Global Platform with National Vision

Riyadh Anti-Corruption Initiative
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz.

Saudi Arabia has contributed $10 million to establish the Global Network of Anti-corruption Law Enforcement Authorities (GlobE), said Head of the Saudi Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority (Nazaha) Mazin al-Kahmous.

The Kingdom “understands that overcoming the challenges of cross-border corruption crimes requires close interaction between the relevant law enforcement authorities,” he added.

His remarks were made to announce launching the Riyadh Initiative, which is aimed at establishing the law enforcement network, which marked the beginning of a new international cooperation in the field of anti-corruption.

The initiative was launched by the Kingdom under its presidency of the Group of Twenty (G20) in 2020. It was inaugurated in the UN headquarters in Vienna on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s first special session against corruption that was held in early June 2021. 

It is important to mention two major ideas before tackling the international network and its significance:

First, the corruption phenomenon is a very old scourge that dates back to the establishment of regimes and governments. It threatened many economies through its traditional methods, including theft and bribery.

However, the developments seen by the world due to globalization, the intertwining of ties and the convergence of distances have facilitated ways for the corrupt to circumvent and bypass laws.

In fact, many of these crimes have become committed in the cyberspace away from supervision, follow-up and scrutiny. This has led to an expansion of its geographical operations on the one hand and of the networks of those involved in its crimes on the other hand, which requires international cross-border cooperation to fight corruption.

Second, corruption, which affects and threatens societies and their stability, has increased dramatically with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime Ghada Waly said almost $3 trillion is lost annually to global corruption, noting that the pandemic turned from a health crisis into several major social and humanitarian crises, in which crime gangs have been active.

Her statements came in line with comments by the CEO of Transparency International, Daniel Eriksson, who stressed that the pandemic represented a golden opportunity for corrupt governments. The influential corrupt people did not hesitate to embezzle money and accumulate it in their personal accounts without legal or moral deterrence.

Head of the Saudi Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority (Nazaha) Mazin al-Kahmous.

It is now possible to highlight the importance of the Initiative in establishing a global network that would provide the funds required to face the repercussions of the pandemic.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed his appreciation to Saudi Arabia for its funding of the Riyadh Initiative. “Corruption is not only immoral, but is a serious crime. It is often organized, and crosses borders,” he said.

This report is divided into two sections to highlight the importance of launching this network, its objectives and guarantees of its success.

First: The Riyadh Initiative Network

Specific Goals and Mandatory Guarantees

The Kingdom is keen to ensure the success of its global anti-corruption initiative. It has precisely defined the objectives it aims to achieve by establishing this network. These may be summarized as follows:

1- Develop a rapid and effective tool to combat cross-border corruption crimes;

2- Enhance cooperation between the relevant anti-corruption authorities;

3- Establish a secure global platform to facilitate the exchange of information between anti-corruption law enforcement authorities and to promote the recovery of stolen funds; and,

4- Launch a capacity-building program for employees within the network.

In order to achieve these goals, a set of guarantees or procedures should be followed at the local and international levels.

On the local level, citizens and resident should report crimes of bribery, financial and administrative corruption and other corrupt acts.

For their part, relevant local authorities should provide the necessary means and tools that enable citizens to report these crimes. They should also protect them and maintain the confidentiality of their data to prevent any harm for reporting corruption crimes.

On the international level, it is important to enhance the active participation of various countries in establishing the GlobE network.

Kahmous called on the international community to actively participate in the establishment of the network, provide the necessary support for the success of this initiative and follow up on its development, in a manner that serves the common interests of all countries.

Cooperation among different countries remains the most effective guarantee in curbing and confronting corruption.  This will positively reflect on societies that will in turn enjoy sustainable development in integral and transparent environments.

Guterres stressed this point by affirming that the “UN system will continue to provide technical assistance to fight corruption, backed by the UN Common Position on Corruption agreed in the run up to the Special Session and based on the UN Convention against Corruption.”

The success of this Initiative also requires consolidating its cooperation with existing platforms and networks in the field of unofficial international cooperation. These include the Global Law Enforcement Network (GLEN) and the Law Enforcement Officers Network (LEOs) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and Interpol.

The GlobE Network was officially launched on 3 June 2021, in a special event in the margins of the UN General Assembly special session against corruption (UNGASS). From L-R, Head of the Saudi Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority Mazin al-Kahmous, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime Ghada Waly, and Moderator: Mr. Jonathan Tirone, Bloomberg. (Website of UN Office on Drugs and Crime)

Second: Riyadh Initiative and Kingdom’s Vision 2030

Saudi Arabia’s launching of the Riyadh Initiative under its presidency of the Group of Twenty (G20) complemented the future vision launched in 2016 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.

The Saudi leadership realized that in order to attain the objectives of its Vision 2030 and improve the living standards of Saudi citizens, it should have a clear and integrated system to fight corruption. This is based on its understanding of the extent of the danger posed by corruption at the political, economic, social, security and cultural levels.

The Crown Prince said that corruption had “spread like a cancer” over the last decades to the extent that it was depleting around five to 15 percent of the state budget.

“The phenomenon perpetuated for not only one or two years but accumulated for 30 years... Truly, I consider this scourge an enemy that is endangering development and prosperity.”

Therefore, the Kingdom has taken all the measures to fight corruption in line with its Vision 2030 and provided support to the competent national authorities and committees for this aim.

With the implementation of reforms aimed at ensuring transparency at every level, corruption is becoming “a thing of the past,” Prince Mohammed stressed, noting that all corrupt people will be held accountable.

He further pointed to the outcomes of the anti-corruption campaign launched by Saudi Arabia, noting that the total amount collected from the settlements stood at SR247 billion over the last three years (2017-2020), representing 20 percent of the total non-oil income in addition to tens of billions of other assets.

The Kingdom has achieved outstanding success in fighting corruption locally, in line with its development vision which sought to reduce complex bureaucratic procedures, expand the variety of e-services, adopt transparency and immediate accountability, as well as other goals aimed at fighting corruption by attaining 17 scientific and methodological requirements.

Saudi Arabia is also aware of the difficulty of eliminating corruption alone, since the phenomenon is one of the threats that require international solidarity and global cooperation to be addressed.

The GlobE network complements the Kingdom’s efforts to cooperate with the international community in the fight against corruption.

Saudi Arabia signed relevant international conventions, such as the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime in November 2000 and its complementary protocols which addressed (in articles 8 and 9) the criminalization of corruption and measures to fight it, in addition to the Riyadh Arab Agreement for Judicial Cooperation (1999) and the Arab Anti-Corruption Convention (2010).

The Kingdom presented further various regional and international initiatives aimed at fighting and rooting out corruption.

In short, establishing the GlobE network represents a significant step in the fight against corruption. It enables relevant law enforcement authorities in different countries to expand their legal processes through unofficial cross-border cooperation, which contributes to bringing the corrupt to justice.

This network also helps various countries reach practical solutions and actual steps to track and investigate corrupt practices and prosecute the perpetrators.

“Turning the tide against corruption is essential if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, promote peace and protect human rights,” explained Guterres.