U.S. Statement on Corruption

PDAS James A. Walsh speaks at a UNODC event in 2017. (USUNVIE)

7th Conference of States Parties to the

UN Convention against Corruption

November 6-10, 2017

Vienna, Austria


Opening Remarks by James A. Walsh, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, U.S. Department of State


Edited as delivered, Tuesday, November 7, 2017


Madam President, distinguished delegates, and members of the Secretariat, it is a pleasure to welcome Guatemala as the incoming President of the Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption. We commend the efforts of the Government of Guatemala under President Morales to support the fight against corruption and impunity undertaken by the Attorney General. Anti-corruption efforts are essential to all our governments’ work to improve prosperity, enhance security, and promote good governance, and to our broader mission here in Vienna today.


Fourteen years ago, the international community joined together to sign a transformational document: a global legal framework for preventing and combating corruption. Since 2005, States Parties have met seven times to improve how we implement the Convention, and today, we have much to show for it. Our frameworks, laws, and policies – and related international cooperation – are undoubtedly better today compared to 2005. However, our job is not finished.


The UNCAC provides us a common basis to take all the necessary steps to prevent and combat corruption if we have enough political will and use the treaty effectively. Whether we seek to prevent, criminalize, investigate, or prosecute corruption, or to recover and return stolen assets, this Convention remains the comprehensive global legal framework for fighting corruption. Where there might be any questions about how this Convention can work in practice, we should use the COSP and its working groups to share ideas and help each other. That is why we are all here.


Our own commitment to the UNCAC remains resolute. The United States continues to aggressively tackle corruption and its corrosive effect on security and prosperity. Domestically, our Department of Justice has continued robust enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). In 2016, the United States had a record year for enforcement of the FCPA against corporate defendants, to include final enforcement actions against 28 multinational companies. In December 2016, for example, Odebrecht and Braskem – which paid over $788 million in bribes to government officials across the globe – entered into the largest-ever global corporate resolution with Brazil, Switzerland, and the United States. International cooperation is instrumental in helping to investigate and prosecute these and many other corruption cases.


In addition, we remain committed to targeting ill-gotten gains. Through international cooperation and our Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, we have seized or frozen over $3 billion in corruption-related proceeds since 2010, having returned more than $150 million to date with another $30 million in process.


Abroad, anti-corruption technical assistance and capacity building remains a significant component of our foreign policy and foreign assistance. We have worked with partner countries to create a culture of integrity to prevent corruption and mitigate risk against corruption, develop consequence to corruption through laws and law enforcement, and strengthen civil society and oversight bodies. We continue to support UNODC and other international organizations that provide technical assistance to countries seeking to recover stolen assets.


We care deeply about technical assistance, so that is why my delegation has sponsored a related resolution at this COSP, with the principal goals of promoting transparency and information sharing. We look forward to working with you all to refine the text.


As we implement the UNCAC, we must also draw on all sectors of society to fight corruption, including civil society organizations and the private sector. We have nothing to hide – and much to gain – from their engagement with us in the COSP and its subsidiary bodies. We encourage all States Parties to engage more actively with civil society, including as part of the Review Mechanism and when formulating technical assistance programs related to the UNCAC.


We are cognizant that good-faith efforts by the United States or any single country will never be enough: we all must work together to adopt and enforce international standards of integrity, accountability, and transparency. As such, the United States looks forward to having our policies and practices reviewed under the second cycle of the UNCAC Review Mechanism in 2018.


I wish you much success as we work together to strengthen implementation of this important Convention.   Thank you, Madam President.