Bush administration officials appeared on Capitol Hill to urge the Senate to ratify the U.N. Convention Against Corruption. The treaty, with 140 signatories, has been ratified by 56 countries and went into force in December of last year.
The U.N. Convention Against Corruption includes provisions dealing with prevention, criminalization, international cooperation, and asset recovery.
In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bruce Swartz, a deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, urged Senate ratification of the treaty.
"By combating global corruption, we restore confidence in democracy and the rule of law," he said. "We bolster the global economy by encouraging open trade and investment. We strengthen the stability and integrity of government and economic systems worldwide. The United Nations Convention Against Corruption helps us do all of these things."
The treaty calls for the establishment of anti-corruption bodies and enhanced transparency in the financing of election campaigns and political parties. States must ensure that their public services are subject to safeguards that promote efficiency, transparency and recruitment based on merit.
The accord requires countries to criminalize not only basic forms of corruption, including bribery and embezzlement of public funds, but also trading in influence and the concealment and laundering of the proceeds of corruption.
"I note that the convention addresses bribery for commercial advantage, not only of officials of foreign governments, but also officials of public international organizations," said Samuel Witten, deputy legal adviser at the State Department. "This is one of the key criminalization requirements in the convention. Parties therefore are required to criminalize bribes paid to officials of the U.N. and other public international organizations that are made for commercial advantage."
The pact requires countries to cooperate with each other in anti-corruption efforts, including gathering and transferring evidence for use in court and extraditing offenders.
Another key provision deals with asset-recovery - an important issue for many developing countries where high-level corruption has plundered the national wealth.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, Senator Richard Lugar, noted that the United States has already ratified two similar accords - the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development anti-corruption treaty and the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption. He asked why the U.N .pact is necessary.
Bruce Swartz of the Justice Department responded that the U.N. treaty is more comprehensive and goes further than the other two accords in addressing asset forfeiture.
An international conference is planned in Amman, Jordan in December to discuss technical assistance to help countries implement provisions of the pact.