An anti-corruption academy co-sponsored by the United Nations opened Thursday in Austria with the aim of filling the rising global need for training, research and contemporary measures and techniques in the fight against corruption.
The International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA), based in Laxenburg, will educate public and private sector anti-corruption practitioners in more effectively implementing the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).
The convention, which entered into force in December 2005, is the world’s first legally binding international anti-corruption instrument. It requires signatories to implement a wide range of measures in areas such as law enforcement, asset recovery and international cooperation.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the inauguration that the academy’s founding represents a “milestone” in global efforts to battle corruption.
“Too often in the past, corruption was perceived as a fact of life,” he said. “Too often, many people simply resigned themselves to it. Rarely did corruption cases come to trial. Today, attitudes are changing. Across the world, intolerance of corruption is growing.”
Mr. Ban noted that while the world has a better understanding of the causes and effects of corruption, it is still struggling to combat the menace.
“One major handicap is that we don’t know how to measure it – a crucial need in our fight against an unseen foe. The best we can do right now is to gauge public perception of corruption. But gauging perception is like measuring smoke rather than seeing the fire.”
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) Chief of Corruption and Economic Crime Branch, Dimitri Vlassis, said that Mr. Ban’s attendance “goes beyond symbolism. His presence there is also testimony to the commitment of the Secretary-General himself to the anti-corruption agenda and transparency. It is a message that should not be lost.”
In a 2007 report, UNODC and the World Bank estimated that “the theft of public assets from developing countries is…between 1 trillion and 1.6 trillion US dollars per year.” The magnitude of the stolen assets is indicative of “the need for concerted action against it,” the report said.
IACA aims to tackle corruption by providing legal practitioners with the specialized education and training in a cross-jurisdictional context as it becomes clearer that traditional methods are no match for newer types of corruption, particularly financial crimes.
“I think that in a world that has become closely interlinked, and certainly interdependent, corruption is becoming a key issue that is standing in the way of development,” said Mr. Vlassis.
The academy welcomes law enforcement practitioners such as judges, investigators, prosecutors, police officers and regulators. It also plans to offer specialized graduate-level degrees in combating corruption in its many forms.
“Superior training coupled with advanced academic research will give those who need it a significant edge in their work,” said the head of the IACA Transition Team, Martin Kreutner, in a press release. “Their know-how will have a trickle-down effect in their countries and help create conditions for change.”
The academy is the result of collaboration between UNODC, Austria and the European Anti-Fraud Office, and the institution will formally become a fully-fledged international organization in 2011. Some courses have already begun at the centre.