Statement by UNDP Country Director at the 1st United Nations Global Compact Roundtable for 2011 “The Role of Business in Fighting Corruption”

Mar 20, 2011

Mr. Ashraf Gamal Eldin, Executive Director, Egyptian Corporate Responsibility Center

Dr. Barbara Ibrahim, Director, John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic
Engagement, American University in Cairo,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to join you today in the first Global Compact Roundtable to be held in 2011, organized by the Egyptian Corporate Responsibly Center (ECRC) in cooperation with the John Gerhart Center of the American University in Cairo. Welcome to a new and changing Egypt.

As many of you know, the ECRC previously organized in 2010 a number of thematic Global Compact Roundtables. This series of events, structured around the principles of the UN Global Compact, included, for example, roundtables on the Human Rights principle hosting guest speaker Prof. John Ruggie, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Human Rights and Business, and another on the principle of Protecting the Environment showcasing a number of case studies on energy saving across various sectors including construction, tourism and manufacturing.

In continuation of such fruitful discussions, today, we focus on yet another UN Global Compact principle that seems to be timely and important given the transition that we are all witnessing in Egypt. Today we talk about corruption.

Fighting Corruption, whether within government or private sector, is imperative for Egypt during these crucial times. This is why we are particularly interested to identify, through today’s roundtable, different ways with which businesses can fight corruption and ensure sustainable growth. Egypt is now more than ever ready for higher levels of anti-corruption and transparency measures to create a new culture of information disclosure with clear lines of accountability.

The United Nations realizes the importance of fighting corruption. And the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), adopted by the UN General Assembly in October 2003, explicitly addresses the private sector in the fight against corruption.

For example, in terms of corruption prevention, the 12th article requires states to enhance accounting and auditing standards in the private sector; to adopt effective, proportionate and dissuasive civil, administrative and criminal penalties for failure to comply with such measures; and to disallow the tax deductibility of expenses that constitute bribes.

In terms of safeguarding the integrity of private entities, it emphasizes the promotion of codes of conduct, the provision of guidance on corruption, developing corporate governance codes, enforcing conflict of interest regulations, and establishing internal audit controls.

With regard to criminalization and law enforcement, several provisions oblige states to adopt measures that criminalize the intentional bribery of national public officials, as well as foreign public officials (as in article 16). Moreover, states are asked to adopt measures that criminalize bribery in the private sector.

It has become clear that without addressing the supply side of corruption as well, the fight against corruption will not succeed.

Let me also emphasize that apart from fighting corruption per se, addressing private sector corruption has a number of benefits that include enhancing investor confidence; protecting consumer interests enhancing long term competitiveness; and denying the supply side of corruption in the public sector.

That being said, there must be an increase in the number of stakeholders joining executives and regulators in tackling corruption in business. These important allies include owners, investors and workers, financial intermediaries and auditors and, in the broader business environment, the media, citizens as consumers and – last but not least – civil society. The focus of attention has to reach out and expand beyond setting rules and pledging commitment to issues of implementation, monitoring and accountability for results to be achieved. Collective action and collaboration needs to be better recognized as essential principles in addressing corruption challenges in business.

In this connection, it is with great pleasure that we have with us today Ms. Donna Chung, Policy Officer at the UN Global Compact Office in New York, who will share with us the global perspective when it comes to fighting corruption in business. I would also like to welcome Eng. Mohammed El Mahdi, CEO of Siemens Egypt, who will also share with us his company’s experience in implementing its compliance programme to prevent corruption.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In closing, I think it’s fair to say that fighting corruption in Egypt remains one of the biggest challenges, not only from a good governance and poverty reduction perspective, but also as a means of widening investment opportunities. The UNCAC, as the most comprehensive – and the only global – anti-corruption convention addresses many aspects of a coherent fight against corruption. It has large potential to bolster an efficient and effective fight against corruption for any country, and for Egypt in particular, especially at this time. However, to fully implement the convention, technical assistance may be necessary, and UNDP and the UN System at large are ready to support and partner with all the stakeholders should it be needed.

Thank you.

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