On the Global Organisation of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC)

Spotlight
20 March 2018
Author picture
Roy Cullen
Senior Public Policy Consultant at GOPAC

Taxlinked (TL): Tell us a little bit about the history of the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption and how it got started (GOPAC)?

Roy Cullen (RC): GOPAC was founded in October 2002 as a result of a Global Conference in Ottawa, Canada, which brought together over 170 parliamentarians and 400 observers dedicated to fighting corruption and improving good governance. It was at this meeting that the Board of Directors approved the GOPAC Constitution. GOPAC became a legal entity in the fall of 2003, a not-for-profit under Canadian law.
 
GOPAC is unique in that it is the only international network of parliamentarians focused solely on combating corruption. Its members represent more than 50 countries in all regions of the world. They are current or former legislators or legislators who have been denied their right to take office. Their collaboration is non-partisan.

TL: To date, what have been GOPAC’s major successes?

RC: Corruption is a clandestine activity, thus making it very difficult to measure success in metrics. To address this, GOPAC has published a document, Making a Difference: Victories in the fight against corruption, which is a record of many of the achievements of our members and chapters. While there is still much work to be done, these stories serve as reminders that parliamentarians can fight the scourge of corruption and make the world a better place for generations to come.
 
One example of a success story that I personally was part of: Kyrgyzstan was admitted into the EGMONT Group at the Plenary, which was held May 24-28, 2009 in Doha, Qatar. The admission of the Kyrgyzstan Financial Intelligence Unit into the Egmont Group was a gratifying experience for GOPAC considering that some years ago the GOPAC Anti-money Laundering task force worked with parliamentarians from that country and assisted them in drafting and successfully introducing anti-money laundering legislation into their Parliament. GOPAC also assisted GOPAC members in Kyrgyzstan when they sought funding to launch the Financial Intelligence Unit in that country.

TL: What’s in store for the organization during the next 5 years? Any projects or campaigns that are worth noting?

RC: GOPAC is facing some funding challenges, but the following are two key initiatives moving forward:
 
1. Prosecute GRAND CORRUPTION as a crime under international law:
 
GOPAC membership unanimously mandated GOPAC to establish grand corruption as a crime of international law to enable international institutions and alliances to apprehend, prosecute, judge and sentence the guilty. This mandate was declared at the Fifth Global Conference of Parliamentarians Against Corruption, held in Manila, Philippines, in February 2013.

Following the Global Conference, GOPAC worked with its chapters and international partners to develop options to fulfill the mandate given by the members.  In the fall of 2013, GOPAC released a discussion paper outlining those options. The paper was widely circulated to the GOPAC membership, parliamentarians, observers and partners to seek opinions on the most viable solutions to prosecute perpetrators of the worst forms of corruption.
 
On 27 November 2013, GOPAC convened an in-depth discussion of these options at the Forum of Parliamentariansan event parallel to the Fifth Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, held in Panama City, Panama. What emerged was a bold Declaration where GOPAC members resolved to:
 
  • Encourage states to enact and implement laws that place crimes of grand corruption under universal jurisdiction, within the responsibilities of their national law enforcement agencies, national prosecutors, and national courts;
  • Encourage regional courts to accept and enforce jurisdiction to adjudicate crimes of grand corruption committed in their respective geographic regions of responsibility;
  • Encourage states, the United Nations, and international institutions to deem crimes of grand corruption as crimes against the common community of humanity in violation of peremptory norms and international law;
  • Encourage states, the United Nations, and international institutions to recognise crimes of grand corruption as being crimes against humanity, and;
  • Encourage states, the United Nations, and international institutions to develop additional international mechanisms to apprehend, prosecute, judge, and sentence those who have committed crimes of grand corruption.
2. Demand greater transparency and accountability in the disclosure of the beneficial owners of corporations and trusts.
 
The GOPAC position paper on this subject is located HERE.

TL: Currently, what are the biggest challenges or obstacles to the curtailment of corruption throughout the globe?

RC:
  • Public cynicism (corruption is a cultural phenomenon and here to stay);
  • The Executive branches of governments are most typically the targets of corruption (Presidents/Prime Ministers/Ministers are key decision makers) and this branch of government is critical for bringing in measures to combat corruption. Why would they be motivated to do so when they are beneficiaries? Hence, the important role for legislators, and;
  • Prizes are huge and sanctions weak.

TL: What sorts of strategies are used to prevent politicians from engaging in corrupt practices, something that seems easier said than done? 

RC:
  • Tougher legislation and sanctions;
  • Public disclosure of the income and assets of ‘politically exposed persons;’
  • More transparency and accountability over beneficial ownership declarations of corporations and trusts, and;
  • Public engagement.

TL: Is there anything else you’d like to let our community know?

RC: Check out GOPAC’s web site (http://www.gopacnetwork.org) and support our work.