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APEC Modernizes Anti-Corruption Controls

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Anti-corruption and law enforcement officials from the APEC member economies are recalibrating their efforts to safeguard businesses and livelihoods in the Asia-Pacific against wrongdoing.

Officials built momentum for innovative checks on bribery and corruption during policy consultations in Port Moresby, fleshing out preventative measures for the changing technological landscape and ways to fast track their adoption in the region.

“The challenge for our economies now is not necessarily how resilient we are to the effects of corruption,” explained Dr Lawrence Kalinoe OBE, Acting Secretary for Justice in Papua New Guinea’s Department of Justice and Attorney General. “The challenge is how resilient our systems are to prevent corruption.”

“We are stepping up coordination in APEC to facilitate newer, better ways to deter corrupt practices, not just react to them,” added Roselyn Gwaibo, Chair of the APEC Anti-Corruption and Transparency Working Group. “Our aim is to close conduits for abuse that impede vital services, harm the environment and undermine prosperity in each of our economies.”

The focus is on capturing and assessing data to improve transparency, the identification of conflicts of interest and preemption of misdeeds within government and the private sector. Examples range from online reporting of human resources, asset, travel and procurement information that is readily available to the public to secure whistleblowing channels.

“New mobile and digital technologies are making it easier than ever to collect, scrutinize and share information that could raise corruption red flags,” noted Claudia Ortega Forner of the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Chile.

“If there is cause for concern, the deployment of innovative disclosure mechanisms can increase the likelihood that it will be detected and addressed more quickly,” Ortega Forner continued. “Getting a handle on corruption before it unfolds is imperative to ensuring well-functioning institutions and re-building public trust in them.”

The progress of APEC’s push to optimize corruption controls could in turn significantly boost business conditions in the region, reducing transaction touch points and exchanges of cash that hinder efficiency, invite crimes of opportunity and elevate risk.

It is also turning attention in APEC to the need to keep pace with the increasing sophistication of fraud that may exploit the rise of innovations such as online payment systems, secure transaction records, or blockchain, and crypto currencies.

“Advances in digital data capture and automated transactional analysis can be powerful weapons in the fight against corruption, for example, in the early identification of money laundering and other illicit transactions put through the financial system,” said David Wilson, Chief Risk Officer of Australia New Zealand Banking Group in Papua New Guinea.

“When there is integrity in markets, it improves their attractiveness to business and that drives trade, investment, and promotes job creation and sustainable growth,” concluded Wilson. “Technology investment is important to the success of anti-corruption reforms. APEC is encouraged to look at opportunities where advances in technology can support these goals.”

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UNIDO and Switzerland expand cooperation to support cocoa value chain in Nicaragua’s mining triangle

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photo: UNIDO

LI Yong, Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis, Foreign Minister of the Swiss Confederation, have signed an agreement for a second phase of PROCACAO, a project to improve the productive and organizational capacities of cocoa producers in the so-called mining triangle in the northeast Nicaragua.

With a budget of US$4.845m over four years, the project will increase the productivity and competitiveness of actors along the cocoa value chain. By the end of the project, the income of at least 1,250 cocoa-producing families will have increased, as will the overall production of cocoa. Eighty per cent of producers will be certified with the Rainforest Alliance seal.

To obtain these results, the project is built on the dialogue with the main investment companies and the public sector; the project supports cocoa cooperatives and producers to be able to apply the protocol set up by large private buyers. It will establish agribusiness services driven by young people in order to improve the yield and the quality of the cocoa. Quality certification and best environmental practices will be target to improve and sustain the income from cocoa. 

The partnership between UNIDO and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation started in 2015. The first phase of the PROCACAO project achieved impact changes for producers, cooperatives and the cocoa market in the region. In the productive field, relevant technological advances were introduced by incorporating high-quality genetic material in cooperatives, establishing best practices for grafted cocoa, improving post-harvest work and advancing with the UTZ certification process in at least six cooperatives. At the market level, commercial relations were established with the main cocoa buyer present in the country. The commercialization options for fermented dry cocoa were expanded, ensuring the uptake of cocoa in the region.

Today, the scope of the initiative is to be widened even as the environmental challenges have increased. Thanks to the experience gained in the first phase, UNIDO believes that the region will emerge as a player in the international cocoa value chain, demonstrating a sustainable model that is able to integrate women and youth empowerment, as well as preserve biodiversity.

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La Paz and Santa Cruz de la Sierra Develop Urban Resilience with World Bank Support

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The World Bank Board of Directors approved two loans totaling US$70 million today to support the cities of La Paz and Santa Cruz de la Sierra in their efforts to reduce vulnerabilities to climate risks and to improve living conditions of more than 167,000 residents of lower-income areas of those municipalities.

The resources will be used to develop the resilience of the two cities. They will help strengthen their capacity to reduce and prevent climate risks and provide rapid response to the impacts produced by natural disasters.

The project includes the construction of infrastructure resistant to hydrometeorological phenomena such as mudslides and floods, including improved drainage ditches and river management works. Additionally, the project will improve neighborhoods and public spaces and promote sustainable urban mobility.

“With this project, we reiterate our commitment to Bolivia, and especially to the most vulnerable population, which is always more exposed to climate risks. It is essential for cities to be resilient and protect their inhabitants since, in addition to the dangers families face in emergency situations, their wellbeing suffers and their social advances are threatened,” saidMarianne Fay, World Bank Director for Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru.

Over 20 percent of the Bolivian population, which is responsible for 21 percent of GDP, lives in areas of high climate risk. Therefore, it is crucial for municipalities to strengthen their urban resilience systems with planned investments. In La Paz and Santa Cruz de la Sierra, this need has become increasingly evident given their rapid growth, which has created a variety of challenges.

According to the Mayor of La Paz, Luis Revilla, this loan will enable the municipal government to respond to the considerable social needs in vulnerable areas of the city through interventions in water risk management and stabilization of zones. “This operation responds to a process of short-, medium- and long-term planning that the municipality began many years ago and that is established in Plan 2040, La Paz that We Want. It also reflects the responsible, efficient management of city finances, prioritizing high social impact interventions with a strong resilience component to reduce risks and improve the quality of life of La Paz residents,” he said.

“The Santa Cruz municipality works with the World Bank in urban resilience with the purpose of improving the quality and conditions of life of our population and to transform the city with the neighbors’ help,” stated the Mayor of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Percy Fernandes Añez. “Four integral and priority projects will be financed: a drainage channel in the 8th ring road – Abasto Wholesale Supply Center, the network of bicycle lanes and upgrading of public space, the revitalization and protection of the ecological cordon and construction of the Metropolitan Park along the Piraí River, and the renovation and improvement of the Historic Center. These projects will become references and models of urban and social development, in order to be replicated throughout the city and at national and international levels,” he added.

The preparation and negotiations of the Urban Resilience Project, financed by the World Bank, began in 2018. This process was completed last January, when the previous agreements were approved.

In an effort to support project implementation and expand capacities to invest in the development of resilience of Bolivian cities, the World Bank and the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) in Bolivia are planning joint technical assistance activities with the municipalities and the national government.

The implementing agencies of the loans will be the Autonomous Municipal Government of La Paz (GAMLP), which will receive US$20 million, with a maturity date of 18 years and a six-year grace period; and the Autonomous Municipal Government of Santa Cruz de la Sierra (GAMSC), which will receive US$ 50 million, with a maturity date of 15 years and a five-year grace period.

The resources correspond to investment financing from the International Development Corporation (IDA), an entity of the World Bank Group.

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Haitian leaders urged to end political impasse

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The Delmas 32 neighbourhood in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince is one of the poorest in the Caribbean country, World Bank/Dominic Chavez

Leaders in Haiti must step up and end the political impasse between President Jovenel Moïse and a surging opposition movement that has paralyzed the island nation since July 2018, the top UN official there said on Thursday in a briefing to the UN Security Council in New York.

UN Special Representative Helen La Lime updated ambassadors on latest developments in the prolonged divide which has left Haiti without a functioning government, deflated the economy, and fueled insecurity. 

“Haiti is about to enter in its second year with a caretaker government, its economy is forecast to sink deeper into recession, and 4.6 million of its citizens are now estimated to require humanitarian assistance,” she said, speaking via videoconference from the capital, Port-au-Prince. 

“To avoid a greater deterioration, Haitian leaders need to rise to the occasion and commit to a way out of this impasse that will best serve the interests of their people.” 

Threat of prolonged stalemate 

Ms. La Lime was introducing the first report on the UN Integrated Office in Haiti, which she heads.

Known by the French acronym BINUH, it was stablished last October, following the end of 15 years of UN peacekeeping operations.   

Its mandate includes strengthening political stability and good governance. 

During the past months, Ms. La Lime and international partners the Organization of American States and the Holy See have been supporting negotiations to forge consensus on a political agreement.  

However, talks failed to yield progress on the formation of a new government and the designation of a “consensual” Prime Minister by the President. 

“The lack of agreement on this matter, as well as on the remaining length of President Moïse’s term, threatens to needlessly prolong a situation that has already lasted too long,” she told the Council. 

‘Rising tide of cruelty’ 

In the interim, Haitians are being subjected to widespread human rights violations as armed gangs now control around a third of the country, generating “a rising tide of cruelty,” according to Marie Yolène Gilles, Executive Director of the non-profit Fondasyon Je Klere, who also spoke from the capital city. 

“We have witnessed odious killings, decapitations, rapes, robberies, embezzlement and the diversion of supplies, abductions and kidnappings,” she reported, later adding “we have death squadrons, and that’s a form of state terrorism.” 

As Ms. La Lime told ambassadors, the ongoing impasse and economic troubles risk further affecting the integrity of the national police and other key institutions. 

New chapter in UN collaboration 

Haiti’s modern history has been characterized by recurring cycles of political and socio-economic crisis. 

They have been rooted in factors such as poverty, gender inequalities, limited access to basic services, natural resource depletion, gang activity, corruption and impunity, said Ms. La Lime. 

While the road to improved governance will be difficult, the deployment of the new UN office should see deeper and more targeted collaboration with the country, she said. 

Success will be measured by progress in six areas.  Besides facilitating political consensus, strengthening the police and justice sectors, and addressing unemployment and other grievances, benchmarks also focus on addressing gang violence and promoting human rights. 

“Only through a combination of strong national will and steadfast international support can Haiti surmount the multifaceted crisis with which it is contending,” said Ms. La Lime. 

“I remain confident that the United Nations, in its new configuration, is uniquely placed to help State institutions address the factors that catalyze cyclical periods of instability in the country and ensure that Haiti is once again on the path to stability and sustainable development.” 

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