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Parliaments and UNCAC

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The United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) is an international treaty endorsed in 2003 and signed by more than 160 countries and ratified by 140 (as of December 2012). The Convention is the first global attempt to define international standards for national provisions that are required to fight corruption. It includes eight chapters that define the laws and policies of a country that must be implemented to meet the obligations of the treaty. Such provisions include the need to create an independent anti-corruption authority, public disclosure of assessments by public officials, criminal provisions for bribery and embezzlement (among others) and requirements for asset recovery.

Parliament has a critical role to play in the implementation of the UNCAC treaty. First, a parliament must adopt a legal framework to domesticate the treaty obligations. In order to fully implement the Convention there will be a requirement to amend or adopt new laws and parliament will have to have the capacity and knowledge with regard to the Convention and the fight against corruption to ensure such laws that are passed are of high quality.

Once an anti-corruption authority is established, parliament will be required to monitor the authority and the implementation of the laws. Using its oversight tools, a parliament must be diligent in ensuring that adequate funding is allocated to the authority and for the full implementation of the laws it has passed.

Given that parliamentarians are public officials there are obligations imposed upon MPs, including the need to disclose assets and income on a regular basis. There are also provisions with regard to election campaign and political party financing  that will impact politicians.

The Convention also provides for reporting to the international community on progress in implementing the treaty and the ability of the international community to, in turn, monitor such progress. The executive branch of the government of a country will do much of this work. However, parliament should be engaged in the reporting and monitoring processes. It should insist on reviewing and commenting on reports prior to being finalised and it should be consulted by the monitoring group when implementation is reviewed.