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ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Thursday underlined that inclusive and sustainable development was not possible unless transparency and accountability were ensured.

In his keynote address to the inaugural session of a seminar on corruption and human rights jointly organised by the Government of Pakistan and the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission of Organization (IPHRC) of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), he highlighted the efforts made by Pakistan to combat corruption especially illicit financial flows as well as promotion and protection of all human rights.

He presented an actionable way forward for the OIC group in curbing corruption and realising the human rights agenda including through creation of an inter-governmental committee, establishment of an OIC protocol and mechanism for mutual legal assistance, reviewing unequal investment treaties, and formation of a global beneficial ownership registry.

“Corruption strikes at the very roots of good governance and democracy. It erodes public trust in the legitimacy of state institutions, undermines the rule of law, and violates the values of transparency, accountability, justice and fair play,” he added.

It also undermines the successful implementation of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by hampering economic growth, increasing inequality, and inhibiting prosperity, he said, adding in particular, corruption stifles opportunities for the poor and marginalised and condemns them to a life of misery and inequality.

He said that organised theft and illegal transfer of assets has profound consequences for the developing nations, adding there is no doubt that this stolen money siphoned off from the public treasury could have been spent to meet development needs; to lift people out of poverty; to provide children with education; to bring essential medicine to families; and to stop hundreds of preventable deaths and injuries that occur every day.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has further widened existing inequalities, pushed millions of people into extreme poverty, and resulted in loss of millions of jobs,” he added.

Immediate and robust national and international action is needed to stop the bleeding of developing countries, he said, adding 15 years have passed since the adoption of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), which remains the only legally-binding international instrument on anti-corruption.

“Curbing illicit financial flows and recovering and returning stolen assets can contribute to effective resource mobilisation for achieving SDGs,” he added.

He said that Pakistan will continue to emphasize that the requested states should return the recovered assets without conditionalities to the states of origin.

He also called upon the OIC countries to actively explore innovative ideas and initiatives to strengthen the existing international framework to prevent corruption and to end impunity.

In their separate video messages recorded for the seminar, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Assistant Secretary General of the OIC, and the IPHRC chairperson also delivered remarks during the opening segment.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, in her video message on the occasion, stressed that combating corruption contributes to the full realisation of human rights and is also vital to recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic.

She said the UN has produced complete guidance for states and others to prevent corruption in the manufacturing, allocation and distribution of anti-Covid vaccines.

She said the need for a comprehensive action to stem corruption was also emphasized earlier this year when the UN General Assembly held its first ever session on corruption.

The OIC Assistant Secretary General, Askar Mussinov, urged the OIC member countries to devise their national anti-corruption plans.

He said that it is important to reinforce the capacity of human rights institutions, media and civil society to play an active role in anti-corruption efforts.

He said that the number of OIC countries including Pakistan have made fighting corruption as their top priority and also took corresponding actions such as establishment of relevant agencies to combat this menace in an apolitical and independent manner.

The chairperson of the OIC Human Rights Commission Haci Ali commended Prime Minister Imran Khan’s stance regarding countering illicit financial flows from the developing countries.

He emphasized for strengthening institutional capacities and integrating the role of technology to combat corruption and promote transparency and accountability.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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