29 September 2008The United Nations today launched a five-year plan to help Iraq prevent and combat corruption, a key element in the Government’s efforts to rebuild the fledgling democracy after years of strife and misrule. “In the past, Iraq’s national wealth was stolen, its public assets were squandered, and its common wealth was dished out to cronies of the regime. The anti-corruption system needs a complete overhaul,” said Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC). “By ratifying the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) last March, the Government of Iraq demonstrated its commitment to fight corruption. The UN is providing the tools to do the job,” he added. The new initiative, which will be carried out jointly by UNODC and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), is designed to strengthen Iraq’s main anti-corruption bodies, as well as promote greater cooperation among them through the Joint Anti-Corruption Council. A national anti-corruption law is currently being drafted.Projects will focus on strengthening prevention, transparency, accountability and integrity in the private and public sectors, in line with the UN anti-corruption treaty.“The aim is to put in place the legal framework and build capacity to deter corruption at all levels of government, improve internal and external oversight, and strengthen anti-corruption law enforcement,” said UNDP Country Director Paolo Lembo.The programme, which will be partly funded with resources from the UN Iraqi Trust Fund, will also strengthen the capacity of Iraqi anti-corruption officials to prevent, detect and investigate money-laundering, and enable asset recovery. “Under the old regime, billions of dollars were stolen from the Iraqi people. As a party to the UN anti-corruption Convention, it will be easier for the new Government of Iraq to recover those assets,” said Mr. Costa. Tackling corruption is one of several commitments undertaken by the Government under the UN-backed International Compact for Iraq, launched in May 2007.The Compact, a five-year national development plan, includes benchmarks and mutual commitments from both Iraq and the international community, all with the aim of helping the country on the path towards peace, sound governance and economic reconstruction.