Organization of American States:
The Inter-American Convention Against Corruption is the first multilateral anti-corruption treaty instrument negotiated in the world. It is expected to enhance cooperation among the nations of the hemisphere in the battle against domestic and transnational acts of corruption. The problem of corruption has been of particular concern to the United States because of its corrosive effects on democratic institutions and economic efficiency, and the links that often exist between corruption and organized criminal activity such as drug trafficking.
What does it say?
In recent years, the United States had sought in a number of multilateral fora to persuade other governments to adopt legislation akin to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which criminalizes the bribery of foreign officials. The Convention represents a significant breakthrough. Additional features include an obligation to criminalize "illicit enrichment" (although the United States would have constitutional concerns about passing "illicit enrichment" legislation, current United States law adequately covers acts intended to be criminalized by this article. For these reasons, we do not anticipate having to pass any additional legislation), and articles on extradition and seizure of assets.
The Convention also requires that States that become party to it take specific steps to combat corruption. For example, the Convention imposes an obligation on each State Party to enact legislation to criminalize the acts of corruption specified in the Convention, as in our Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The Convention also obligates parties to provide various forms of international cooperation and assistance to facilitate the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of acts of corruption.
Where did it come from?
The Convention was negotiated under OAS auspices following a mandate from the 1994 Miami Summit of the Americas.
Who has signed and ratified?
The Convention was adopted and opened for signature on March 29, 1996 in Caracas and signed immediately by 21 countries. It entered into force on March 6, 1997. Twenty-four countries have signed the Convention to date, and 9 have ratified (Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela). The United States signed the Convention on June 2, 1996 at the OAS General Assembly in Panama City. President Clinton transmitted it to the Senate on April 1, 1998, for advice and consent to ratification.
What are the next steps?
The OAS also adopted the "Inter-American Program to Combat Corruption" at the 1996 OAS General Assembly in Lima to encourage its members to follow up on the Convention with concrete measures--for example, to draft codes of conduct for public officials. Chile has agreed to host a conference in July to flesh out the "Inter-American Program" and to chart next steps.
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