12 May 2016 – As world leaders gathered in London for a major summit to set out their commitments to end corruption, the Commonwealth announced plans to step up its efforts to protect countries against bribery, fraud and other forms of corruption through the expansion of regional networks and practitioner partnerships.
Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, who hosted a pre-summit conference for civil society, business and government leaders including Nigeria’s President Buhari on 11 May, said the Commonwealth stands “shoulder to shoulder” with all those committed to calling time on corruption.
“Many of our countries are already facing stark economic and social challenges, and so they simply cannot afford to lose precious resources to corruption,” she said.
“This is why tackling this menace is high on my list of priorities, and why it is important that we commit to providing practical solutions, not simply words, to help countries to fight back against the corrupt practices which are robbing families of their wealth and opportunities and causing disillusionment and misery to so many.
Delivering the Commonwealth statement to the summit, she announced that Commonwealth Anti-Corruption Networks will be established for the Pacific and Asia regions, building on the success of already established Commonwealth networks for anti-corruption agencies in Africa and the Caribbean.
The Secretary-General also confirmed plans to develop a new Commonwealth Standard to tackle corruption, as well as a new Commonwealth Office of Civil and Criminal Justice Reform.
“The Commonwealth empowers governments to take a stand and hold people and organisations accountable for their actions. We do this by bringing together national agencies and experts so that those who are struggling can learn what works best from those who are doing well. If we act in unison, and remain vigilant and innovative, we can do more than challenge the culture of corruption, we can consign it to history altogether.”
The Secretary-General’s statement to the Anti-Corruption Summit at Lancaster House on 12 May 2016 outlines how the Commonwealth Secretariat will continue to assist member countries by supporting investigators, prosecutors and other justice officials and ensuring assistance in the implementation of best-fit anti-corruption legislation.
The new Commonwealth anti-corruption networks in the Pacific and Asia will bring together heads of national anti-corruption agencies to provide training, exchange best practices, peer-review anti-corruption initiatives, benchmark performance, and enhance cross-border collaboration through the forging of region-wide and bilateral agreements.
The establishment of the Commonwealth’s anti-corruption network in Africa in 2011 was soon followed by the creation of the Commonwealth Africa Anti-Corruption Centre, based in Botswana. Since then, Commonwealth member countries have consistently topped Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for the least corrupt countries on the continent.
Nigeria and Ghana are just two of more than a dozen countries which have enhanced their ability to fight transnational crimes in West Africa through a partnership developed through the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth Standard against corruption will be an international scheme that uses an assurance mark to identify which public and private sector bodies, institutions and other entities are adhering to best practice in procurement. “This validation will promote and differentiate organisations from those that do not share our aspirations in relation to tackling corruption,” said Secretary-General Scotland.
The new Commonwealth Office will serve as a source of expert advice and knowledge, a “fulcrum for innovation” and a vital support for governments and legal services. It will advocate for, lead and coordinate the Commonwealth’s support for the rule of law, constitutional reform and sustainable political, social, and economic development through civil and criminal justice reforms.