Press Release / Nov. 6, 2009

Will UNCAC wind up toothless?

Global corruption treaty will fail without agreement on an effective review mechanism in Doha next week


Starting Monday 9th November, 141 countries that have signed the only global treaty against corruption (United Nations Convention Against Corruption - UNCAC) will meet for a week in Doha to try to agree on a review mechanism that would give the treaty some teeth.

Corruption is one of the main reasons that countries remain poor: many governments are propped up with aid while the country's revenues disappear out the back door and into the pockets of corrupt officials. The treaty offers a package of measures to tackle corruption, by outlawing bribery and the laundering of corrupt funds, and setting out ways that countries can cooperate across borders to retrieve looted funds.

"Without a strong review mechanism, governments will get the positive publicity of having signed the treaty, without any meaningful way of checking if they are actually implementing it" said Robert Palmer, a campaigner with Global Witness.  

An effective review mechanism must include three key aspects:

  • A rigorous independent assessment mechanism involving extensive consultation with local civil society (i.e. journalists, NGOs, academics, trades unions etc), without which governments that wish to will be able to mutually evaluate each other as compliant even if they are not.
  • In-country visits, so that the review team can assess how UNCAC is implemented on the ground rather than relying on questionnaires.
  • Full publication of country reports, with recommendations, to ensure accountability to the public.

There is broad support for such a mechanism, but a few key countries are blocking it, including Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan.

Some UNCAC countries are even blocking the attendance of civil society organisations (CSOs) at the Doha meeting: the Algerian government is blocking an Algerian CSO attending, and the Russian government is blocking the attendance of a Georgian CSO. These CSOs are now attending the meeting under other organisations' names

If the meeting in Doha fails to agree an effective review mechanism, UNCAC will effectively be toothless, and an opportunity to tackle the corruption which affects the lives of millions of poor people will have been lost.


Doha: Robert Palmer +44 (0)7545 645406, [email protected] and George Boden +44 (0)7912 516 445, [email protected])

London: Anthea Lawson +44 (0)20 7492 5882 or +44 (0)7872 620 855