Hannes Hechler will present his political economy analysis of the UN Convention against Corruption and its implementation processes.


The UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) is arguably the most advanced and most global anti-corruption treaty. Its topical and geographic scope, however, raises questions as to how adaptable it is to country specific contexts. Moreover, is this predominantly legal and technical instrument suited to address the often political nature of corruption in many countries?

By this we mean corruption as a means for elites to gain and maintain power through electoral fraud, illicit access to public resources, for distributing money and positions to patronage networks and for exercising undue influence on accountability and oversight institutions to escape sanction. The U4 report therefore analyzes the Convention in regard of its potential to address grand and political corruption. It then looks at Indonesia, Bangladesh and Kenya, where UNCAC gap analyses have informed national anti-corruption approaches and thus can serve as a first indicator of implementation intentions. The report concludes that while UNCAC gives a framework for basic corruption antidotes and adds much value in terms of international mutual legal assistance efforts, it fails to address weaknesses in key oversight institutions (such as the legislature, the judiciary, electoral commissions etc.) or political actors (such as political parties). UNCAC also does not promote relevant judicial or administrative appeal mechanisms that would be useful to hold the government to account. As to national assessments related to the Convention, it is evident that in the countries studied, such assessments did cover political economy issues to a minimal extent. Few recommendations are given how to address the political nature of corruption or how to deal with reform impediments caused by political realities. Consequently, UNCAC constitutes but one reform item for national stakeholders in seeking improved accountability. Its usefulness depends very much on the country reform context and the willingness and ability of stakeholders to make use of it.

Discussant: Liz Hart