Business & UN

Business issues cautious welcome for UN anti-corruption convention

  • 31 October 2003

ICC, the world business organization, has welcomed United Nations moves to create an anti-corruption convention, due before the General Assembly today, but says that unless properly monitored it could create an uneven playing field for business.

In comments submitted to UN negotiators on behalf of international business, ICC experts warned that for the UN Convention Against Corruption to be effective, its implementation needed to be monitored by the UN to ensure consistency from one country to the next.

The UN Anti-Corruption Convention has been hailed by ICC’s Commission on Anti-Corruption as “a step forward in the global recognition of the harmful nature of extortion and bribery.”
“Business is dedicated to the fight against corruption and this convention is a good start,” said Mr François Vincke, head of the ICC commission.

“But business is concerned that without a proper UN-led monitoring system, the convention could be interpreted differently from one country to the next making the conduct of international business unnecessarily complex and uncertain.”

Business further warned that without an effective monitoring system, the convention risked losing credibility.

“Without UN-led monitoring, there is no way of ensuring a country will adhere to the principles of the convention.”

In a letter to UN negotiators, ICC “expressed regret” at the mix of binding and discretionary provisions in the convention, especially those concerning bribery in the private sector.

Mr Vincke said the discretionary nature of many of the articles could result in further patchy application of the convention between countries, creating greater uncertainty for companies.

“In a complicated text such as this convention, there is always the possibility of unintended consequences,” he said. “The business community will closely follow how national governments implement the convention and will press for a monitoring process which not only ensures consistent application of the convention, but also minimizes the possibility of it being misinterpreted and abused.”

ICC’s commitment to the fight against extortion and bribery dates back to 1977 when it produced its rules of conduct for business.
The ICC Commission on Anti-Corruption was established in January 2002.
The UN began negotiating the draft Convention Against Corruption in January 2002.
The negotiations were concluded in September 2003.
The convention will be tabled at the 58th General Assembly of the United Nations today. A signing ceremony will take place in Merida, Mexico from 9 to 11 December. The convention will enter into force after ratification by thirty member states.