The Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland. (GP) has called for greater collaboration among Commonwealth Caribbean member states in the fight against corruption. She was speaking at the opening of an anti-corruption conference, currently underway in St Kitts and Nevis.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General has called for greater collaboration and information sharing to “sweep corruption aside and create the lasting, positive space for sustainable development to thrive, and for people everywhere to flourish”.
The call was made at the opening ceremony of the 8th Annual Conference of the Commonwealth Caribbean Association of Integrity Commissions and Anti-Corruption Bodies (CCAICACB), currently underway in St. Kitts and Nevis under the theme ‘Controlling Corruption – Preventative Mechanisms Work Better Than Reactive Measures’.
Speaking at the Conference, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, The Rt Hon. Patricia Scotland QC, said corruption was “a serious crime that can undermine social and economic development in all societies.”
Stressing that no country, region, or community is immune from corruption, the Secretary-General called for greater commitment and collaboration at national, regional and international levels.
“[Corruption] infects education, health, justice, democracy, prosperity, and development. And it is one of the biggest impediments to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Achieving the SDGs depends absolutely on our ability to get to grips with corruption. And it is telling that the amount of money lost through corruption is equal to the total amount of money needed to successfully implement the SDGS.
Swift and decisive action is needed. And we need you – your acuity, your wisdom, and your effort, more than ever. Because it falls to us – the upholders of justice and integrity – to work together more closely than ever on preventative action, and to share knowledge and innovation.
We need each other literally: because corruption reaches beyond national borders, so we need international cooperation to share information, track and recover assets, and stamp out jurisdictional secrecy.”
A keynote address by the Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis, the Honourable Dr Timothy Harris, delivered by the Attorney-General, Hon Vincent F Byron, also echoed the Secretary-General’s call for collaboration:
“Corruption remains an insidious evil that risks undermining the very structure of our governments and societies that have been long in the making. If corruption is allowed to reach, unchecked, throughout our nation-states, it may eventually cause us to descend into unrecognisable anarchies where uncertainty would become the order of the day. It is therefore incumbent upon all of us to harness our collective efforts and resources in order to find effective ways to resist and reign in the threat of this scrouge.”
Combatting corruption in the Caribbean
In the Caribbean region, Commonwealth countries are shown to be less corrupt than non-Commonwealth countries, according to data from the World Bank Control of Corruption. The Commonwealth Secretariat has been providing leadership and technical assistance, including development support, for national anti-corruption agencies. The Commonwealth Caribbean Association of Integrity Commissions and Anti-Corruption Bodies, created by the Secretariat in 2015, is one such example.
The opening ceremony also saw the official launch of a new Commonwealth Secretariat publication titled, Combatting Corruption in the Commonwealth Caribbean. Edited by the Secretariat’s award-winning Adviser and Head of Public Sector Governance, Dr Roger Koranteng, with contributions from six researchers from the Caribbean, the book highlights the success stories of countries that have made significant progress in combatting corruption. It focuses on six ‘islands of success’ – The Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines – selected due to their relatively strong scores on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) or because they have registered a significant improvement in their score on this index over the past decade.
United against corruption
Heads of anti-corruption agencies, senior government officials, relevant international organisations, and development partners from the region are participating in the conference, which will give them a platform to review national and regional anti-corruption efforts, share knowledge and good practices, and discuss the impacts of corruption on sustainable development.
Over the next few days, there will be a combination of presentations by experts in various anti-corruption fields, panel discussions on sub-themes, and country reports by the jurisdictions that comprise the Commonwealth Caribbean Association of Integrity Commissions and Anti-Corruption Bodies.
Dr Roger Koranteng, the Secretariat’s Adviser and Head of Public Sector Governance said:
“The Commonwealth Secretariat’s strategic effort is to foster genuine partnerships among all member states. Its effectiveness is built upon the “ownership” of all its members, and the trust and confidence that member countries have in the Commonwealth Secretariat to work on this important agenda for dealing with corruption. To achieve its anti-corruption mandate, the Commonwealth Secretariat prioritised anti-corruption work to strengthen good governance and achieve SDG 16.
The presence of the Commonwealth Secretary-General at this meeting reaffirms her commitment to supporting member countries’ anti-corruption efforts to root out systemic corruption at both national and international levels. She has been keen and committed to assisting the Integrity Commissions and Anti-Corruption Bodies in Commonwealth Caribbean with financial and technical support, to achieve meaningful and long-lasting efforts to combat corruption and enhance good governance in the Caribbean region.”
The Conference, which is organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat and St Kitts Integrity Commission in collaboration with the Association of Integrity Commissions and Anti-Corruption Bodies, will conclude on 23 May 2022 with a communique outlining key priorities and recommendations to be implemented by member countries under the chairmanship of Turks and Caicos.