7th International Seminar of the OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) “Combating Corruption — A Pre-Requisite for the full realization of All Human Rights and Sustainable Development” Excellencies, Distinguished Panelists, Honourable Commissioners of the OIC IPHRC, Ladies and gentlemen, At the outset, I would like to extend my gratitude to the OIC - Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (OIC-IPHRC) for organizing this very timely Seminar on combating corruption and assessing its dire consequences on the achievement of the human rights agenda. In line with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision, fighting corruption and ensuring protection of all human rights are the top priorities of our Government. We are therefore glad to host this important meeting in Islamabad. Ladies and gentlemen, Corruption is an enormous obstacle to the realization of all human rights — civil, political, economic, social and cultural, as well as the right to development. It strikes at the very roots of good governance and democracy. It erodes public trust in the legitimacy of state institutions, undermines the rule of law, and violates the values of transparency, accountability, justice and fair play. It also undermines the successful implementation of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by hampering economic growth, increasing inequality, and inhibiting prosperity. In particular, corruption stifles opportunities for the poor and marginalized and condemns them to a life of misery and inequality. It leads to massive illicit financial flows out of developing countries. In addition to deadweight economic losses, corruption creates inefficiencies and dysfunctions and skews the allocation of public resources away from those most in need. The United Nations High-Level Panel on Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity (FACTI) has calculated that a staggering 7 trillion dollars in stolen assets are parked in the financial “safe havens” destinations. This organized theft and illegal transfer of assets has profound consequences for the developing nations. There is no doubt that this stolen money siphoned off from the public treasury could have been spent to meet development needs; to lift people out of poverty; to provide children with education; to bring essential medicine to families; and to stop hundreds of preventable deaths and injuries that occur every day. The COVID-19 pandemic has further widened existing inequalities, pushed millions of people into extreme poverty, and resulted in loss of millions of jobs. Allowing corruption and illicit financial flows to continue in these circumstances is nothing short of criminal. Immediate and robust national and international action is needed to stop the bleeding of developing countries. Ladies and Gentlemen, 15 years have passed since the adoption of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), which remains the only legally binding international instrument on anti-corruption. Unfortunately, despite explicit UNCAC provisions, there are increased barriers in the asset recovery process as well as their speedy return to countries of origin. Curbing illicit financial flows and recovering and returning stolen assets can contribute to effective resource mobilization for achieving SDGs. We continue to emphasize that the requested States should return the recovered assets without conditionalities to the States of origin. We should explore the possibility for an additional protocol on asset recovery under UNCAC. At the same time, framing corruption as a human rights issue and pursuing a ‘human rights-based’ approach to corruption can help complement the efforts to prevent and combat corruption and promote more effective implementation of international anti-corruption instruments. So long as corruption remains undefeated, efforts to promote the realization of human rights can achieve little. Ladies and Gentlemen, Islam is a religion, which guides all aspects of human life. Fighting corruption in the Islamic context is rooted in the Holy Quran and the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed Peace Be Upon Him, both of which extensively address the major types of corruption, such as bribery, extortion, nepotism, and favoritism. Deriving guidance from the Islamic teachings, Prime Minister Imran Khan has given a vision of ‘Corruption free’ Pakistan. We have undertaken measures to build and strengthen robust systems for accountability, transparency and integrity. We are trying to pursue a proactive three-pronged approach to combating corruption, including awareness raising, prevention, and enforcement. We have supplemented existing legislation to induce transparency and openness in the public sector including through facilitating citizens’ right to information. Pakistan’s Citizen Portal app has received international recognition for an effective use of technology for enhancing public delivery. Due to our sustained efforts, visible positive socio-economic changes are taking place in the country. Prime Minister Imran Khan has also been regularly highlighting the need to combat the scourge of corruption at the international level, particularly to address the phenomenon of illicit financial flows. Pakistan spearheaded a resolution on the role of Parliamentarians in combating corruption at the 8th Session of the Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention Against Corruption held in Abu Dhabi, UAE, in 2019. At the recently held 9th Session in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, last month, Pakistan joined Nigeria and Palestine in jointly tabling a resolution on enhancing transparency into beneficial ownership information. We will continue to promote this issue at all relevant international forums. Ladies and Gentlemen, The OIC countries must actively explore innovative ideas and initiatives to strengthen the existing international framework to prevent corruption and to end impunity. Today’s seminar is an opportunity for all of us to explore and develop these ideas further. The FACTI Panel’s report and first-ever UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) against Corruption with its Political Declaration adopted last year served as important milestones in the global efforts to prevent and combat corruption. However, these documents will not transform into meaningful actions without dedicated follow-up processes. To this end, the OIC countries must take bold initiatives. As a first step, the OIC may consider establishing an open-ended intergovernmental ad hoc committee to prepare concrete and technical proposals for supplementary legal frameworks. While conducting its work, the proposed ad hoc committee of OIC experts could focus on the following priority areas: -First, establishment of an OIC protocol and implementation mechanism for mutual legal assistance within the OIC countries on issues of corruption and stolen assets; - Second, developing a coherent, transparent, and inclusive mechanism under the UN auspices for strengthening the international legal framework on monitoring illicit financial flows and return of stolen assets; -Third, establishment of a global beneficial ownership registry; -Fourth, reviewing and revising unequal investment treaties procured through corruption. Once finalized, these proposals could be presented to the UNCAC Conference of State Parties for consideration. Ladies and Gentlemen, In conclusion, Pakistan’s commitment to eradicating corruption remains clear and firm. Our fight against corruption is essential to achievement of 2030 Agenda and the sustainable development goals. We must join hands to address the underlying factors and enablers of corruption at both the national and international levels. I thank you.