On corruption and some modern tools to tackle it
Our legal intern, Luca Brocca, writes about #corruption and some modern tools used to tackle it, reflecting on two meetings with the #UNCAC Coalition Victims of Corruption working group.
Victims of corruption often struggle to claim reparation for the harm they have suffered and legal requirements make it difficult for victims to be represented and recognised in enforcement proceedings. The UNCAC Coalition for Victims of Corruption Working Group seeks to facilitate discussions, the exchange of information and joint advocacy among civil society experts around victims’ remedies and compensation for damages caused by corruption. On September 20 and 22, 2022, Just Access participated in two meetings of the Working Group for Victims of Corruption, where some important points on current anti-corruption measures were raised.
During the 5th Asia Pacific and Other Regions Victims of Corruption Online Meeting, Sara Brimbeuf presented the role of civil society in repairing the damages caused by corruption. During her presentation, one particular point emerged: the new challenges posed by the globalisation of corruption and how it can be used as a useful tool to fight corruption faster.
The damage that corruption does to our economy and institutions is well documented. It distorts markets by eliminating any notion of a level playing field, it undermines the rule of law, and it enables crony capitalists and other unworthy individuals to hoard economic and political power.
Recently, there has been a shift in thinking that has put anti-corruption on the global agenda, along with the work of international bodies and NGOs to raise awareness about corruption. We are seeing an increase in international anti-corruption legislation, such as the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), as well as regional and national laws.
However, while increased international attention has helped advance the anti-corruption agenda, globalisation is responsible for an increasingly sophisticated form of corruption. Therefore, there is an increasing need for intergovernmental cooperation to combat the evolving globalisation of corruption. Thanks to NGOs and other associations, individuals are helped when they face corruption at the international level. For example, NGOs can decide whether to bring an individual before a court in the state where the bribery took place, rather than a court where the bribery originated.
As for the anti-corruption activity in France, it is necessary to make reference to the work of TI (Transparency International) France in combating corruption. The work of this coalition consists in holding the powerful and corrupt into account, by exposing the systems and networks that enable corruption. Further, they advocate for policies and build other coalitions to change the status quo.
The vision of a corruption-free world of TI France is not an end in itself. It is the “fight for social and economic justice, human rights, peace and security”.
At the 11th Victims of Corruption Working Group Meeting, Tatiana Giannone and Elisa Orlando presented the role of Libera in Italy in the fight against mafia and corruption to protect rights and social justice. Libera is a network of associations and social cooperatives to which Ms. Giannone and Ms. Orlando belong. During the meeting they discussed the importance of using confiscated assets from mafia and corruption for public and social purposes. There are many ways in which these confiscated assets are reintroduced into society. Most of them end up in welfare and social policies, but many are also used to promote culture and sustainable tourism. In addition, the reuse of confiscated assets restores the confidence of the population in institutions and in democracy, and is of economic importance because it creates new opportunities for growth and development at the national level. Confiscated assets represent an extraordinary opportunity for the country and communities: they are a clear sign of change that has active citizens and the third sector as protagonists. This change creates values such as solidarity and opportunity while ensuring prosperity and development in Italy.
In addition, Libera has been promoting community-based monitoring since 2016 as an empowering strategy for civil society anti-corruption actions. Indeed, citizen-based monitoring is a tool commonly available to victims of corruption and organised crime.
It is also important to mention the main EU instruments adopted so far on this matter. In 2012 the EU Commission proposed a directive on the freezing and confiscation of instrumentalities and proceeds of crime. The directive, adopted in 2014, provides a broad definition of assets that can be frozen or seized and includes documents or legal instruments evidencing title or other rights to those assets.
Another relevant EU project on this topic is “Good(s) Monitoring, Europe!”. The general objective of this project is to promote social inclusion strategies for the most disadvantaged populations through the public and social reuse of assets seized from organised crime in Europe and to activate bottom-up participatory processes for integrated territorial development. The actions foreseen include mapping the practises of public and social reuse of seized assets in Europe and developing a model for monitoring the actual reuse of seized assets by citizens to be implemented in other EU countries.
It was interesting to see how fighting corruption can lead not only to a state where social justice is strengthened, but also to secondary advantages such as the public reuse of seized assets that benefits everyone in society. It is crucial to continue to improve the tools mentioned earlier in order to transform corruption, once visualized and fought, into something useful for the state and society.