Rebeca Grynspan: Opening Remarks at Women in Government Panel Discussion on Anti-corruption

Oct 9, 2013


Opening remarks by
Rebeca Grynspan
U.N. Under-Secretary-General and UNDP Associate Administrator
Manila, Philippines

•    I would like to thank Justice Carpio-Morales, Secretary Leila de Lima, Chairperson Ms Pulido-Tan and Professor Briones for this invitation to participate in the Forum on Women for Integrity and Governance. I have learned from my experience that the contribution of women in and out of Government in the efforts to fight corruption is essential, and all of you are a prominent and proud example of that.

•    I also praise the Philippines Government for its serious efforts and concrete actions being undertaken to strengthen transparency and accountability in governance; the journey may still be very long, but firm steps are being taken to the right direction. A proof of this is the country’s improvement in the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index from 134th to 129th in 2011 and for doing even better in 2012, moving up 24 points to 105th .

•    I would also like to acknowledge the work of two prominent Philipino on anti-corruption efforts: Ms. Pura Sumangil , who started the Concerned Citizens of Abra for Good Government that relies on voluntary efforts of area residents in the remote, rural province of Abra to monitor and verify the implementation of bridges, roads, and other infrastructure projects using community-based approach. The other is Ms. Malou Mangahas, our master of Ceremony today, who has been training journalists on investigative journalism, a key element for public accountability and transparency.

•    Let me begin by saying that there are grounds for anti-corruption and governance to be foremost on our minds. I will highlight two:

•    First, people in all countries are telling us that honest and responsive government is among their highest priorities for the future agenda. In the broadest UN-led consultations so far on the post-2015 development agenda people voting in the global My World survey have, in every region, consistently ranked honest and responsive government as among their top three priorities. People made it clear that they want a say in the decisions which affect them, they want to participate and engage, and also they called strongly for good and responsive governments, capable of delivering decent public services to all people, transparent and accountable to their people. 

•    A second reason Governments should have anti-corruption and governance in mind when looking to the 2015 MDG target date and beyond – comes from what we have learned from more than a decade of experience implementing the MDGs. Through our work – in HQ and on the ground - supporting well over a hundred governments to achieve the MDGs, UNDP has seen how disparities in progress can be, at least partly, explained by differences in the quality of governance and the inclusiveness of political and economic institutions.

•    To back both of these statements, the facts are unmistakably striking: According to data from the World Bank, each year 1 trillion US Dollars is paid in bribes and it is estimated that corruption can cost a country up to 17 percent of its GDP.  Imagine the impact of reversing this! By disproportionately hurting poor and marginalized people, corruption also reinforces growing inequalities and aggravates social tensions. A recent UNDP study carried out in 11 communities across 8 countries found that 76% of women surveyed think corruption has prevented them from accessing public goods and services.

The poor are more reliant on public services, so they are disproportionately harmed by what may be, in financial terms, small-time corruption or the divertion of already limited resources from their original purpose. We also know that accountability and transparency must be underpinned by a human rights-based approach which enables people redress.  Corruption affects disproportionally those most vulnerable and discriminated by society that have no tools to defend themselves.

•    This agenda, must also compel all actors to act - state and non-state, international organizations and multinational corporations, individuals and communities. International and National.   Instruments and mechanisms at the international level should be adapted locally for maximum relevance and ownership, like the work you all are doing in the Philippines, but global mechanisms are also  needed to monitor progress and help hold member states and international actors accountable.

•    Just to give you an example, the cost of illicit transfers, unregulated multinational companies, and illegal logging on countries’ prospects are very real and very large. For instance, between 2008 and 2010, transfer mispricing cost Africa an average $38.4 billion every year, more than its inflows from either international aid or foreign direct investment.
The good news is that momentum is shifting in the right direction – the post-2015 development agenda can build on this to expand further people’s access to understandable and useable information on government budgets, expenditures and public procurement. Initiatives like the Un Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), Publish what you pay and EITI are good examples of this efforts

UNDP’s global experience and approach on strengthening integrity and accountability mechanisms in governance

•    At UNDP, we strongly believe that corruption, weak institutions and weak governance are a major bottleneck to development and thus, strengthening institutions and capacities and integrity and accountability mechanisms in governance is key to achieving the MDGs, fighting poverty, and advancing sustainable development.

•    On this note, one important lesson learned from the MDGs is that while up-scaling resources for development is vital to achieve the MDGs, so is preventing the leakages of resources.  For the MDGs to be achieved, not only do countries’ economies need to grow by mobilizing more ODA, increasing both domestic and foreign investment and tapping into innovative financing, but also revenue from that growth needs to be well invested into services and infrastructure.

•    In UNDP we believe however that a multidisciplinary approach is needed to strengthen integrity, accountability and anti-corruption.  We need capacity development, governance reforms, targeted anti-corruption measures, an information revolution to support transparency, and greater civic participation. 

We have learnt from experience that what works best are specific anti corruption measures integrated into basic service delivery systems-coupled with an increase in the engagement of civil society and other non state actors in monitoring service delivery.

•    For example, UNDP through its sectoral approach to fighting corruption, which is currently being implemented in more than 30 countries, is encouraging government institutions, civil society organizations and other partners to integrate transparency, accountability and integrity in service delivery sectors such as health, education and water sectors.

UNDP’s support in the Philippines

•    Let me now  come back to the Philippines and share with you some of the things we are supporting under the country’s leadership.
UNDP, in 2012, implemented “Mitigating corruption in water governance through participatory public finance” project, which aimed at harnessing the power of citizen participation to enhance water integrity.  This project was developed with the background that in spite of the Philippines’ huge 479 BILLION CUBICMETER available water across the country, reports point out that 1 out of 5 Filipinos has no formal access to water.  Together with UNDP and local partner G-Watch, UNDP supported a project to promote social accountability and integrity at the local level to facilitate a dialogue between citizens and government to improve responsiveness of local service delivery to the needs of people.

•     The Philippine Development Forum’s Sub Working Group on Anti-Corruption, co-chaired by the Ombudsman and UNDP, is another  example of  a multi-sectoral platform to mobilize support around Government’s anti-corruption efforts among development partners and civil society and a valuable mechanism for donor coordination.

¬    So let me finalize with four key messages on the role of integrity and accountability mechanisms in governance:
1.    The implementation of UNCAC is an opportunity to strengthen integrity and accountability mechanisms in governance;
2.    Strengthening the oversight role of anti-corruption agencies such as the Office of the Ombudsman is a good entry point for strengthening integrity and accountability mechanisms in governance;
3.    Message 3: Gender empowerment plays an important role in fighting corruption and strengthening integrity and accountability mechanisms in governance.
4.    It is time to place transparency, accountability and integrity in post-2015 development agenda.

Message 1: The implementation of UNCAC is an opportunity to strengthen integrity and accountability mechanisms in governance:
The UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), adopted in 2005, has been instrumental in bringing corruption into national and global discourse. 161 State Parties has ratified the convention and have taken steps to implement the UNCAC. At the national level, many governments are adopting tougher laws, and establishing or re-organizing specific units to fight corruption. The global advocacy to promote UNCAC and the national movements against corruption has helped to raise awareness of citizens as well as their ability to demand more accountability from their government.

However, in many countries, the implementation of UNCAC remains a technocratic response to the political problem of corruption therefore UNCAC potential have not been fully utilized and tangible results have not been achieved.  UNCAC provides  opportunities to build political will, strengthen institutions to address leakages and prosecute corruption, opens-up space for wider governance reforms, as well as  to strengthen democratic processes by engaging civil society and media in developing and implementing strategies to addressing corruption,

For example, under the provisions of UNCAC, all States will be monitored every five years to assess the level of UNCAC implementation. Findings, based on self-assessments and peer reviews by experts, are compiled in country review reports but only the executive summary of these reports (not the whole report) are made public. This practice does not support an open, transparent and accountable review process.

Moreover, the review process has been a state-centric process and the participation of civil society and other actors is limited, as their participation is not mandatory.
UNDP, in collaboration with UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), made a significant contribution in supporting the engagement of non-state actors (specifically civil society) and media in the UNCAC review processes by introducing the “Going Beyond the Minimum” methodology to enable governments to conduct participatory UNCAC self-assessments by encouraging governments to engage various stakeholders in the process.

¬    The Philippines recently concluded its periodic UNCAC review in 2012. The outcome of the review process of UNCAC implementation in the Philippines presents a huge opportunity for building wide consensus for political and policy reform to address corruption at the national and local levels.

¬    The next UNCAC review cycle, which will start in 2015, will review the preventive measures - such as the establishment of anticorruption bodies and enhanced transparency in the financing of election campaigns and political parties - and UNDP is strongly urging all member states to engage civil society and other actors in the review process so that UNCAC proves to be an effective opportunity to increase space for national dialogue on anti-corruption, and expand opportunities for broader governance reform. Moreover, we also encourage the member states to make the review report public so that the data and information collected through the review process will help strengthen and improve the integrity and accountability mechanisms in governance such as increasing the efficiency and integrity of civil service, judicial sector, finance management authorities, etc.
Moreover, UNDP in the Philippines is partnering with the Office of the Ombudsman providing support to mechanisms for donor coordination on anti-corruption efforts or to platforms for continuing dialogue between Government, civil society and private sector to address corruption.

Message 2: Strengthening the oversight role of anti-corruption agencies such as the Office of the Ombudsman is a good entry point for strengthening integrity and accountability mechanisms in governance

With the advent of UNCAC, numerous countries have developed comprehensive national anti-corruption strategies or policies to strengthen integrity and accountability in governance. The lead anti-corruption institutions, such as Anti-Corruption Commission or the Office of the Ombudsman, are often in charge of implementing and coordinating the national anti-corruption strategies or policies.

However, implementation of these comprehensive strategies has become complex  - partly due to the fact that a variety of rather ambitious corruption prevention policies, and investigation and prosecution strategies that are under the purview of separate bureaus and sections of the government are clubbed-together under the umbrella of a comprehensive national policy.

Though the responsibility for implementation of the individual components of the national anti-corruption policy may remain with a specific sector or a government agency that has the required legal mandate, skill-set, and institutional capacities, the overall coordination and oversight is the responsibility of one particular agency – mostly the national anti-corruption agencies. At the same time, the policies have failed to take into account that the national anti-corruption agencies often lack the authority to demand action from powerful line ministries. (e.g., procurement reform under the purview of Ministry of Finance).

UNDP has developed a Practitioners Guide for capacity assessment of anti-corruption agencies strengthen institutional capacity to coordinate the work for various oversight and accountability institutions, and individual skills and capacity within anti-corruption agencies. We believe that anti-corruption agencies through their oversight role can play an important role in strengthening integrity and accountability in various government institutions by introducing and reinforcing integrity and accountability standards, but these agencies should develop capacity to integrate anti-corruption measures into different sectors. There is urgent need to strengthen this “missing middle” capacities and develop a multi-disciplinary approach targeting specific sectors to address corruption and governance bottlenecks in service delivery – otherwise, institutionalizing integrity and accountability in governance will be more a rhetoric rather than reality.

Moreover, the oversight institutions such as the Office of the Ombudsman should closely work with civil society and other actors to monitor and reinforce integrity and accountability mechanism in governance. For example, UNDP does not only work closely with the office of the Ombudsman’s in the Philippines, but also with the leading civil society organizations such as G-Watch and the Philippine Centre for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) to strengthen social accountability approach, multi-stakeholder coordination and communication.

Message 3: Gender empowerment plays an important role in fighting corruption and strengthening integrity and accountability mechanisms in governance.

Although data and evidence are elusive on whether women (compared to men) make an effective leadership in terms of fighting corruption, we do know the gendered nature of corruption and how it disproportionately affects poor women – who are already disenfranchised due to their general low economic and political empowerment.  However, many global and national discourses on corruption or anti-corruption treat as if corruption in gender neutral.

In fact, in 2011, UNDP together with the Huairou Commission — a global coalition that empowers grassroots women's organizations — published the study titled ‘Seeing Beyond the State: Grassroots women’s perspectives on corruption’, based on evidence from eight countries. The study clearly highlighted that women – more specifically of care giving age – experience corruption when accessing or applying for public documentation (identify cards, certificates, property documents, licenses and others) and when dealing with law enforcement agencies, but grassroots women’s strategies such as community organization and mobilization, advocacy and awareness raising on public service entitlements and anti-corruption laws and practices – have been also very effective in combating corruption and demanding accountability from public institutions.

Message 4: It is time to place transparency, accountability and integrity in post-2015 development agenda.

Member states recently gathered in New York for the 68th General Assembly of the United States to discuss how we accelerate the progress to achieve the MDGs and agree on the post-2015 development agenda. When the MDGs were formulated, governance-related goals or targets were not included, mainly for political reasons, but what we learned from that experience is that deficits in governance — such as corruption, elite capture of key resources, and low capacity of government institutions — hinder inclusive growth by squandering resources badly needed for development.

Data and empirical evidence clearly show that improvement in transparency, accountability and integrity pay off for development and this is the reason why governance and anti-corruption should be at the centre of the post-2015 development agenda. For example, a recent working paper from the transparency International found that there is a development dividend when countries have strong levels of openness, mechanisms to hold government actors to account, and effective and well-functioning judiciaries and law enforcement bodies.

With the discussion at the recent UN General Assembly and the report of the high level panel on post-2015 development agenda, momentum is shifting in the right direction – the post-2015 development agenda can build on this – to help end the use of tax havens with impunity, expand further people’s access to understandable and useable information on government budgets, expenditures and public procurement, and increase engagement in implementation and monitoring.
But transparency is not enough if it does not go hand in hand with accountability. While targets should be adapted locally for maximum relevance and ownership, a global mechanism such as the post-2015 development agenda is needed to monitor progress and help hold member states accountable in resource generation, allocation and utilization to deliver on the post-2015 development agenda. The time is right and the information revolution going on out there allows us to be bold and ambitious to take transparency, accountability and integrity agendas forward.

To support these efforts UNDP has launched a dedicated inter agency web platform, developed together with UNODC, UNESCO and OHCHR to help take this agenda forward the discourse on the post 2015 agenda. 

I look forward for our discussions here today and thank you for your attention.

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