USIS Washington 

18 February 1999


(Gore says corruption threatens global prosperity) (670)
By Phillip Kurata
USIA Staff Writer

Washington -- Representatives from 79 governments and scores of
international bodies and non-governmental organizations gather in
Washington February 24 to 26 for the first global conference devoted
to fighting corruption.

"As we move into the global information age, foreign corrupt practices
threaten to undermine both the growth and the stability of our global
trade and financial system," conference host, Vice President Al Gore
said. "Nowhere are the consequences more evident than in emerging and
developing economies."

Billed as a "new approach" to fighting corruption, the U.S. government
intends for the conference to develop methods to enforce integrity
among justice and security officials, including police, border
officials, military personnel, prosecutors and judges.

The prime mechanism by which the war on corruption will be waged is
"peer review," according to a State Department document. That means
once governments make public commitments to outlaw corruption, they
will be held accountable through a continuous process of mutual

During the three-day conference, panel discussions will deal with
various aspects of the problem, such as private sector corruption,
upholding integrity among justice and security officials, religious
values in the struggle for clean government and ways to make bribery
visible. A special group comprising members from 20 armed forces will
deal with integrity issues specific to the military.

The U.S. goverment intends to submit the conference resolutions to the
members of the Group of Eight (G-8), the seven largest industrial
democracies plus Russia, for approval at the next summit which will
take place in Cologne, Germany in June. The United States also wants
to incorporate the principles and practices against corruption into
the United Nations Global Program against Corruption when the U.N.
General Assembly convenes next October.

The U.S. government urges another government to hold a follow-up
conference in two years to evaluate progress in eliminating the
scourge that Gore says is thriving at a time "emerging economies open
their doors to foreign investment and trade."

The head of the criminal division of the U.S. Justice Department,
Assistant Attorney General James Robinson, says international crime
occupies "easily 50 percent" of his division's time and resources.

"We're dealing as much, it seems some days, with the State Department
as with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. That's been a dramatic
change, the amount of work the Justice Department is doing in the
international arena," Robinson said.

Robinson says the Criminal Division runs international training
programs for prosecutors and police agencies throughout the world,
notably in South America and Eastern Europe where corruption is

"That's an exciting development and increasingly important as our
borders become larely irrelevant in the fight against crime as people
can flee easily and get on the Internet in a foreign country and
engage in criminal activities and frauds," Robinson said.

Vice President Gore has convened the gathering a few days after the
Anti-Bribery Convention of the Organization of Economic Cooperation
and Development (OECD) went into effect. The 29 OECD members,
comprising the world's largest economies, and five developing
countries in Latin America and Eastern Europe, have signed the treaty
that criminalizes bribery of foreign government officials.

The OECD treaty took effect February 15 in the 12 countries that have
ratified the treaty and adopted implementing laws: the United States,
Iceland, Japan, Germany, Hungary, Finland, the United Kingdom, Canada,
Norway, Bulgaria, South Korea and Greece.

Among the signatory countries that have not ratified it are France,
Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium, which account for nearly a quarter
of all OECD exports. France and Italy -- members of the G-8 -- may
balk at U.S. pressure on them to implement the treaty at the Cologne

The treaty "took more than eight years to negotiate," says U.S.
Commerce Secretary William Daley. "The entrenched interests trying to
keep bribery 'business as usual' were hard to beat. These interests
are still trying to maintain the status quo."