Your Excellency, the President of the Republic of Fiji, Major-General (Ret’d) Jioji Konusi Konrote,

Honorable Mr Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Attorney-General and Minister for Economy, Civil Service and Communications,

Dear Deputy Commissioner of FICAC, Mr. Rashmi Aslam,

H.E. Mr Jonathan Curr, The High Commissioner of New Zealand to Fiji

Ms Anna Dorney, Acting High Commissioner of Australia to Fiji

Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to be here this morning as we gather today to commemorate this year’s International Anti-Corruption Day!

I would like to commend the Fiji Independent Commission against Corruption (FICAC) and our United Nations Pacific Regional Anti-Corruption (UN-PRAC) Project -- implemented jointly by two UN sister agencies, namely the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) -- for organizing this event.  It is on behalf of both UNDP and UNODC that I greet you today!

17 years ago, in 2003, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the United Nations Convention against Corruption and designated 9 December as International Anti-Corruption Day.

This year’s event is a particularly important moment for us to remember the impact of corruption in our daily lives and its detrimental effects on Agenda 2030 and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved by 2030.

Corruption corrodes public faith in institutions.

Corruption is the biggest enemy of socio-economic development.

Every year one-trillion US dollars is paid in bribes while an estimated 2.6 trillion US dollars are stolen annually through corruption.

For comparison, the financing gap for the SDGs is estimated at 2.5 trillion US dollars per year in developing countries.

The UN estimates that funds lost to corruption represent 10 times the amount of official development assistance.

The money we lose to corruption is money that is lost for the development of our societies, the money not invested in schools, hospitals and so much needed infrastructure. 

The money we lose to corruption disproportionately affects the most disadvantaged groups by preventing social inclusion, exacerbating inequality, inhibiting prosperity, denying them   services, affecting enjoyment of their human rights. 

Therefore, the Sustainable Development Goals under SDG 16 sets a specific target to “substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms” as a precondition for peaceful and inclusive societies.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shed a new light to the importance of the fight against corruption as we also have come to understand that we world cannot meaningfully recover from the COVID-19 consequences without opting for integrity! ‘Recover with integrity’ is precisely this year’s motto of the International Anti-Corruption Day.

In the words of our UN Secretary-General:

Corruption is criminal, immoral and the ultimate betrayal of public trust. 

It is even more damaging in times of crisis – as the world is experiencing now with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The response to the virus is creating new opportunities to exploit weak oversight and inadequate transparency, diverting funds away from people in their hour of greatest need.  

 

We must therefore unite to stop the drain on resources caused by corruption and bring them back to investments in important development outcomes. The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), ratified by Fiji in 2008, gives us the means to further strengthen our commitment to addressing this issue and making progress on the Agenda 2030!

Today, the highest political leadership in Fiji is re-committing to SDG 16 and UNCAC implementation by launching a public sector wide, ‘I don’t accept bribes’ campaign to say a resolute ‘no’ to bribery!

I note and commend that this initiative is fully aligned with the country’s commitment to achieve SDG Target 16.5 – to “substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms” and UNCAC’s articles 7 on the public sector and 15 on the active and passive forms of bribery of national public officials.

This initiative is also in keeping up with Fiji’s commitment to the ‘Teieniwa’ or Pacific Unity Against Corruption Vision adopted in Kiribati early this year.

Ladies and gentlemen,                                                                                                                       

The message from us at the United Nations is loud and clear. Corruption is one of the biggest threats to achieving sustainable development.

Fighting corruption is therefore not only an aim for itself, but it is also the most effective way to achieve progress against all of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Therefore, we must remain united against corruption and continue taking bold and transformative steps as the one being taken today with the public sector wide, ‘I don’t accept bribes’ campaign.

As we embark on this collective journey, I encourage all stakeholders in government, private sector, non-governmental organizations, the media and all citizens in Fiji to equally pledge to not offer or accept bribes.

Thank you for your attention.

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