5 August 2011

United States diplomatic muscle has been used to cajole membership of the UN Convention Against Corruption.  In itself this is admirable.  There is no greater benefit to the United States than to the countries that commit themselves to fighting this fundamental constraint on good government.  Vanuatu has become the latest member state.  That puts it among interesting  company.  The other 154 signatories include some vary dubious anti-corruption champions – Afghanistan, Iraq, Zimbabwe and the Russian Federation.

The convention has poor penetration in the Pacific.  Vanuatu, acceding in July 2011, became only the fifth Pacific member state. Australia, Timor Leste, Fiji and Papua New Guinea are the others.  Contemporaneously with the announcement about Vanuatu is a report on Papua New Guinea.  Described as one of the saddest states,  Radio New Zealand reports that a formal assessment later this year of compliance with the convention will mean “a few embarrassed faces”.

New Zealand finds itself among the two dozen nations that have yet to confirm membership of the convention. A few hold out as a matter of principle like New Zealand – Japan, Germany, Ireland and the Czech Republic (all of which are parties to the OECD Convention Against the Bribery of Foreign Officials). Most of the small Pacific jurisdictions have other priorities, and the international misfit states like Myanmar, Sudan, Cote d’Ivoire and Syria probably don’t care.

There seems to be very little correlation between perceived levels of corruption as indexed by Transparency International in the annual CPI  and membership of UNCAC.

The United States enthusiasm for UNCAC is interesting when compared with some other meritorious international conventions.  For example the United States and Somalia (joined now by South Sudan) are the only states not to have ratified, or acceded to, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.