• The 2nd IACC High Level Segment

The High Level Segment Chair Summary
20th International Anticorruption Conference
Washington DC
December 6th, 2022

“…Meaningful change [in the fight against corruption] often comes slowly. More slowly than any of us would like. We know it doesn’t emerge out of a vacuum.  It comes from countless hours of activism and advocacy. It comes from tireless research, reporting, reforms—sometimes incremental, sometimes sweeping. It comes from brave witnesses and courageous whistleblowers who put everything on the line. And it comes from the service and sacrifice of people across this room who have dedicated their lives to uncovering truths and exposing lies

.… But it comes. It comes because of your work.”

– Jake Sullivan, Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor, IACC Opening Ceremony

“Corruption is the Achilles Heel of autocrats.  It brings people to the street like few other issues can, driving people to take unbelievable risks for the sake of dignity and justice.”

 –Samantha Power, Administrator, USAID, IACC High Level Session

On December 6, responding to the opportunity and challenges presented by a growing global recognition of the damages caused by corruption and intensification of interest in effective measures to address it, and taking advantage of the convening power of the IACC, the second High Level Session (HLS) provided leaders from government, civil society, and international organizations a platform for dialogue, exchange, and agenda setting, on anticorruption challenges and priorities.  The HLS took place just prior to the opening of the 20th IACC.  Coming during the Summit for Democracy “Year of Action,” it will help set the stage for the second Summit in March 2023.  Participants sought to exchange views and to identify shared priorities that all stakeholders can seek to advance – whether through policy, diplomacy, foreign assistance, or other action – through the Summit, the 10th Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption, and other fora.  The HLS discussion will contribute to cohesive action and heightened momentum across 2023-2024.

Complementary to other important work, the HLS agreed on these priorities for redoubled individual and joint action: 

Main lines of discussion

The representative of the White House provided an initial framing of the discussion, underscoring corruption’s threat to development, human rights, the rule of law, economic activity, and, ultimately, to an agenda for democratic renewal.  He highlighted U.S. resolve and actions to assist those fighting corruption and isolate corrupt actors, including as detailed in the first ever U.S. Strategy on Countering Corruption and by President Biden’s placing anticorruption at the heart of his Summit for Democracy. He further conveyed the interest of the United States in deepening partnerships and challenged HLS participants to build consensus in identifying both obstacles to greater impact, as well as ways to increase awareness and momentum to further the fight against corruption.

As a starting point, participants were asked to address three inquiries:

  1. What are major challenges to our achieving better progress in addressing corruption? Have we made satisfactory progress since the High Level Segment in Copenhagen, https://iaccseries.org/18th-iacc/18th-iacc-high-level-segment-commitments/
  2. What are the most productive areas for further unilateral or joint effort?
  3.  Are there shared priorities for our focus over the next two years?

Participants noted the importance of the existing international treaties and multistakeholder frameworks and of the prominence of anticorruption on the agenda of major international political groups.  However, participants strongly stressed the need to intensify implementation, application, and enforcement.  In short, implementation is key.  Participants reaffirmed the value of a holistic approach to successful integrity systems (i.e., both prevention and enforcement) as reflected in established good practice and international norms such as the UNCAC.  To turn commitments into implementation, effective monitoring processes, and measures such as development of national action plans, both with the involvement of civil society, can make an important contribution.

Participants stressed that combating corruption is a shared responsibility of both developing and developed countries, and there is a need for both to take action as a matter of urgency.

Participants underscored the importance of the anticorruption agenda to bolster democratic renewal and promote democratic principles and values, as well as the contribution to good governance that the promotion of the rule of law, political accountability, and respect for human rights can make.

There is a growing convergence between the global community’s work to advance financial transparency, accountability, and integrity standards, and the anticorruption movement.  Participants at the HLS welcomed the ongoing work in many fora; they agreed that redoubled work around issues such as beneficial ownership transparency, the roles of the enablers of corruption, as well as asset tracing, confiscation, and asset recovery (including return) is crucial.

Participants saw action to address state capture and kleptocracy as critical, noted the enabling role of corruption for organized crime, and cited the importance of addressing impunity and holding corrupt actors accountable.

Participants noted government procurement as a persisting area of corruption risk that values continued attention.  Participants urged concrete action building on existing momentum, including efforts to make open contracting a global norm.  Building and sustaining the capacity and independence of institutions, particularly the judiciary and justice system, are also key elements.

Participants highlighted the benefits that open government can contribute to oversight and preventionTechnology can promote open government, as well as support detection and enforcement efforts and sound public administration generally.   We should seek to accelerate innovation, sharing of good practices, and uptake.

Participants at the HLS stressed the need for continued action to better address high-level, complex and transborder corruption, not least of all because illicit funds are often used to buy influence abroad, distorting political agendas and undermining democratic systems. There are important gaps in adoption of foreign bribery laws, enforcement against foreign bribery, and addressing solicitation of bribes.  Stakeholders should consider how most effectively to apply not only criminal justice measures, but also deterrence and disruption tools such as sanctions or visa actions, more consistently and in more coordinated manners.

Participants agreed that there is a risk, whether in the context of national reforms or of development assistance cooperation, of placing anticorruption efforts in a “silo.”  It is important to consider ways to ensure that anticorruption is mainstreamed into other sectors of public administration, whether climate, health, infrastructure, education, or others.

HLS participants highlighted the need for more focused consideration of women and youth as essential to anticorruption efforts.  Participants noted the growing recognition of gender as an important factor in both corruption’s impact and potentially in measures to address corruption.  The young are key stakeholders in integrity and good governance; enhancing our engagement with youth will have long-term impact.  Public education and inculcation of ethical values can make important contributions.

Participants highlighted the important role of the private sector – from serving as a source of advocacy and collective action to promote reform, to adopting compliance programs and sectoral codes of conduct, to business contributions to capacity building.  HLS participants encouraged more action by business along those lines, and supported more engagement between government and business and civil society to those ends.

Participants agreed on the importance of sustaining and building international cooperation, particularly given the increasingly transnational nature of corruption and illicit finance.  This implicates building capacity to pursue formal international legal cooperation and law enforcement collaboration; building or sustaining international networks of practitioners; and promoting frameworks for peer learning.  International cooperation also means further development of standards and guidelines that can help improve implementation, address pressing challenges, and close gaps in the international anticorruption architecture.

Participants in the HLS reiterated that impactful, sustained action to prevent and combat corruption requires individual and joined up action by all stakeholders, including governments, international organizations, civil society, and the private sector.  Participants commended Transparency International and the IACC Council for their work to convene the IACC and the HLS, and their contribution to the anticorruption movement, to its knowledge base, and to building solidarity among reformers and advocates.  Participants noted the risks and challenges inherent in civil society action on corruption, and called upon all stakeholders to support civil society, stand with it, and promote the range of conditions that permit civil society actors to act fully and safely.

HLS participants noted the importance of technical assistance, and particularly of tailored approaches, a partner-based approach in program development, and a knowledge agenda that allows us to draw and apply lessons learned.   Sustaining, and where possible, increasing our investment in development cooperation and capacity building has important impact.  Such efforts should not originate solely with developed or traditional “donor” countries, and emerging donors should consider the value of incorporating anticorruption among their assistance priorities.  The international community should be particularly attentive to answer the calls of emergent needs or opportunities, i.e., “bright spots,” where changes in circumstances greatly increase political will and windows for reform – with enhanced, targeted, and coordinated support.

Conclusion 

The next few years will bring important opportunities to energize and sustain the anticorruption agenda, each with its own particularities and opportunities.  Participants at the HLS concurred that, without prejudice to other important efforts, there is value to pursuing shared priorities across the policy panorama, whether individually or jointly as circumstances dictate.

The HLS agreed on the need for action as a priority matter, and with a focus on implementation and real-world impact, on:

Participants commended Denmark’s initiative in Copenhagen at the 2018 IACC to launch this dialogue and agreed that, contingent on the interest and support of the co-host of the 2024 IACC, a similar group could meet again during that event to review progress, identify additional emerging challenges, and redouble coordination on those issues.

Top Participants in the HLS included the following