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General Assembly – Side Event on “Safeguarding Sport from Corruption – Towards UNGASS 2021”

Statement delivered by Ambassador Stefano Stefanile, Deputy Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, at the UN Side Event on “Safeguarding Sport from Corruption – Towards UNGASS 2021” —

The Italian Mission is pleased to be part of this event, which represents an important follow-up to a Resolution – Resolution 7/8 – that Italy had the honour to table at the 7th Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, in November 2017.

Our appreciation goes to the first promoter of today’s event – the Russian Federation – that has also been one of the main advocates of the implementation of Resolution 7/8, including through the organization of two successful conferences in Vienna, in June 2018 and September 2019.

We also wish to acknowledge the role played by Qatar and Monaco, as co-chairs of the Group of Friends of Sport for Peace and Development, as well as the role played by Colombia, which has taken the lead in the promotion of the UNGASS 2021 on Corruption.
A special recognition goes to UNODC, which plays a crucial role in advancing international cooperation to effectively address corruption in sport, within the framework of the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

Sport is universally recognized as a formidable vehicle for education, health and inclusion. It has the power to bring people together, to break language and cultural barriers, to spread the values of friendship, solidarity and fair competition. It is also a driver for social and economic growth.

But sport is also a thriving business, and as such it is exposed to the risk of corruption and other crimes, such as illegal betting, match fixing, doping, frauds and deviance in the adjudication of major sport events and related procurement or concessions such as TV broadcasting rights. Corruption in sport has to be considered in this broader context.

The Italian National Antimafia Prosecutor has addressed several international conferences to share experience and best practices in investigating sport-related crimes. In each of these circumstances, he has underlined the importance to tackle the involvement of organised crime, which tries to exploit sport’s vulnerability to corruption in order to launder money and make profit. Criminal organizations involved in sport often operate across borders. In light of this link between corruption in sport and organized crime, strengthening judiciary and law enforcement international cooperation, also based on the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, is a priority.

In the past years, the international community took some important steps. The London Summit in 2016 launched a multilateral and cross-sectoral exercise called IPACS (International Partnership against Corruption in Sport) and the G20, under the 2017 German Presidency, acknowledged sport as a corruption-risk area, as highlighted in the Hamburg Declaration. From a regional perspective, the Council of Europe promoted in 2014 the signing of one of the most important Conventions in this area: the Macolin Convention on the manipulation of sports competitions, which entered into force the 1st September 2019, following the ratification of an additional Group of Countries, including Italy.

In this context, Resolution 7/8 tabled by Italy at the 7th Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, in November 2017, recognized the need to address corruption in sport in a comprehensive manner and provided a policy toolkit that UN Member States should use to safeguard sport from corruption. The Resolution also highlighted the importance of a collective and concerted effort among a variety of actors: Governments, law enforcement Authorities, Olympic Committees, sport associations, and the private sector.

To better counter corruption risks in sport, also in the UNCAC and UNTOC frameworks, it is time to move, as today’s event emphasizes, from issue advocacy to concrete action. In particular, in order to give full implementation to and go even beyond Resolution 7/8, it is necessary that sport bodies, Olympic movements and national committees, strengthen dialogue and practical cooperation with law enforcement authorities in order to effectively detect corrupt practices. From this point of view, we welcome the decision of the International Partnership Against Corruption in Sport (IPACS) to hold its next plenary back to back to the VIII Conference of State Parties of UNCAC in Abu Dhabi next December.

As the host country of major sport events in the coming years – Cortina World Ski Championship in 2021 and, namely, the Winter Olympic Games in Milan and Cortina in 2026 – Italy feels a special responsibility to ensure that the sport environment remains healthy and that sport continues to be a catalyst for the promotion of ethical values, especially among young generations. In this framework let me recall that the General Assembly “omnibus” resolution on crime, facilitated by Italy on yearly basis, calls on MSs to adopt preventive measures, including education and private –public cooperation, and to strengthen international cooperation in order to effectively tackle corruption and related crimes.

At national level, much has already been done:
• match-fixing was introduced as a criminal offence 30 years ago, in 1989;
• since 2011 a National Platform for Coordinating Activities to Prevent and Fight Illegal Betting and Match-Fixing has been operating within our Ministry of Interior;
• a country-wide protected reporting system based on private-public cooperation tailored for crimes in sport has been developed in order to shield athletes and whistle-blowers who denounce illicit conducts;
• the Italian National Anti-Corruption Authority (ANAC) has developed with the OECD a specific mechanism of surveillance of public procurement, mainly for major sport events.

However, there is no space for complacency and we are aware that further measures are needed at national and international level. The UN General Assembly Special Session on Corruption in 2021 will provide a unique opportunity to envisage a series of concrete and additional measures to implement Resolution 7/8 and to achieve concrete progress in understanding and tackling corruption in sport. We should start to prepare for this important appointment and today’s event can be regarded as a first step in that direction.

I thank you for participating in this conference and wish you all a very productive discussion.