Corruption could hinder vaccine distribution, IACC participants warn
Misuse of relief funds needs to be closely scrutinized around the world to ensure that coronavirus vaccines are made readily available for all people, emphasized participants of the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) upon the forum’s conclusion on Friday.
“Nine months after Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, promising vaccines are on the verge of rollout,” the IACC said in a declaration issued on Friday. “The same devastating lack of transparency in public contracting and the misuse of Covid-19 funds that we’ve seen during the pandemic cannot be allowed to undermine the purchase and distribution of vaccines. We must fight to ensure fair and equitable access to the vaccines and a just economic recovery, everywhere, leaving no one behind.”
The declaration, called the Seoul Declaration after the name of the conference's host city, also emphasized the importance of media freedoms, protections for whistle-blowers, protections of ethnic minorities and LGBTQIA+ communities from discrimination and the protection of democratic norms amid growing populism as part of the global battle against corruption.
The world’s largest conference on anticorruption concluded Friday in Korea with a record number of attendees, according to the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission (ACRC), although the events were mostly conducted virtually. The ACRC hosted the conference in Korea on behalf of the Korean government, alongside Transparency International, a nongovernmental organization that annually ranks countries in its Corruption Perceptions Index.
“While we have not been able to gather in person, the virtual conference brought together over 7,000 participants from 135 countries and territories, representing civil society, governments, multilateral agencies, media, academia, the arts, the private sector and concerned citizens,” the IACC said in the declaration.
The sessions, held largely online from Tuesday to Friday, brought together leaders from around the world, including United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, Korean President Moon Jae-in, Chair of Transparency International Delia Ferreira Rubio and famed philosopher and author Michael J. Sandel. Some of the participants from Korea participated in the conference from a studio set up in Coex, southern Seoul.
The first plenary session titled “Designing 2030: Truth, Trust and Transparency” launched the conference on Tuesday, followed by other plenary sessions on peace and social justice, trust-based society, fake news and money laundering.
One of the sessions focused on sharing Korea’s experience in ensuring transparency of information during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It was imperative that the government won the trust of the citizens early on in the battle against the pandemic,” said Kim Gang-lip, minister for food and drug safety, during a session on Wednesday. “Because only when the public trusted the government would they follow its social distancing guidelines. And transparency of information during the pandemic was key in that.”
Korea’s Covid-19 death rate remains considerably lower than the figures in other nations, including the United States. Korea’s early testing and tracing of cases have been considered part of the reason for that.
About 100 workshops were held on the sidelines of the conference, including those by organizations such as Hivos, the Natural Resource Governance Institute International IDEA and the National Democratic Institute, to discuss topics including financial integrity, artificial intelligence, climate change and resource management.
Though originally scheduled to be held in person, the biennial international conference was mostly held online due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Simultaneous translations were provided for every plenary session in all six official languages of the United Nations — English, Spanish, French, Russian, Chinese and Arabic — plus Korean. For the workshops, translations were provided only in English and Korean.
The IACC is normally held every two years. Korea previously hosted the conference in 2003.
BY ESTHER CHUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]