Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, delivered at 9th Annual Anti-Corruption Conference of the International Bar Association
Paris, 24 June 2011, 09:00 – 09:15
(As prepared for delivery)
Ladies and gentlemen, good morning:
It is an honour to welcome you to the OECD for this meeting. We thank the International Bar Association for recognising the OECD as a partner in the fight against international corruption. It is also an honour for us that you have entrusted the chairmanship of your Anti-Corruption Committee to the OECD’s Director of Legal Affairs, Nicola Bonucci.
Combating bribery and corruption has become a top global priority, and it is central to our mission. This is the reason why I have identified the fight against corruption as one of my strategic priorities and launched an initiative, “clean.gov.biz”.
This initiative will enhance our anti-corruption efforts, strengthen their coherence and improve cooperation with other important actors, like the legal profession practitioners. Indeed, we cannot fight corruption without the active participation of the legal profession. I am thus particularly happy to count on your support.
The OECD has been for long at the forefront of the fight against corruption.
It is here, at the OECD, where we signed the first international instrument to focus on foreign bribery. And, it is also here where, four times per year, countries come together to hold each other accountable to this pledge.
These countries have recognised the risks foreign bribery poses to international business and have made it a criminal offence. They have joined together under the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and taken decisive actions: since the entry into force of this Convention in 1999, 290 companies and individuals have faced criminal sanctions for foreign bribery. 54 of those individuals face prison time.
These countries have also become members of the Working Group on Bribery, and include emerging economies like Brazil and South Africa. The Group has now a 39th member —Russia—which will soon join the Convention.
At the OECD we have also addressed the demand side of bribery through different initiatives and bodies, like the 1998 OECD Council Recommendation on Improving Ethical Conduct in Public Service, the work of SIGMA advising Central and Eastern European countries on improving accountability, efficiency, management and transparency in public administration; or the efforts of our Financial Action Task Force, confronting the illegal laundering of proceeds derived from bribery.
We have also introduced ground breaking instruments like the OECD Principles for Integrity in Public Procurement to promote good governance in the entire procurement cycle, or the 2010 OECD Recommendation on Principles for Transparency and Integrity in Lobbying, the first international policy instrument to provide guidance for policy-makers on how to promote good governance principles in lobbying.
All of you know that corrupt practices like foreign bribery have serious implications. However, the knowledge of international tools to combat this peril is still low.
Last year, the IBA, OECD and UNODC conducted a survey of legal professionals in 95 countries to measure their awareness of the risks of bribery and corruption. Nearly half of all respondents said corruption was an issue in the legal profession in their jurisdiction; while a third said they had lost business to corrupt law firms or individuals.
You may be surprised to know that nearly 40% had never heard of the major instruments that make up the international anti-corruption framework: The OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and the UN Convention against Corruption, the UNCAC. This is dangerous for clients and dangerous for the legal profession. As advisers on business deals, lawyers need to know about these instruments and the national laws implementing them.
Lawyers can also become attractive agents in illicit transactions because of the power of their advice and the semblance of legitimacy they lend to these dealings. Consequently, lawyers who have not done their homework run the risk of being caught in the web of foreign bribery prosecutions. This could mean heavy fines or even prison time.
OECD and IBA are Joining Forces to Help Lawyers Combat Corruption
Last year, our organisations, with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, launched the Anti-Corruption Strategy for the Legal Profession. We are proud of the progress we have made.
Since it was launched in April 2010, we’ve co-organised nearly a dozen training seminars for lawyers in as many countries across the world. We are also working on academic materials for law schools to make sure the next generation of legal professionals know the risks of foreign bribery.
At the OECD, we also have a wide range of resources to help lawyers protect themselves and their clients from the risks of foreign bribery. Our Good Practice Guidance is the only guidance adopted by governments. It provides advice for companies on how to prevent and detect bribery and corruption in their business dealings.
We also have the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, which have set global standards for good business behaviour. These were just updated in May. These instruments are part of our new OECD initiative Clean.gov.biz. I encourage you to study and promote this initiative.
Ladies and gentlemen:
We are moving in the right direction. But there is still a lot of work to do. The OECD and our member Governments remain committed to fighting foreign bribery. This conference shows that this commitment also exists in the legal profession. Thank you very much for playing such an important part in this effort.