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02. November 2015

STATEMENT DELIVERED BY H.E AMBASSADOR TEBOGO SEOKOLO, PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF SOUTH AFRICA, CHAIR OF THE AFRICAN GROUP AT THE SIXTH SESSION OF THE CONFERENCE OF THE STATES PARTIES TO THE UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION AGAINST CORRUPTION:ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIAN FEDERATION: 2 – 6 NOVEMBER 2015

Mr. President,

1. Allow me on behalf of the African Group to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your election to the Presidency of this Sixth Session of the Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption. We extend our congratulations to the other members of the Bureau on their election and assure you of the full cooperation of the African Group for the successful conclusion of our work.

2. The African Group would like to thank the outgoing President of the Conference, the Representative of the Government of the Panama for a job well done.

3. The African Group commends the Government of the Russian Federation for the warm hospitality and the excellent arrangements made since our arrival in this historic and magnificent city of Saint Petersburg. The Group would also like to express its gratitude to the Secretariat for the documentation made available and for all the efforts made in preparing for this Session.

4. The African Group congratulates and welcomes the new States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

5. The Group associates itself with the statement delivered on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.

Mr. President,

6. Corruption is one of the major challenges of the 21st century. The international community must tackle it collectively. The African Group reaffirms its unwavering commitment to fight corruption and illicit financial flows. By any consideration, corruption and cross border financial crimes are impediments to development, economic growth and the realization of the wellbeing of citizens across the world.  The steady increase of illicit flow of funds which are proceeds of crime and the danger this poses to sustainable development, rule of law and the security of nations is a matter of great concern.

7. The Group welcomes the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the United Nations General Assembly in September this year and recalls that in SDG 16 we have committed ourselves in substantially reducing corruption and bribery in all their forms. Indeed, the effective and efficient prevention and combating of corruption in all its forms and manifestations will be critical if we are to attain the goals and meet their respective targets by the year 2030.

8. The African Group welcomes the agenda of the Conference, which encompasses important elements towards full implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption. The Group hopes that this will give a new impetus to the commitment of States Parties in further advancing the implementation of the Convention in accordance with national strategies and priorities.

9. The African Group firmly believes that the fight against corruption is a common responsibility of all countries and that technical assistance is a crosscutting issue throughout the Convention which is an essential part for the effective and efficient implementation of its provisions. Therefore, the Group reiterates the need for the provision of relevant and adequate technical assistance, upon request, based on specific needs of recipient states, in order to strengthen the capacity of States Parties in the implementation of the Convention.

Mr. President,

10. The African Group would like to reaffirm the Resolution 3/1 entitled “Mechanism for the Review of Implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption” that established the Review Mechanism of the Convention in 2009. The Group reiterates that the purpose of the Review Mechanism is to assist States Parties in the effective implementation of the Convention by identifying challenges and good practices and to consider technical assistance requirements in order to ensure effective implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

11. The Group wishes to emphasize the need to uphold all the principles and characteristics of the Review mechanism, in particular that it should be transparent, efficient, non-intrusive, inclusive and impartial, and should not produce any form of ranking. The Review Mechanism should also be non-adversarial and non- punitive in character, and shall remain exclusively an intergovernmental process. Furthermore, the African Group underscores that the funding model agreed upon in the Terms of Reference of the Implementation Review Mechanism should be preserved.

12. The Group looks forward to the launching of the second review cycle which should cover all articles of Chapters II on “Preventive Measures” and Chapter V on “Asset Recovery” of the Convention, as initially agreed in Resolution 3/1. The Group is convinced that the review of these two chapters would produce tangible and useful results to support the efforts of all State Parties to effectively and fully implement the Convention. We encourage all Member States to actively participate in the second review cycle.

13. While noting the efforts and attempts made by the Secretariat to streamline the Self-Assessment Checklist for the second review cycle, the African Group is of the view that the Comprehensive Self-Assessment Checklist that was used during the first review cycle has the methodology and level of detail that allows Member States to truly and fully review their compliance with the provisions of the Convention. In this regard, the Group emphasizes that the same Comprehensive Self-Assessment Checklist that was used in the first review cycle, which the experts have already acquired the expertise to fill, shall continue to be used during the second review cycle.

14. As we enter the second review cycle, the African Group would like to categorically underscore the necessity to preserve the intergovernmental character of all the subsidiary organs/Working Groups emanating from the Conference of State Parties in accordance with the Rules of Procedure of the Conference. In this regard, the African Group welcomes the compromise reached during the Fourth Session of the Conference of State Parties held in Marrakech, Morocco contained in Resolution 4/6 entitled “The Non-Governmental Organizations and the Mechanism for the Review of Implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption”.

Mr. President,

15. The African Group reiterates the importance of the implementation of the Prevention provisions in the Convention and calls for the strengthening of cooperation among Governmental entities and relevant stakeholders at the national level, particularly in the areas of awareness raising campaigns, education, dissemination, and promotion of best practices in preventing corruption.

16. The African Group is convinced of the importance of developing and promoting policies and practices aimed at the prevention of corruption that involves relevant stakeholders at the national level. In this context, the Group supports the work of the Intergovernmental Working Group on Prevention in advising and assisting the Conference in the implementation of its mandate on the prevention of corruption. The Working Group also constitutes an adequate platform for States Parties to exchange information and experiences related to developing and promoting anti-corruption prevention policies. In that regard, the Group welcomes the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Working Group on Prevention of Corruption and looks forward to their effective implementation in States Parties.

17. Furthermore, the African Group takes note of the report of the Secretariat on the Follow up to the Marrakech Declaration on the Prevention of Corruption (Resolution 5/4). The Group notes the various actions and programs undertaken by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) under this Resolution, as well as the technical assistance provided to Member States to help them implement the Convention, through legislative activities and capacity building as well as the development of tools to facilitate the provision of assistance in this field.

Mr. President,

18. The African Group considers Asset recovery as a fundamental pillar of the Convention. In that regard, the Group attaches great importance to the implementation of the provisions of Chapter V on Asset Recovery, in particular those related to the freezing, tracing, seizure, and confiscation of illegal assets and the unconditional return and disposal of these assets to their countries of origin.

19. The diversion of national wealth from public resources and in particular its transfer abroad compromises the potential for the development of the country of origin. In this context, the Group reemphasizes that the repatriation of stolen public assets to the countries of origin is an international obligation according to the Convention.

20. The Group recognizes that State Parties continue to face challenges in recovery of their stolen assets due to, inter alia, differences in legal systems, complexity of multi-jurisdictional investigations and prosecution, divergent interpretations of the provisions of the Convention, lack of familiarity with mutual legal assistance procedures of other States Parties and difficulties in identifying and exposing the flow of proceeds of corruption.

21. The complexities, delays and high cost of asset recovery are largely occasioned by lack of political will, lack of cooperation, legal barriers, and cumbersome bureaucratic procedures in the Requested States.  These are manifest in the disproportionate data of returned assets as shown in the Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) report “Few and Far: The Hard Facts on Stolen Asset Recovery.” For instance, it is disclosed in the report that out of US $20 – US$ 40 billion estimated to have been stolen each year only a fraction of it was returned by the Requested States.

22. The African Group is seriously concerned by the absence of effective international cooperation and the lack of information sharing to ensure the return of stolen assets that have been diverted and illicitly transferred abroad, the lack of political will by the Requested States, the bureaucratic procedures and the legal barriers enshrined in their legislation. These constitute obstacles to the efforts of States in recovering their stolen assets.

Mr. President,

23. In this regard, the African Group strongly urges the Requested States, in the spirit of the Convention, to commit their political will, ensure that their national legislation supports the recovery of stolen assets and facilitate the quick return of stolen assets to the countries of origin. In addition, the Group strongly urges Requested States to put in place more agile and simpler procedures to assist the Requesting States in tracing, confiscation and recovery of their stolen assets.

24. Furthermore, States Parties are urged to eliminate safe havens and lift bank secrecy regulations in order to facilitate the return of stolen assets to the countries of origin. This is in the spirit of the Convention and consistent with Resolution 5/3 of the Conference which  calls upon States Parties to afford one another the widest possible cooperation and assistance in the identification, tracing and recovery of stolen assets and proceeds of corruption.

25. Obstacles faced in recovering stolen assets have shown that more needs to be done to streamline the process and facilitate Requesting States in their efforts. The African Group is of the view that technical assistance in preparing a case, enhanced capacity of the criminal justice system, as well as enhanced international commitment, mutual confidence and cooperation in facilitating asset recovery and eliminating safe havens for stolen assets are very important for the success of current and future efforts. 

26. In this regard, the African Group welcomes the important work of the Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group on Asset Recovery and looks forward to the implementation of its recommendations. The Group is of the view that the Working Group plays an important role in advising and assisting the Conference in the implementation of its mandate on asset recovery as well as providing a forum for States Parties to share experiences, lessons learnt and challenges in implementing the asset recovery provisions of the Convention.

Mr. President,

27. The African Group stresses the importance of bilateral, regional and international cooperation in the fight against corruption. The exchange of information, data collection, mutual legal assistance, extradition and cooperation between and among central and competent authorities are key elements in the achievement of any concrete progress in the fight against corruption. Furthermore, the Group takes note with concern of the continued absence of adequate knowledge, action and lack of political will to implement such cooperation.

28. In this regard, the Group welcomes the important work of and resultant recommendations of the Open-Ended Inter-Governmental Expert Meeting to enhance International Cooperation under the Convention and looks forward to fruitful and constructive discussions regarding this topic during the Expert Meeting to be held here in St. Petersburg. The Group stresses the need for strengthened cooperation among Member States in order to realize the objectives of the Convention.

29. The Group expresses its satisfaction with the continuous nature of the Open-Ended Inter-Governmental Expert Meeting to enhance International Cooperation under the Convention and looks forward to the convening of its future sessions.

Mr. President,

30. The African Group would like to express its support for the draft resolution submitted by the Kingdom of Morocco entitled “Follow up to the Marrakech Declaration on the Prevention of Corruption” and the draft resolution submitted by the Federal Republic of Nigeria entitled “Facilitating International Cooperation in Asset Recovery and Return of Proceeds of Crime to Countries of Origin”.

31. Let me conclude by reaffirming the African Group’s commitment to implement effective measures to detect and prevent corruption as well as strengthen international cooperation and assistance to Member States, to assist in the identification, freezing, seizure, confiscation and return of stolen assets as encapsulated in the United Nations Convention Against Corruption.

32. The African Group calls upon all Member States to redouble their efforts in the fight against corruption for the benefit of the present and future generations.

33. We look forward to fruitful discussion in this Conference and the adoption of the Saint-Petersburg Declaration.

I thank you Mr. President.

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