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The First Three Years of the UNCAC Review Process: A Civil Society Perspective
16 May 2013.
This report by Transparency International (TI) and the UNCAC Coalition is about the experience of civil society organisations (CSOs) in the first three years of the UNCAC review process. It is the third such report and covers some of our activities and contributions under Resolution 4/1 on the Review Mechanism. It has a particular focus on the transparency of the process and the opportunities for civil society participation and is intended to contribute to discussions of the Implementation Review Group (IRG).
The Terms of Reference for the UNCAC Review Mechanism and Guidelines for the review process were adopted by the UNCAC Conference of States Parties in November 2009. They encourage States Parties under review to involve civil society organisations (CSOs) in country self- assessments and country visits. They require publication of an Executive Summary of the review report but not of the full report. The current first 5-year cycle of review covers Criminalisation and Enforcement (UNCAC chapters III and IV) started in mid-2010.
The information presented in this report is based on a survey of the review process in 83 of the 104 countries in the first three years of review (see Annex). A survey questionnaire was sent to UNCAC Coalition CSOs supporting anti-corruption efforts in their countries and tables reflecting their responses are included in an annex to this report.
It should be noted that that full information is not yet available about the results of some of the countries surveyed, particularly for those in the third year of review. Consequently, the transparency and participation results reported here may improve in the future.
The complete information about the UNCAC review process is held by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The UNCAC review process has been making steady progress thanks to the commendable efforts of the UNODC, with the active participation of States Parties.
CSOs in most of the countries surveyed reported that their governments had opted for country visits by review teams. (75% of the 83 countries surveyed.) The number may rise when more information is known about reviews. Where they were aware of country visits, almost three-quarters of the CSOs (71%) said that at least one CSO was invited to meet a review team. Again numbers may rise.) In those cases, review teams benefited from CSOs experience, expertise and analysis and from views other than those of the government. The involvement of CSOs also contributed to raising public awareness and understanding of the review process.
Areas of concern
However, CSOs also confronted obstacles to their participation in the review process and to accessing its outputs, which has reduced the effectiveness of the process. Some of the obstacles are described below. In addition, it is a matter of concern that near the end of the third year of the review process only 34 reports and Executive Summaries have been completed.
- Lack of CSO opportunity to meet review teams in some countriesCSOs in 25% of the countries surveyed reported that there was no country visit, so that CSOs could not meet with the review team. Additionally, in some of the countries where there were country visits, CSOs reported that they were not given the opportunity to meet with the review teams.
- Low CSO involvement in self-assessmentsIn only about one-third of the countries surveyed (34%) did CSOs report that they were invited to contribute to the country self-assessments, despite the encouragement in the review guidelines. This means that opportunities for dialogue about country performance have been missed. It is assumed that the self-assessment phase has been completed in most third year countries.
- Lack of information about timetables and focal pointsIn more than a third of the surveyed countries (39%), CSOs reported difficulties accessing information about the review process (such as information about country focal points). This hampered their ability to contribute. The delays in many country review processes have also created uncertainty about whether and when CSOs could contribute.
- Lack of access to the review process outputsOnly an Executive Summary is available for most countries for which the reviews have been completed. These contain concise and useful information, but compared with available full reports, these summaries lack important information about how the review process was conducted and about its findings. The full reports are vital for overall public understanding of country successes and challenges.Ten countries have so far authorised UNODC to publish their self-assessments on the UNODC website and eight have authorised publication of their full review reports (Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Finland, France, Georgia, South Africa, Switzerland and the United Kingdom). Some countries may have published the review outputs on government websites but there is no readily available information about that.On the UNODC website, the outputs of the review process can now be accessed on the very useful “country profiles” pages. However, there is no clarity about when review outputs for a given country will be posted. To get an overview of all self-assessments and completed country review reports at any given point in time it is necessary to check country profiles for all countries under review.
- Insufficient data on enforcement effortsIn 13 of 17 countries where Coalition CSOs prepared parallel reports, the CSOs reported difficulties in accessing enforcement data and case information in order to assess government enforcement efforts in practice. Some of this valuable information is included in the full review reports but not in the Executive Summaries.
- Lack of follow-up processSome CSOs reported that the lack of a process for following up on review recommendations resulted in a lack of momentum for implementation.
Experience with other anti-corruption review processes
Some CSOs that had participated in review processes for other anti-corruption conventions, such as those for the OAS Convention (Organisation of American States) and OECD Convention (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) as well as the Council of Europe GRECO (Group of States against Corruption) review process, reported that their experience with UNCAC reviews compared unfavourably in some respects with that in the other review processes. The other processes provide some examples of good practice in how they involve CSOs in the review process, in the online information made available and in the practice of issuing media releases on completion of country reviews with highlights of the findings. It should be recognised, however, that the UNCAC review process is more complicated in terms of the number of countries involved and the scope of the articles under review.
Transparency International and the UNCAC Coalition have developed several proposals for enhancing the transparency and inclusiveness of the UNCAC review process.
- Publish more information in an accessible location on the UNODC website and on government websites. This should include:
- timely information about the process (such as information about focal point and schedule), including updates when changes are made;
- the country’s self-assessment;
- the full final review report;
- aggregated information on the UNODC website about country reviews and outputs.
- Ensure credible and participatory country reviews. This should include the following steps for governments:
- consulting with relevant CSOs and other stakeholders on the self-assessment, to take advantage of their expertise and their interest;
- arranging a country visit for the review team, to ensure quality reviews; and
- inviting civil society representatives and other stakeholders to meet with country review teams and also to make written inputs
- Include CSOs and other stakeholders in discussions of technical assistance needs.
Through multi-stakeholder discussions, governments can benefit from support for their anti- corruption efforts. One priority area for assistance is in the collection and publication of enforcement statistics and judgments or outcomes of proceedings. Improvements in this area will help ensure a sound basis for decision-making and public debate.
- Establish a follow-up process to address review recommendations.
Governments should announce steps taken and enlist stakeholders in the follow-up process. A follow-up process will help ensure that the findings of the reviews are given priority and that momentum for UNCAC implementation is maintained.
- Establish a transparent, inclusive and adequately funded 2nd cycle of the UNCAC review process.
The 5th COSP should adopt a specific timetable for the start of the 2nd cycle, including steps to be taken in the preparation process. The 2nd cycle should call for country visits, participation of civil society and other stakeholders in the review process and publication of the full country reports, the lists of focal points, and updated individual country review timetables. There should be stakeholder consultations as part of the preparation process for the 2nd cycle including participation in the Working Groups on Prevention and Asset Recovery.
Note: The full annex to this report contains three tables, one each for the first, second and third years of the review process. This report was submitted to the UNCAC Implementation Review Group with only the third table due to a word limit. The report with all three tables can be found here.
Background of the United Nations Convention against Corruption
In its resolution 55/61 of 4 December 2000, the General Assembly recognized that an effective international legal instrument against corruption, independent of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (resolution 55/25, annex I) was desirable and decided to establish an ad hoc committee for the negotiation of such an instrument in Vienna at the headquarters of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
The text of the United Nations Convention against Corruption was negotiated during seven sessions of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Negotiation of the Convention against Corruption, held between 21 January 2002 and 1 October 2003.
The Convention approved by the Ad Hoc Committee was adopted by the General Assembly by resolution 58/4 of 31 October 2003. The General Assembly, in its resolution 57/169 of 18 December 2002, accepted the offer of the Government of Mexico to host a high-level political signing conference in Merida for the purpose of signing the United Nations Convention against Corruption.
In accordance with article 68 (1) of resolution 58/4, the United Nations Convention against Corruption entered into force on 14 December 2005. A Conference of the States Parties is established to review implementation and facilitate activities required by the Convention.