformed to end unnecessary high levels of protection that block justice for the corrupt
This week at the People’s Forum, the Business Forum, the Youth Forum and the Women’s Forum, as well as the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, we have called for the entire Commonwealth community to support this aspiration. If the Commonwealth can build a joint compact across all of its communities, we can break the strangle hold that corruption has on so many parts of the world.
A Statement written and Co-Oped by:
Transparency International and Hon Joseph Muscat, Prime Minister of Malta