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U.S. Department of State

Department Seal Ambassador Luis J. Lauredo
U.S. Permanent Representative to the
Organization of American States (OAS)

Op-Ed in Miami Herald, October 2, 2000

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As prepared

U.S. Ratifies Inter-American Convention Against Corruption

The United States will take an important step forward as a leader in the worldwide battle against corruption when it formally ratifies the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption on September 29 at the Organization of American States (OAS). This treaty, already ratified by 19 nations, requires countries to criminalize a wide range of acts of corruption including the bribery of foreign government officials.

This hemisphere's countries have overwhelmingly embraced democracy and are working daily to bring political stability and economic prosperity to their citizens. The success of these efforts, however, depends on impartial judicial systems, free and fair elections, citizen oversight of government decisions and decision-makers, and fair, market-based economic decisions. The Convention recognizes that corruption damages democratic institutions and creates economic inefficiency and debilitating civic cynicism. Trust can only be restored when citizens know that government officials are honest and institutions are transparent.

The Convention obliges governments to make a strong commitment to confront the reality and pervasiveness of corruption. It emphasizes preventive measures such as ensuring openness, equity, and efficiency in government procurement and criminalizes a wide range of corrupt acts. The treaty also recognizes the indispensable role of civil society in every nation's struggle against corruption by promoting the exchange of information between the government and citizens' groups. The healthy internal climate created by such measures is an important part of U.S. policy goals and has positive implications for U.S. citizens travelling and working abroad.

The United States has been actively advocating anti-corruption measures in this hemisphere and throughout the world. In 1998, we ratified the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Anti-Bribery Convention, and in 1999, Vice President Gore hosted a Global Forum that helped consolidate worldwide standards against corruption. The United States soon will sign the Council of Europe's Criminal Law Convention on Corruption, and is joining the Council's anti-corruption monitoring group. We have also undertaken additional anti-corruption initiatives in Africa and Asia. In addition, the United States is working through the U.N. on a resolution that will lead to a comprehensive global treaty on corruption.

The forces behind this new momentum are not just governments, but also public opinion. Around the world, people are rejecting the idea that corruption is inevitable in government or that it must be tolerated because it cannot be controlled.

Preventing and fighting corruption is indispensable to U.S. national goals to uphold democracy and the rule of law, and to promote sustainable economic development and growth. American citizens and corporations overseas benefit because they will no longer be expected simply to accept official corruption as a cost of traveling or doing business abroad. Perhaps most importantly, the Convention provides a benchmark against which voting publics in each country can hold their elected officials accountable as they fight to free their countries from corruption's suffocating grip.

[end of document]

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