Today’s guest post is from Luz E. Nagle, a Professor at Stetson University College of Law who specializes in international law and international criminal law.
Legal professionals can play a vital role in the development and promotion of anti-corruption policies and regulations. Different ways that legal professionals can participate in national and international anti-corruption efforts was discussed recently at an international panel of experts at the Fifth Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in Panama City, Panama. The following is a summary of the main topics discussed.
Getting lawyers involved during the legislative process. Attorneys can advocate for public policy changes and raise awareness of the applications and implications of laws intended to combat corruption. Brazil and Canada are good examples of how legal professionals engage in the global fight against corruption.
In Brazil, the Anti-Corruption and Compliance Committee of the Brazilian Institute of Business Law (IBRADEMP), on its own initiative, created a study group to review the anti-bribery legislation then pending at Congress. This group, made up of more than 20 legal professionals from different backgrounds, reviewed the draft anti-corruption legislation, identified sections needing improvement and submitted written reports suggesting changes to Congress. Representatives of IBRADEMP also testified at Congressional hearings and discussed the legislation with the drafters and enforcement authorities. In total, the IBRADEMP spent more than 1,000 hours discussing the anti-corruption bill. As a result, Congress approved several suggestions of the study group.
Canadian lawyers took a similar approach with regard to an anti-corruption bill seeking compliance with the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. The Canadian Bar Association formed an Anti-Corruption Team of lawyers in private practice and in-house counsel to achieve two goals: 1) to educate the legal profession on compliance and anti-corruption requirements; and 2) to conduct an in-depth study on corruption and make recommendations on the bill pending before the Canadian Parliament.
OECD and UNODC efforts to involve lawyers during on-site reviews. According to Patrick Moulette, Head of OECD’s Anti-Corruption Division, practicing lawyers also collaborate in legal reforms through the monitoring mechanism of OECD’s site visits. During these visits, OECD staff meets with government and non-governmental representatives, licensing bodies, in-house counsel, academics, and legal compliance professionals. Mr. Moulette highlighted that legal practitioners offer particularly trenchant views prioritizing the fight against corruption that are often included in the site reports.
The UNCAC also has articles through which individuals, groups, and civil society are encouraged to participate in anti-corruption efforts. According to Ms. Annika Wythes, a Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), representatives of her office meet with bar associations and chambers of commerce to engage discussion of a country’s conformance with the Convention. She mentioned that input from legal practitioners has impacted state implementation of different sections of the Convention. She suggested that if a country is under review, practitioners should involve themselves throughout the entire process, and should contact people in their government to offer assistance.
Both OECD and UN site reviews present opportunities for lawyers and bar associations to speak with a stronger collective voice. Their recommendations can be incorporated into the recommendations of the reviewing body. At the Panama City event, lawyers who had participated in such reviews reported that their governments seemed more likely to hear their input because it came in the context of a UN or OECD review.
The International Bar Association (IBA) has issued Anti-Corruption Guidance with a range of practical and substantive recommendations to assist bar associations in creating, developing and promoting anti-corruption initiatives for the legal profession. Hopefully, initiatives similar to those in Brazil and Canada will develop in other countries in around the world.
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Post authored by Carlos Henrique da Silva Ayres, FCPAméricas Contributor