Corruption costs $1.6tn, UN

Global anti-corruption treaty will fail without agreement on an effective review mechanism in Doha this week  as The United Nations (UN) saya political corruption costs governments about $1.6tn (£951bn) every year. The money is lost in public assets moved across borders via money-laundering or undeclared


The figure comes as the UN, World Bank and other watchdog meet in Doha, Qatar, to try to give a four-year-old anti-corruption agreement some teeth.

Starting today representatives of the 141 countries that have signed up to the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) are meeting in Doha to decide whether to adopt a review mechanism that would give the treaty teeth. 

But hopes are low of countries agreeing to independent reviews into countries’ finances to look for missing money.

Countries such as China, Iran and Russia are resisting such measures.

Two previous summits have failed to expand the powers of the UN’s anti-corruption convention.

“We hope to have a commitment to action,” said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former Nigerian finance minister who is now managing director of the World Bank. “We’ve had a lot of talk. Now we’d like to see some action.”

There is also disagreement over how best to implement the tracking of money, because of tax havens and secretive banking codes in some nations.

Corruption undermines democracy, human rights and sustainable development. The UN convention, with its worldwide membership and wide-ranging provisions on transparency and accountability, has the potential to be the global anti-corruption standard.

However, a treaty is only as strong as its implementation, and this has to happen at a national level. Too often governments only pay lip service to their anti-corruption pledges. The success of the treaty will greatly depend on the adoption of an effective review mechanism, which will ensure that governments fulfil their obligations under the treaty. The review mechanism must include:

Full publication of country reports

Meaningful participation of civil society organisations

In-country review visits

There is broad support for these measures, but a few vocal countries are blocking. Without a robust review mechanism, the effectiveness of the convention will be severely compromised, with serious consequences for the lives of citizens around the world and for the credibility of governments that have signed up to it.

Governments have until Friday to decide whether the UN Convention against Corruption will live up to its potential as a global anti-corruption standard.