I spent the last week of August in Taipei as one of a five-member, anti-corruption expert committee reviewing efforts by the Taiwanese to meet the requirements of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).
UNCAC is the most comprehensive international anti-corruption instrument, signed by 186 states. Its 71 articles provide a framework for states to address internal and cross-border corruption, and to create a platform for international and bilateral cooperation in asset recovery and extradition.
Although it would like to be a signatory to UNCAC, Taiwan is not allowed to become one as it has not been recognised by the UN since 1971 when the UN switched its diplomatic recognition to China.
It’s not hard to see the irony. Whilst China was an early signatory to UNCAC, it has refused any attempts at mutual evaluation or the inclusion of civil society. It has not published its own self assessment, and its anti-corruption agency has no teeth or autonomous role in the fight against corruption.
Despite not being a member of the UN, Taiwan made the UNCAC part of its domestic law in 2015. Subsequently they have invited a panel of independent experts to audit the convention's implementation once every four years. I was privileged to be a member of that panel this year. See Audit of Taiwan's anti-corruption efforts under U.N. pact begins.
Review of Taiwan’s progress
Our job in Taiwan was to review the work that has been going on since the first review against UNCAC in 2018 as well as looking at new programmes, legislation and risks.
Taiwan has worked hard to meet the requirements of UNCAC and can be very proud of its achievements. The Chair of our Committee, José Ugaz commented in the Committee Concluding Observations that many of the UNCAC signatories cannot show such a good outcome.
Meanwhile Taiwanese people are proud of their independent status, valuing democracy and freedom of speech.
Not having been on the previous review, I was fortunate to sit alongside leaders in the anti-corruption world: José Ugaz, Gillian Dell, Peter Ritchie and Geo-Sung Kim. What a great learning experience.
The involvement of civil society in the review process was impressive. Transparency International Taiwan and other civil society advocates attended most meetings with officials and the flow of discussion between them was deep and respectful.
The Committee noted many of Taiwan’s successes and made 36 recommendations for areas of further improvement. Notably we urged Taiwan to develop a register of beneficial ownership, to legislate whistleblower protection as well as criminalisation of private bribery. If this review is anything to go by we can expect an energetic response from Taiwan to our recommendations.
Corruption in the world, is there hope?
José Ugaz and Geo-Sung were two returning members of the anti-corruption expert committee reviewing Taiwan’s performance against the United Nations Convention against Corruption. Both work in areas of the world that face serious and endemic corruption. I talked with them about the state of corruption in the world.
I asked José and Geo-Sung to answer three questions:
- What is the most urgent corruption issue to be addressed in our world?
- Are you hopeful for our world at this time of increasing authoritarianism?
- What did you learn from the experience as a panel member of the review team?
José Ugaz is a Peruvian lawyer. He served as Ad-Hoc Attorney of Peru for one of the highest profile criminal cases in Peruvian history, involving the investigation of former President Fujimori and his Chief of National Intelligence.
José has been a member of UN Peacekeeping Missions and a UN Election Observer, a Professor of Criminal Law. He has led both the Peruvian Chapter of TI and TI Global. He was involved early on in the formation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption.
Geo-Sung is former Chairperson, Transparency International – Korea, and formerly an Independent Board Member Transparency International (Global). He has been a high level civil servant in Korea, including serving as Senior Secretary to President Ban Ki-Moon. He is now a Pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Korea, and teaches on human rights.
Geo-Sung has always fought for human rights. In 1977 and 1978, as a student at Yonsei University he was arrested, jailed for two years and tortured for distribution of papers against the Dictatorship and corruption of Park Chung-hee.