U.S. Goes to Brazil to Fight Corruption

2005 will be a very important year for our Hemisphere on the subject of a U.S. agenda for good governance and the rule of law in the region. We have three major events taking place in the region, which will all touch on the subject in varying degrees.

Two of the events are the Third Community of Democracies ministerial meeting in Santiago and the Fourth Global Forum Against Corruption in Brasí­lia. These will have a global focus, of course, but because they are being held in the region each event will have special significance for the Western Hemisphere.

At the same time, while the Summit of the Americas is a hemispheric event, the Summit agenda has been at the vanguard of rule of law issues in the global context, as well.

This Administration is using these events as springboards for strengthening good governance, the rule of law, and a culture of lawfulness both regionally and globally.

We set ambitious goals for every hemispheric and regional event, aimed at gaining consensus on action-oriented policies and implementation of these policies.

A good recent example of this approach is the U.S. effort to promote the denial of safe haven to corrupt public officials, those who corrupt them, and their assets.

Leaders at the G-8 Evian Summit in June 2003 were the first to adopt this policy. In January 2004, at the Special Summit of Americas, President Bush and the other 33 elected leaders of the hemisphere then became the first to sign a region-wide commitment to deny safe haven to corrupt public officials, to those who corrupt them, and to their assets.

This commitment was further strengthened at the OAS General Assembly in Quito in June of last year, and at the Meeting of States Parties to the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption in July, in Managua.

Late last year, APEC leaders signed on to a similar commitment at their November 2004 Summit. As a result of close work with our partners in the hemisphere and elsewhere, denial of safe haven to corrupt public officials, those who corrupt them, and their assets is now accepted as a nearly universal standard.

The key to success, in this relatively short period of time, has been our global approach, working closely with governments in each region that share our core objectives and can help deepen this vision.

Turning these words into action will take time, but it is happening. Just two weeks ago, the OAS, with support from the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs sponsored a two-day experts meeting to develop practical measures for enhancing cooperation among OAS member states in the three areas considered critical to denying safe haven to corrupt officials: denial of entry, extradition, and asset recovery. So from words, we are moving to actions.

With this example of our approach in mind, let me speak about the meetings that are the topic of this panel. The United States launched the Global Forum on Fighting Corruption here in Washington in 1999.

The Fora have since become biannual events, with the second held in The Hague, and the third hosted by South Korea. The Fourth Global Forum this June in Brasilia will offer an opportunity to promote and build upon a wide array of international anticorruption efforts.

Combating international corruption remains a high priority for the Bush Administration. The President has incorporated the fight against corruption in numerous national security and foreign policy initiatives including the Millennium Challenge Account, the G-8 anticorruption and transparency initiative, the 2002 National Security Strategy, the Global War on Terrorism, and efforts to promote reform and freedom in the Middle East.

For this year’s event, the U.S. has been working closely with the Government of Brazil, and other members of the organizing committee, on some of the more pressing issues related to anticorruption, including how best to implement the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and how to develop effective strategies for denying safe haven to corrupt public officials, those who corrupt them, and their assets.

Second, the Community of Democracies will hold its third Ministerial later this month. This is a unique global network in which emerging and consolidated democracies gather to strengthen representative government, to share experiences, to help one another, and to coordinate policies in areas of common interest.

The goal of the Community is to achieve practical results that directly benefit democracies and to refocus international and regional organizations on the ideals of liberty and self-determined government ideals which are frequently espoused but less frequently attained.

Over 130 free nations have come together first in Warsaw in 2000 and then again in Seoul in 2002 to reaffirm their commitment to consolidating their own democratic institutions and working with other countries to help them along the path of democratization.

In Chile this month, the Community of Democracies will hold for the first time regional roundtable discussions exclusively for democracies to identify each region’s democracy deficits and how they can be addressed.

These roundtables should strengthen our own ability to tap into our regional, democratic knowledge base to support regional democracies in transition, and we should also look to other regions like Africa in order to share insights and expertise with other democracies in similar transitions.

Third, the OAS General Assembly that will take place this June has as its theme, “Delivering the Benefits of Democracy.” We see this as directly linked to this year’s Summit of the Americas theme “Creating Jobs to Fight Poverty and Strengthen Democratic Governance,” and for both themes, rule of law is an essential topic.

Under the umbrella of Rule of Law, the OAS already has a broad range of programs, centers, and commissions covering everything from drugs and trafficking in persons, to justice sector reform and community policing programs.

At the General Assembly, we will be looking for ways to strengthen and quicken the pace of the follow-up mechanism to the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption. More broadly, we need to make good on current commitments, “to add teeth” through better funding and political focus for the many efforts we already have in play.

Political focus is not something to be taken lightly, either. Most of you know that, at the 2001 Summit of the Americas in Quebec, leaders made a groundbreaking commitment to democracy as a condition of participation in the Summit process.

That commitment led to and now serves as a foundation for the Inter-American Democratic Charter. I want you all to know that the United States has pressed for a similar commitment with regard to the fight against corruption and the effort to promote transparency.

Twice at the Special Summit in Monterrey, and at the States Parties meeting in Managua our effort to advance this issue has been pushed back by most of the countries in the region. They came up with a lot of questions and reasons not to do it, but ultimately, this is a question of political will.

Either we have the will to make transparency and the fight against corruption a real priority, or we don’t. We believe these issues are essential elements of the rule of law, and of democracy, and we’re going to keep challenging the hemisphere in this regard.

We think that the Summit of the Americas process, because it is presidential in nature, is the right place for such a significant commitment.

It is where leaders launched the Democratic Charter in 2001. It is where leaders for the first time made a series of specific, short-term, measurable commitments, at Monterrey in 2004.

And this year, it is our hope that it will serve as a venue for exactly these types of political and concrete commitments, on the rule of law, on good democratic governance more broadly, on job creation, and the other themes leaders are working on together through the Summit process.

I’ll close with this general thought: the U.S. agenda for promoting rule of law in the Western Hemisphere is not developed as an isolated piece of U.S. foreign policy that changes from meeting to meeting.

Rather it is part of a broader agenda that encompasses our core values and works together with our broader policies to advance democracy and good democratic governance in the hemisphere and around the globe.

We pursue an agenda to develop stronger democratic institutions. We encourage governments to be more open and transparent, to work to create a greater role for civil society and to foster a culture of lawfulness in society.

And we have worked hard to build a foundation that capitalizes on the great entrepreneurial spirit within the hemisphere. It is the breadth of our agenda for good democratic governance that is its strength.

The above were the remarks to the American Bar Association, in Washington, DC, by Ambassador John Maisto, U.S. Permanent Representative to the OAS and U.S. National Coordinator for the Summit of the Americas

US State Department


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