Informal cooperation between law enforcement authorities is crucial in countering different forms of crime, including corruption. But, as Dr Nassar Abaalkhail writes, authorities in many countries are not empowered enough to engage in such cooperation. The Riyadh Initiative towards the creation of a Global Operational Network of Anti-Corruption Law Enforcement Authorities (GlobE) aims to enhance direct contact between anti-corruption law enforcement authorities, thus helping a wider range of countries to engage in international cooperation. This is the second blog post in the CSC’s series ‘The role of the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group in influencing the global agenda’.
Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis, the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group (ACWG) spared no efforts in demonstrating its leading role in the global fight against corruption. Established in 2010, the ACWG’s aim is to provide “a prominent means for G20 countries to cooperate in raising the standards of transparency and accountability across the G20 and to contribute to the global fight against corruption”. Amongst the many milestones achieved in 2020, one particular outcome stands out for its potentially lasting impact within G20 and beyond – the Riyadh Initiative for Enhancing International Anti-Corruption Law Enforcement Cooperation.
Driven by the G20’s commitment to continuing to fight corruption, and by the importance of leading by example and exploring ways to strengthen practical international cooperation, the Saudi G20 Presidency, in collaboration with the UNODC, sought to identify the shortcomings in international cooperation between anti-corruption law enforcement authorities. It did so by conducting an analysis of cross-border anti-corruption cooperation.
The results of the analysis demonstrate that, while progress is made by establishing regional or thematic cooperation networks (focusing on asset recovery), there is an insufficient focus on informal communication networks between anti-corruption law enforcement authorities, in particular those from developing countries. Amongst the gaps identified, it was noted that more than 100 countries are not members of any network that facilitates informal cooperation between anti-corruption law enforcement authorities. Furthermore, the analysis looked at whether these authorities are enabled to engage in informal cooperation. The results suggest that many authorities, particularly in developing or less developed countries, are not empowered to engage in such cooperation.
Overall, some G20 countries are experienced in investigating and prosecuting corruption cases and in obtaining assistance needed from other jurisdictions, including through a solid network of contacts they have established or know how to access. Yet, this is not representative of the global experience, and there is a significant asymmetry between some G20 countries and many other non-G20 countries that face issues of capacity, insufficient human, financial and technical resources, and barriers to existing networks. Anti-corruption law enforcement authorities in these countries face technical and political obstacles in their work, and they have few – or no – channels through which they can receive practical guidance and assistance in their casework.
Against this backdrop, the Saudi G20 Presidency consulted with G20 and non-G20 countries, which highlighted that they would be reluctant to join a network if it was launched under a non-UN body. As a result, the Saudi G20 Presidency concluded that a successful initiative that aims to address these identified gaps and would serve in the interest of a broad range of countries must meet all of the following criteria:
- Be under the inclusive umbrella of the UN, allowing all Member States of the Organisation to join it on an equal footing upon its establishment.
- Be based on the relevant UN treaty (in this case UN Convention against Corruption—UNCAC) and address all offences covered by UNCAC.
- Provide a secure platform and resources to facilitate informal cooperation between anti-corruption authorities.
- Be supported by a capacity-building programme.
Based on this assessment, the Saudi G20 Presidency led discussions with all G20 countries and relevant international organizations and entities, such as UNODC, INTERPOL, the Egmont Group, OECD, the World Bank Group, IMF and FATF. The outcome was the proposed Riyadh Initiative towards the creation of a Global Operational Network of Anti-Corruption Law Enforcement Authorities (GlobE), which was welcomed through consensus by the ACWG. The objective is to create a Vienna-based global network, under the auspices of UNODC, to establish and enhance direct contact between anti-corruption law enforcement authorities. This would empower a wider range of countries to engage in informal international cooperation, by establishing a secure communication platform for information sharing between anti-corruption authorities under the One-Stop Hub of GlobE. It would also focus on capacity-building within the network and complementing other existing platforms for such cooperation.
On 22 October 2020, Saudi Arabia hosted the first-ever G20 Anti-Corruption Ministerial meeting, at which the Riyadh Initiative was at the top of the meeting agenda. After securing political support from G20 leaders and ministers, Saudi Arabia contributed 10 million USD to the UNODC to implement the Riyadh Initiative over the next five years.
While the official launch of the Global Operational Network of Anti-Corruption Law Enforcement Authorities (GlobE) is scheduled for 3 June 2021 in parallel with the first-ever UN General Assembly Special Session against Corruption (UNGASS), preparatory works for the establishment of GlobE began within two months of the conclusion of the Saudi G20 Presidency. A First Expert Group Meeting was held under the auspices of UNODC from 3-4 March 2021 to discuss the architecture and operational procedures of GlobE, with the participation of more than 130 representatives from 53 States of the five Regional Groups of the United Nations, as well as 21 international organizations and entities. This meeting resulted in the establishment of three interim taskforces to provide technical guidance for the establishment and operation of the GlobE Network.
The development of the Riyadh Initiative and GlobE is not solely guided by the interests of G20 countries or of any particular organization or country, but rather by the interests of the international community as a whole. The need to address the shortcomings and challenges in international cooperation in the area of anti-corruption had already been identified in the current discussions over UNGASS’ political declaration. The creation of GlobE as a truly global network between anti-corruption authorities that would serve the interest of the international community is a timely response to this need.
Dr Nassar Abaalkhail is the Former Chair of the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group. He holds a PhD in Politics, with a focus on anti-corruption mechanisms and strategies, from the University of Sussex.