Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, delivered at the Third Annual High-Level Conference on Anti-corruption: G20 Governments and Business
Paris, France, 25 April 2013
(As prepared for delivery)
Distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen:
It is my pleasure to welcome you to this G20/OECD Anti-corruption Conference. This edition is testimony of our concerns about the risks that corruption poses to our governments, our markets, and our well-being. This is why about 300 of you have traveled from as far away as Bogotá, Brasilia, Moscow, Shanghai and Washington, to represent the highest levels of government, business and civil society from all G20 and OECD countries.
After two initial conferences on how can governments and businesses work together to fight corruption, organised by the G20 French and Mexican Presidencies, we now launch a third edition of what has become known as the “April Conference”, under the leadership of the Russian G20 Presidency. And we have set, once again, an ambitious agenda.
The fight against corruption is one of the most important challenges facing the international community. This is not only a moral battle. It is also a stride for business efficiency, the effectiveness of the public administration, and ultimately for growth and development. This is clearly one of those challenges that countries just cannot fight on their own, because corruption now has global membranes, and therefore demands global cooperation. The G20 and the OECD, along with UNODOC, are not only dealing with this threat because it’s global, we are also dealing with it because it affects growth and development.
As the Madame Kiran Bredi, the highly regarded Indian social activist, has put it: ““Rejecting corruption in any manner as possible for each, will enable all-round growth for millions being left behind for no fault of theirs!”
We must use all our shared knowledge and experiences to tackle all the manifestations of this many-headed monster. One of its main heads is the peril of bribery. Bribery is the cancer of global markets. It distorts the proper functioning of market economies, increasing the cost of doing business and undermining trust in our systems and institutions.
Looking at the cases decided in countries that are Party to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, one can see that, where information is available, the cost of the bribe promised, offered or given, averaged approximately 8% of the value of the contract obtained through resulting revenues from the bribery . We are talking about billions of dollars.
The fight against foreign bribery is at the core of this agenda and of the G20 Anti-corruption Action Plans. Enforcing the Conventions against Corruption and Foreign Bribery is certainly a challenge, not only for governments, but also for their companies that operate throughout the world and face fierce competition in “unlevel-playing fields”. Many of your companies have had struggles, some quite recently; but you are cooperating with governments demonstrating that exchanging experiences and lessons learned is the way to go.
The lack of openness and transparency in our governments is another big challenge. Openness and transparency are key ingredients to build accountability and trust, which are necessary for the functioning of democracies and market economies. Openness is one of the key values that guide the OECD’s vision for a stronger, cleaner, fairer world.
The G20 work on public sector integrity, through transparency in the public administration and public procurement will be essential to achieve progress. We, of course, have put at the disposal of the G20 the knowledge from the implementation of the Principles on Enhancing Integrity in Public Procurement, which we are currently updating to make sure they are still relevant to governments’ strategic objectives.
But as I said, this is a many-headed monster, and there are other difficult questions to focus on, such as solicitation. What can a company do when faced with this challenge? Are there and should there be options? Or the possible need for SME specific anti-corruption compliance. As more and more SMEs are involved in international business transactions they need to protect themselves against the threat of corruption in global businesses, but how can they do it without the resources of their larger counterparts?
We also look forward to exploring new areas such as the specific anti-corruption challenges associated with the organisation of major events, including sporting events. Few areas are as exposed to the risks of bribery and corruption, given the significant political and financial interests often involved in these transactions. This morning’s roundtables will seek to untangle the complexities related to the organisation of such events. We should use this momentum to launch new initiatives to address this issue. A stakeholders’ initiative of global reach could pull together existing efforts and provide the platform for the development of concrete tools, such as integrity pacts, exchange of experience, and reporting mechanisms.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
This crisis has given us a reinforced mandate to fight corruption. Our governments, our companies, our societies need to make the most of limited resources to reactivate our economies. The disastrous impact of corruption on growth and development is imposing an unfair burden on our youth and their diminished probabilities to find a decent job. I would like to congratulate the Russian Presidency for putting the fight against corruption at the center of its agenda and welcome their decision to put emphasis on the links between corruption and growth.
I have high hopes for our discussions, given how much brain power we have brought together here in one room. We all want clean governments, clean business practices and a global level playing field for business. One of the OECD’s biggest goals is to address this challenge: to create a stronger, cleaner and fairer world economy. We have launched anti-corruption tools and initiatives in many fronts, like the new clean.gov.biz to improve coordination of anti-corruption and transparency initiatives, and we know that together, we can bring new and interesting ideas to the table.
Now, I would like to ask our keynote speakers, Ms. Yudaeva, Mr. Fedotov, and Mr. Merber, to help me welcome you to this Third Annual High-Level Anti-Corruption Conference.
Thank you all for coming and I look forward to following your discussions over the next day and a half.