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General Assembly Special Session on “Challenges and Measures to Prevent and Combat Corruption and Strengthen International Cooperation”

Statement of the Minister of Justice, H.E. Prof. Marta Cartabia at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on “Challenges and Measures to Prevent and Combat Corruption and Strengthen International Cooperation”.




Mr. President of the General Assembly,

Mr. Secretary General,

Distinguished Colleagues and Delegates,

It is an honour for me to address the first ever Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly devoted to the fight against corruption.

I wish to offer some remarks as representative of the Italian government and in the capacity of Italy as President of the G20. I also avail this opportunity to thank the International Organizations and bodies, UNODC in particular, for their continuous engagement and support.

We are in this historic place at this historic time, eager to adopt a landmark political declaration to renew our commitment to the fight against corruption and international cooperation in this field. Such a Declaration will provide many inputs to the preparation of the G20 Anti-Corruption Action Plan for the years 2022-2024, to be adopted later this year under the Italian Presidency of the G20.

The pandemic plunged the international community in the worst global crisis since the Second World War. Corruption too is a global threat, challenging our societies and economies. It obstructs sustainable economic growth, distorts market competition, undermines the rule of law and erodes trust between citizens and governments. In addition, it is a severe impediment to building prosperity and security for our countries and communities. That is why the fight against corruption plays such a crucial role.

The Pandemic has revealed the need for efficient multilateralism and effective international cooperation in order to strengthen our domestic legal systems. In this framework, the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 Agenda is a source of inspiration, especially through Goal 16 on Peace Justice and Accountable Institutions, which we consider a cross cutting deliverable, covering the entire sustainable development paradigm.

Our commitment shall be not limited to a legal and judicial dimension but shall also involve social and cultural vitality, and notably civil society and young people. The corrupt and their corrupters are “thieves of the future” of next generations. But, at the same time, in front of the ever-growing determination of young people to oppose all forms of corruption, we shall repeat, with judge Paolo Borsellino – brutally killed in 1992 by mafia– that a strong ally in combating corruption is “the beauty of the fresh scent of freedom”. This vision and this hope call for our effort to build public institutions firmly rooted in the ethos of the rule of law, the safeguards of democracy and the protection of human rights.

It is precisely this vision that motivated the Italian legislator to adopt an advanced legislation and an innovative anti-mafia code to introduce the model of social reuse of confiscated assets. The rationale of this legislation is to give back to society what organized crime and corruption has taken away from it. In fact, this model represents a form of compensation for communities that have been damaged by the most serious criminal phenomena. It has a deep economic and symbolic value. Moreover, it is of great importance the involvement of civil society as a whole in the strategies to prevent and combat organized crime and corruption. I am particularly glad that this Italian model has been projected in the Political Declaration at paragraph 49 to be adopted during this special session of the UN General Assembly.

It has been said that, “law is the strongest link between man and freedom”, that “if one man’s rights are denied, the rights of all are endangered”.

Those words, used by Robert F. Kennedy in his first formal speech after becoming US Attorney General, illuminate the rationale behind the common commitment against corruption. It is also and above all a far-reaching strategy to ensure that any person, starting from the more vulnerable, can enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

In this perspective, Italy is strengthening its own legal system to better prevent corruption, to raise transparency in the public sector and especially in public procurement; to hold people and entities accountable, to ensure adequate protection to the whistleblowers and investigative media.

Italy is also engaged in pushing the G20 global anticorruption agenda towards a new era of enforcement. Preventing and fighting corruption more effectively, requires the capacity to measure corruption in a more scientific, reliable and objective manner. The Italian Presidency of the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group has moved from an analytical background to an innovative pathway for improving corruption measurement: a compendium of good practices is being prepared with the help of the OECD and a set of high-level principles on corruption related to organized crime are being negotiated.

Corruption nowadays is not just a bilateral scheme on giving and taking bribes. It is more complex and sophisticated than it was two or three decades ago. The academy and civil society have often highlighted the new characteristics of corruption: fluid, widespread, networked, interconnected with the business and with organized crime, so much so that a broader definition of “organized corruption” has been introduced and it needs a comprehensive response.

That is why Italy has focused the work of the Anti-Corruption Working Group of the G20 particularly on:
– Fight against innovative forms of corruption related to organized crime,
– New risk areas like sports and corruption during emergencies and crises.

Today’s General Assembly Special Session is an excellent opportunity to renew our personal and collective commitment to curb corruption and build trust for the next generation. Contrasting corruption is in fact a matter of personal commitment and responsibility as every human being is required to take the decision of not remaining complicit in a “culture” of corruption. At the same time, it is a matter of collective commitment and responsibility, since public institutions are at the forefront in strengthening the rule of law and spreading a culture of legality in the civil society.

On this common path, none of us can rest!

I thank you all for your attention.


Ministry of Justice – Minister Cartabia at the UN General Assembly Special Session