Algerian NGO blocked and a Gabonese activist faces difficulties
The Algerian government is blocking attendance of an Algerian NGO from an upcoming UN anti-corruption summit. This is a deeply worrying development, according to the UNCAC Coalition, a group of over 200 organisations seeking implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).
The Coalition is also alarmed to learn that a Gabonese citizen included in the summit delegation of another NGO, had to press government authorities for months in order to obtain a passport to travel to the Conference. These actions come on the heels of an objection, reportedly by the Russian Federation, to a Georgian NGO's participation in the same meeting. The UN conference, to be held in Doha from 9-13 November, is due to discuss implementation of the UN Convention, which includes provisions on whistleblower protection and citizen participation in the fight against corruption.
"We are alarmed at a growing pattern of obstruction to civil society participation in the UN anti-corruption conference." said Kirstine Drew of UNICORN-Trade Union Anti-Corruption Network. "Some governments appear set on stifling civil society voices, including in international fora."
The rules of procedure for intergovernmental UNCAC meetings, which were set up by governments, allow governmental objection to participation of NGOs unless they are already accredited by the UN system. The Coalition calls for the Russian and Algerian objections to be withdrawn and for steps to be taken to ensure that NGOs and participants will not be excluded on the basis of arbitrary objections, denial of travel documents or other obstructions.
"Governments and international organisations, including the UN, that are committed to civil society participation should ensure that such arbitrary exclusions cannot take place" said Gillian Dell, Programme Manager at Transparency International, the Coalition's secretariat
The summit now taking place for a third time, provides a forum for 141 governments party to the UNCAC to discuss key actions such as the design of a process to assess government progress in delivering on their commitments. Since the UN Convention meetings began in 2006, only one known objection was made to an NGO's attendance and this was withdrawn prior to the conference.
The Algerian government's objection to the Association Algérienne de Lutte Contre la Corruption was reportedly received by the UN two weeks after the deadline for such objections and was based on a government claim that the group was not properly registered as an NGO. This claim is disputed by the group, which was first invited and accredited for the upcoming Doha meeting and then disinvited after the Algerian government's late objection. A representative of the group was present at the second UN summit on the Convention in 2008 and highlighted the need to protect anti-corruption advocates.
The Gabonese citizen, Gregory Ngbwa Mintsa, was a co-complainant in a case brought by Transparence- International France, which called for an inquiry into French property owned by the late Omar Bongo Ondimba of Gabon and two other African heads of State . Following the complaint, Gabonese authorities arrested and began an investigation of the Gabonese citizen on charges of "possession of a document that could be used for propaganda" and "oral and written propaganda in order to incite revolts against authorities." After great public outcry he was released, but is still under investigation.
Note to Editors: The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) is the most comprehensive global legal framework for combating corruption. It is a binding agreement ratified by 141 states on standards and requirements for preventing, detecting, investigating and sanctioning corruption. The adoption of an effective review mechanism at the upcoming Conference of States Parties is essential for the success of the UNCAC.
The UNCAC Coalition, formed in 2006, is composed of more than 200 civil society organisations in over 60 countries. Its goal is to promote ratification, implementation and monitoring of the UN Convention against Corruption. More information can be found at http://www.uncaccoalition.org
Press (Transparency International for the UNCAC Coalition)