Nikos Passas is a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University. He is the author of “Legislative Guide for the Implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption,” available for download here. Passas is an expert on the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), about which he spoke at a conference earlier this month at the George Washington University of Law. His remarks focused on the opportunities and challenges posed by UNCAC, adopted in 2003 as the first global legally binding international anti-corruption instrument. This Q&A conducted by CIPE’s Frank Brown engages Passas further on UNCAC’s impact and potential.
Q: You describe UNCAC as an unprecedented achievement and yet we hear little about it in business-focused, anti-corruption circles in the developed world. Why is that and how might it be remedied?
This is a pity because the UNCAC provisions provide a blueprint for good governance in both the public and private sector. The discussions revolve a lot around instruments that are more directly applied to companies, and this is where the national laws and enforcement practices matter a great deal. The OECD Working Group on Bribery has been very active with the private sector and has been publishing relevant papers and guidelines that align with the FCPA, U.K. Bribery Act and similar laws.
Many UNCAC discussions are limited by the absence of authoritative interpretation of the text and the inter-governmental nature of a lot of UNCAC activities. The Legislative Guide and other UN publications are meant to be consensus documents and thus can only go so far. A way to engage business-focused, anti-corruption circles in the developed world is to start producing high-quality issue papers that discuss and review critically the application of different UNCAC provisions, seek out and develop good practices, engage the creative imagination of researchers, scholars, NGOs and the media. This can be done by organizing symposia and workshops advancing our thinking about practical applications and implementation ideas for diverse contexts, and by publishing guidelines and principles that may inspire collective actions with or without government participation. Guidelines and suggestions can also be forwarded and presented to the Conference of States Parties to the UNCAC and its working groups for their consideration, so that broader consensus and evidence-based knowledge can be promoted by governments too. Read more…