Panama City, AMM - summary of day 1

Date : 30/11/2016

The world’s largest anti-corruption gathering, 29 November - 4 December 2016, Panama-City


Day 1

The opening session of Transparency International's (TI) Annual Members' Meeting in Panama was addressed by the Chair, Jose Ugaz, who highlighted the rapid increase in attacks on TI Chapters - rising from an average of two a year five years ago, to over 20 this year:  In Rwanda, one TI member was murdered and, following many threats, four supporters were killed in Honduras. Mr Ugaz mentioned also that the TI leader in Maldives was imprisoned and was subsequently released, following repeated protests.

On a more positive note, TI leaders who attended the Anti-Corruption Summit, held in London in May 2016, on the initiative of the United Kingdom, the then Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron, succeeded in extracting undertakings from many of the 600 delegates present to publish the beneficial ownership of overseas assets held by their citizens. Also, TI France won its case against the Obongo family in the Courts, thus permitting the French authorities to seize their illegally-acquired assets: these assets will be channelled to the region, via the World Bank.
The CEO of TI, Cobus de Swardt, outlined a number of priority issues facing TI in the period to 2020, notably ensuring that fraudsters would not escape public immunity and that major corruption cases would be speedily punished. Mr de Swardt deplored the action of disparate social activists who diluted the work of civil society, who have been fighting corruption for decades, by merely focussing on single issues.

In the discussion, it was emphasised that the flow of traditional development aid was diminished by a move to military and refugee aid. Mr de Swardt noted that aid was focussed on middle income recipients at the expense of the Less Developed Countries: Aid donors were now not just major States but also were private groups and individuals, which sometimes diluted the efficacy of the aid flows.
Later that day, workshops debated specific topics in detail, notably tackling regional problems as well as the need for Open Government Partnership (OPG), the opacity of defence procurement and the need for more transparency in the operations of the extractive mining industry. Belgium is still not an OGP-member, even if e-government seems to be high on the agenda. The power of the pharmaceutical industry to distort markets was raised. TI UK is creating a taskforce to work on this topic, and other TI Chapters were urged to join this work. Another workshop discussed the impact of major corruption on the human rights of citizens - it was vital to work with civil society and journalists to combat this crime. One of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (Goal Nr. 16) was the elimination of such corruption by 2030. This goal is part of TI's 2020 strategy.

Finally, a lively debate centred around the need to concentrate on using the most effective strategies and methods to fight corruption, tailored to the individual situation in each region or country.
Brendan Sinnott and Evert-Jan Lammers, 29 November 2016