On August 26, the Philippine and United States governments gathered more than 120 participants from across Asia and the Pacific for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Pathfinder Dialogue II. Held in Cebu City, Philippines, the conference addressed corruption and illicit trade.
Representatives from APEC, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Pacific Islands Forum—including anti-corruption investigators, policy makers and law enforcement officials—attended the conference. The event allowed participants to share methods to combat the harmful corruption that enables human trafficking, illegal logging, wildlife trafficking, as well as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
The Honorable Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, chair of the APEC Anti-Corruption and Transparency Working Group (APEC ACT), gave opening remarks, highlighting the importance of continuing domestic, regional and international cooperation across sectors, industries and borders to “dismantle the web of criminal elements”.
“The APEC Pathfinder Initiative has focused on the importance of interregional partnerships, information-sharing, best practices and developing innovative ways to disrupt and dismantle the web of corruption and criminality related to illicit trades,” said David Luna, senior director for national security and diplomacy from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. “We hope that a commitment to integrity and enforcement can help to safeguard our rainforests, endangered wildlife, oceans and fisheries, and also protect our human capital and children, and promote the empowerment of women across Asia-Pacific economies.”
Aziz D. Perez, Philippines’ undersecretary of fisheries, said that the conference was the first forum that provided an opportunity to present corruption and illicit trade within the fisheries sector. He also strongly advocated for “sustainable fishing and eliminating illegal, unregulated and underreported fishing practices through an interagency … partnership”.
Conference participants produced a set of strategies that highlight the need for multi-agency, multi-disciplinary national teams; the use of corruption risk assessments and intelligence sharing; the effective use of systems to detect money laundering, as well as asset forfeiture and seizure; the analysis of technology, including social media and other communication networks, to identify the extent of criminal organizations; the protection of victims, witnesses and whistleblowers; and the need for strong international cooperation, including in investigation and prosecution.
The Honorable Greg Hunt MP, Australia’s minister for the environment, commended participants’ work on combatting corruption as “fundamental in helping ordinary citizens … throughout the APEC region to strive and prosper where they can without the heavy hand of corruption and organized crime”.
Noting that corruption, transnational crime and unsustainable resource extraction “will affect every person in this room and our families and loved ones,” Peter Ritchie, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative’s (ABA ROLI’s) regional anti-corruption advisor, called on participants to form alliances and partnerships to understand the linkages between corruption and crime, and to “tackle those threats in a successful way and with a great sense of urgency”.
Guided by the APEC ACT five-year strategic plan, Pathfinder Dialogue activities will continue to support APEC’s agenda to build a better world and to promote sustainable economic growth and development through shared prosperity.
ABA ROLI’s regional anti-corruption advisor helped with developing thematic discussion topics and identifying expert speakers and participants while the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimeprovided logistical and financial support. Following the APEC Pathfinder Dialogue, ABA ROLI and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) held a roundtable to further examine the role of corruption in human trafficking. Roundtable participants reviewed draft principles for combating corruption in human trafficking. Developed by the OECD, with inputs from ABA ROLI, the draft principles will guide future law enforcement and anti-corruption programming.
More information about the APEC Pathfinder Dialogue, including speaker presentations, reports and future plans, is available here: http://www.2015PathfinderDialogue.com.
To learn more about our Regional Anti-Corruption Advisor program, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at email@example.com.