The United Nations Convention Against Corruption: A Critical Overview

32 Pages Posted: 11 Apr 2006

See all articles by Rajesh Babu

Rajesh Babu

Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Calcutta

Date Written: March 1, 2006


Corruption is a global problem which poses serious threat to the development of a country and its people. States, developed or developing, are equal victims of this problem. Corruption, apart from affecting the public at large, also causes reduced investment, lack of respect for the rule of law and human rights, undemocratic practices and diversion of funds intended for development and essential services, affects government's ability to provide basic services to its citizens. Most importantly, corruption has the greatest impact on the most vulnerable part of a country's population, the poor. Further, corruption today has become one of the most salient manifestations of the organized crime syndicate of the globalized world, which has grave national and international ramifications.

Establishing a legal framework to combat corruption at the national and international levels is not an easy task. While many States have already embarked upon a national strategy to deal with corruption, and criminalized it when committed domestically, there is no uniformity in approach taken by these countries. Further, the issue of corruption as a transnational crime poses many challenges. The different legal systems do not have the same notion about establishing "criminality" regarding corruption as a crime. The lack of effective cooperation in sharing of information and investigation, the complications in judicial assistance, bank secrecy regulations etc., are just few examples which pose problems of great magnitude.

As causes of corruption differ from one country to another, and preventive, enforcement and prosecutorial measures that work in some countries may not work in others, the United Nations, an organization with universal membership and a global mandate, is ideally positioned to deal with global challenges. It was in this context that the States mandated the UN Office for Drugs and Crime (ODC) through the UN General Assembly to establish an Ad Hoc Committee to negotiate a comprehensive United Nations Convention against Corruption, which was finalized and adopted in 2003. The Convention came into force on 14 December 2005, when it attained thirty ratifications.

The United Nations Convention against Corruption 2003 is now the most important anti-corruption instrument with global scope of application. The UNCAC obligates Member States to undertake certain obligations and common standards, which need to be implemented or incorporated into their respective domestic legal systems. Most of the obligations require State Parties to enact new laws or incorporate/amend the existing laws. To achieve this, the Convention attempts to set certain minimum standards, which could be used by the States within their domestic legal system and in international cooperation. This paper attempts to provide a critical overview of the UN Convention against Corruption, with a comparative analysis of the other regional anti-corruption instruments.

Keywords: International Corruption, Anti-Corruption, UNCAC

JEL Classification: K14, K20, K33

Suggested Citation

Ravindran, Rajesh Babu, The United Nations Convention Against Corruption: A Critical Overview (March 1, 2006). Available at SSRN: or

Rajesh Babu Ravindran (Contact Author)

Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Calcutta ( email )

Joka, Diamond Harbour Road
Calcutta 700104, West Bengal 700104

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