International Anti-Corruption Conference - CEO’s perspective

Julie Haggie
Chief Executive Officer
Transparency International New Zealand

The International Anti-Corruption Conference in Vilnius Lithuania was a great opportunity for learning and networking and for catching up with international colleagues.  In addition to the thematic streams it was great to hear from the ‘horses’ mouths’ as journalists, public prosecutors, anti-corruption commissioners, and corporate and NGO experts from across the globe talked and shared their stories and strategies.  

Touching on a few highlights for me:

  • The opening was very good, including presentations by dignitaries from Lithuania, TI and a range of organisations. However one video clip particularly captured us all - this was a recording for the conference attendees from a close relative of Dr Gubad Ibadoghlu, an Azerbaijani political activist and prominent human rights and environmental defender.

    Dr Ibadoghlu is being punished for his activism and investigations on oil and gas revenues, oil-related environmental devastation and corruption. He was arrested a year ago after he published an article that criticised the country’s oil and gas policies. Facing up to 17 years in prison, he and his family have suffered from police brutality. His family have pleaded with TI to speak out on his behalf.

    To help with this appeal, visit Amnesty International’s website for information about expressing your concern.

    Additionally, since New Zealand has an active trading relationship with Azerbaijan, you can contact Minister of Trade Hon Nicola Grigg asking her to make representations to the Azerbaijani government to release Dr Ibadoghlu.

  • A highlight workshop for me was a hands-on session where we got to practise with a real life scenario of environmental corruption, making a case for why and how we would use specific sources to have the most impact. This session was run by the journalists who worked on the real life stories. The one I took part in was about how the global demand for collagen is also connected to the destruction of the Amazon and the Invasion of Indigenous territories. The story is at this link.

  • In an information rich session about the use of trusts to hide illicit funds, we heard from the head of the Seychelles Anti-corruption Commission about the first major money-laundering case they are prosecuting relating to an alleged embezzlement to the Seychelles equivalent of NZD $78 million.

    Funds have been dispersed into property and spread around the world to hide them from view. A New Zealand trust was also mentioned though there are no more details on that available yet with court action underway. .

  • On the last evening of the conference attendees were invited to a showing of The Accidental President. Not the Trump film, this recently released documentary tells the incredible but true story of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya who was thrust onto the international political stage when her husband was arrested for daring to challenge Alexander Lukashenko for the presidency in Belarus.

    With her husband a political prisoner, Sviatlana courageously stepped forward and won the popular vote – but was robbed of her democratic victory by Lukashenko’s dictatorial hand on power. Unbowed by deadly threats from her powerful political rival and the KGB, Sviatlana became a beacon of hope for change in her country, although she is now living in exile.

    It was an incredible privilege to be at the Vilnius film showing because she and the two directors were there in person at the film and spoke afterward about what the Belarus people need from the world.

It was an invigorating and uplifting experience to share with an incredible group of people committed to fighting corruption. At the same time it was sobering to realise how much more needs to be done to combat corruption.

Anne Tolley, Jullie Haggie and Kashif Ali from TI Pakistan at the IACC Conference

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya at the Break Free session of the IACC.

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