On May 23rd, the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations held a high-level debate in the General Assembly to mark the fifteenth anniversary of the Assembly’s adoption of the United Nations Convention against Corruption.
I had the honor to be invited as representative of the private sector to speak during the second Panel on “Achieving peaceful and inclusive societies through preventing and combating corruption.”
In my speech I stressed the importance of the United Nations and the Convention as an ideal platform and framework for the dialogue between governments, international institutions, civil society and private sector. It is noteworthy that the Convention, although 15 years old, is a most remarkable and innovative global instrument. Already by 2003, the Convention had a strong focus on international collaboration, transparency in public procurement — and in Art. 12 explicitly addresses the importance of alignment with the private sector.
These are relevant topics that we are still discussing today, for example also during the G20 and B20 process where I had the honor to chair the private sector anti-corruption efforts under the German Presidency last year and where I am serving this year as a Vice Chair for Integrity and Compliance under the presidency of Argentina.
I do strongly believe that we as business can and must make a difference in the fight against corruption: A clear tone from the top, effective compliance systems, and collaboration with public sector and civil society. But to be effective, we need ongoing dialogue and acknowledgement for our efforts.
Voluntary self disclosure by companies of internally detected misconduct and compliance efforts must be rewarded. Because it would be a severe mistake to punish companies who effectively detect corruption in to be transparent and honest — and to protect by this behavior the ones who are silent about their problems.
Another aspect which was raised by several state representatives in the general debate was the role of social media in the fight against corruption. I gave my view that today, there is much more transparency as the world has become connected through the internet and the rise of social media. We have to keep in mind that 15 years ago there was no iPhone and no Twitter. And even Facebook was founded after the Convention against Corruption was adopted.
Today more than 2.5 billion people are connected worldwide through social media networks, exchanging messages, pictures and news. If you search for #corruption you will get hundreds of tweets every day. A Google search on corruption results in more than 55 million search hits.
Why did I mention this in my speech? The digitally connected world and the social media reach could lead to the impression that there is even more corruption. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know it is more difficult for bad actors to hide. And this is positive. But there is a flip side of this coin. There is a risk that fake news and the misuse of social media lead to premature decisions and judgments. We need to be aware of this risk and remind ourselves that the rule of law is of paramount importance in fighting corruption. A topic, I urged the UN to keep on its agenda.
Please see also the official UN Report about the debate in the UN General Assembly.
Dr. Klaus Moosmayer, pictured above, is the Chief Compliance Officer of Siemens and currently Vice-Chair of the B20 Group on Compliance and Integrity. He also chairs the Anti-Corruption Taskforce of Business at the OECD (BIAC).
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