Keynote Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General
Paris, 14 March 2012
(As prepared for delivery)
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Welcome to the OECD. It is a great pleasure to join you today for this 10th Annual Anti-corruption Conference of the International Bar Association, at the very place where the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention was signed, almost fifteen years ago.
It is an honour to have you as partners in our fight against corruption. As legal professionals, you are on the frontline of this fight. Your experience helps us to keep in touch with an effervescent and constantly changing reality.
We have made some incredible progress from a time when bribes were considered just part of doing business and companies could claim them back as a tax deduction. But there is still a long way to go.
One of our main challenges is ensuring enforcement.
Laws to criminalise the bribery of foreign officials are now in place in the 39 States that are Parties to the Anti-Bribery Convention. But as you know, the big challenge lies on ensuring effective enforcement. There are still only 13 countries that have ever successfully concluded a case of foreign bribery.
This makes the monitoring process set out in the Anti-Bribery Convention all the more important. I sometimes hear of “monitoring fatigue”. Let me say that if all countries were investigating and prosecuting energetically, and if all companies would comply with the rules on the same basis, there would be no need for monitoring. Without constant pressure on law enforcement authorities to investigate and prosecute, companies and business-people would continue to bribe with impunity.
I am pleased that the cooperation between law enforcement authorities and regulatory bodies is strengthening. The annual informal prosecutors’ meetings, held twice a year before the plenary meetings of the Working Group on Bribery, are providing great help. One of these meetings took place on Monday and I understand that you had the chance to converse with some prosecutors yesterday. I look forward to learning about the outcomes of these meetings, as well as from your discussions on multi-jurisdictional enforcement this afternoon.
This conference is also a good opportunity to engage with representatives from the 40 member countries of the OECD Working Group on Bribery which are meeting this week for their plenary discussions and to stress the importance of enforcement in our efforts to beat corruption.
This Group represents two thirds of world exports and over 90% of outward flows of foreign direct investment. It includes important emerging economies, like Brazil, South Africa and now Colombia. We hope that others, like China, India and Indonesia will join very soon. We need to work with them in the fight against foreign bribery in order to achieve a level playing field.
We also need to make further progress in tackling the demand side of corruption.
While the OECD has a unique focus on tackling the supply side of foreign bribery, we also recognise the need to deal with the receiving end of the corrupt transaction. This includes both public officials who solicit and accept bribes, and also the need to ensure that assets stolen through corruption are returned.
We are addressing the demand side of corruption through different initiatives, encompassing ethical conduct in public service, integrity in public procurement and lobbying. We are also working through our SIGMA initiative with the European Union, advising Central and Eastern European countries on these issues. Our Financial Action Task Force, is focusing on the illegal laundering of proceeds derived from bribery.
In looking at both sides of a corrupt transaction, we should also address the other types of criminal behaviour that can be involved. There is an increasing need for a coordinated approach to target money laundering, tax evasion, bribery and bid rigging. This is why we are developing a new horizontal OECD initiative called CleanGovBiz. This initiative supports governments to reinforce their fight against corruption and engage with civil society and the private sector to promote real change towards integrity.
Another example where the close cooperation between legal practitioners and the OECD can be particularly fruitful is tackling illicit financial flows.
This is a highly complex challenge, as it covers cross-border transfers of the proceeds of crimes, such as money laundering or bribery, and also tax evasion. It is also a global one, affecting developing and developed economies alike. According to a recent Report by Global Financial Integrity and Ford Foundation, developing countries lose between 859 billion and 1.1 trillion dollars annually in illicit financial outflows.
Countries need to cooperate at the highest possible level to tackle this complex challenge and unlock much needed resources, which could contribute to economic development, social welfare, or public and private investment, instead.
However, the available responses are frequently fragmented across countries, institutions, and even areas of the law. Fighting illegal economic and financial activities touches upon anti-bribery laws, rules on money laundering, tax, even competition law or development aid.
There is also a variety of detection and co-operation mechanisms across the board. We observe the same for asset recovery and repatriation. In such a context, stronger inter-agency co-operation should be a top priority in order for all these mechanisms to function effectively.
The OECD and its co-operation with the legal profession can contribute to tackling illicit flows.
The OECD has the expertise to play a key role in launching a comprehensive multi-disciplinary dialogue to compare experiences and standards, identify best practices, tools and techniques on tackling illicit flows.
In doing this, the OECD could build on the experience of the Working Group on Bribery in implementing the Anti-Bribery Convention, on the Tax and Crime Oslo Dialogue, as well as on the work of the Financial Action Task Force or the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information.
But for this initiative to work, the OECD also needs the views and support of practitioners like yourselves. The legal profession, as the guardian of the rule of law, has a key role to play in order to uphold the fundamental principles and standards of the criminal justice system at a time when corruption schemes are becoming more and more complex. I am sure that our collaboration in this new area will also flourish and bear important fruit.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
The collaboration between the OECD and the International Bar Association is a major positive synergy with enormous potential. Especially in these times when we are building a new global economic governance architecture and when promoting development demands that we make big strides in fighting corruption.
We count on your support, as the Working Group on Bribery is soon expected to be elevated within the OECD structure. This is a very strong recognition of the value of its activities to its constituencies.
I look forward to a stronger collaboration and to an even more successful partnership.
Thank you for your attention.