WASHINGTON, December 7, 2010 - The International Corruption Hunters Alliance, a network of more than 200 anti-corruption officials from 134 countries, met for the first time today at the World Bank Group's headquarters to discuss how to advance the investigation and prosecution of corrupt actors, including those who defraud World Bank projects.
"Stealing is bad enough; ripping off the poor is disgusting. We need to trigger a moral revulsion as well as a legal reaction," said World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick. "In many parts of the world, corruption buys impunity, strangles fair opportunity, cripples competition, encourages conflict, stalls economic transformation and chokes growth. The rule of law must be at the center of the development agenda."
The meeting, which is supported by the Governments of Australia, Norway and Denmark, aims to accelerate global action against fraud and corruption, particularly when it harms development resources. One objective of the alliance is to pursue the international enforcement of national anti-corruption and asset forfeiture laws to yield higher-end results. The meeting will drive for commitments and outcomes in bribery prosecutions, asset recovery, public interest litigation, legal assistance, promoting greater transparency and monitoring of performance.
The alliance flows from a group of regional networks of anticorruption enforcement personnel that the World Bank Integrity Vice Presidency (INT) launched in January 2009, building on a pilot network that was supported by the Government of Norway. The first regional network was set up in Sub-Saharan Africa and included 25 officials. The initiative was then scaled up to Latin America and the Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa, East and South Asia, in addition to Europe and Central Asia.
"When I joined the World Bank, I recognized the value this concept can bring to our work as a global development institution and likewise contribute to the anticorruption mission of these national champions," said Leonard McCarthy, World Bank Integrity Vice President. "Under this Alliance, we are convening a global force of like-minded professionals who are often times under fire; officials whose success can inspire confidence in development effectiveness, knock back corruption and mobilize timely support when they need it."
At this week's meeting, members of these networks will be joined by other World Bank partners, including the Serious Fraud Office (UK), OLAF, European Parliament, United Nations, U.S. Department of Justice, OECD and Interpol, among others. Speakers at the event include former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy. The level of global commitment to the success of this alliance is demonstrated by the generous financial contributions from the governments of Australia, Norway and Denmark.
"We have seen that individual efforts and smaller networks are achieving successes against corruption," said Zoellick. "A larger alliance, such as the one we are launching today, can amplify that effect, triggering a more rapid flow of information and igniting a chain of crime-fighting reactions."
In recent years, the World Bank Group has prioritized governance and anticorruption as part of its reform agenda. Building on years of experience in investigations and sanctions, INT has been ramping up its investigative and preventive efforts to protect Bank Group-financed projects, while holding wrongdoers accountable for any waste of development funds. The International Corruption Hunters Alliance marks an important feature of INT's partnership portfolio, which includes cooperation agreements with OLAF, SFO (UK), ICC, Interpol, AusAid and USAID.
"While our focus remains on preventing, investigating and sanctioning fraud and corruption impacting Bank-financed projects, we embrace global opportunities to assert integrity," said McCarthy. "The dialogue is advanced; change and analysis must multiply action."