WASHINGTON, USA – The leaders of the multilateral organizations that form the Joint Summit Working Group (JSWG) yesterday highlighted that working collectively must be a priority to strengthen measures to promote integrity, transparency, and accountability, as well as the control of budgets addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through an inter-institutional statement embodied in the Joint Declaration “Addressing Corruption, Integrity and Democratic Governance associated with COVID-19” (in Spanish, here) the entities agreed to continue coordinating joint actions to help the countries of the Western Hemisphere in the fight against the pandemic.
The secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS) Luis Almagro, as president of the JSWG and the director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Carissa Etienne, called on the High Authorities of the JSWG to continue to coordinate efforts to address the impact of COVID-19 in the region and to focus on the key role of governance in response and recovery measures.
Director Etienne presented an update on the health situation in the region, with an emphasis on the progress toward the COVID-19 vaccine in order to make it universally accessible. “There is an unprecedented degree of urgency for the development of potential vaccines for COVID-19, and despite some promising initial results, we do not know when, which or how many of the vaccines in development will be safe and effective for use,” said the PAHO leader.
“Given the uncertainty of the current landscape, the portfolio of candidate vaccines managed by the COVAX Facility is expected to offer a better opportunity to ensure universal and equitable access to successful vaccines for all countries, regardless of income level,” added director Etienne.
Secretary-general Almagro said that the effects of the emergency have forced states to increase their pace of action to govern in an emergency as well as the discretion of the Executive Power in decision-making, affecting the principle of the balance of powers and the updating of oversight agencies.
For ambassador Michael Kozak, assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs of the United States – which now holds the chair of the Summits of the Americas Process – the JSWG has been fundamental in supporting the countries of the region in the implementation of the mandates derived from the Lima Commitment. “The anti-corruption mandate remains in force and will be a central element on the Summits agenda for 2021,” said ambassador Kozak.
The JSWG Declaration highlighted the role played by the Summits of the Americas Process in addressing the negative consequences of corruption on the economic, health, and social well-being of the hemisphere, as well as the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
In this regard, the Declaration noted: “The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates these risks and presents new challenges that must be recognized and addressed. We are particularly concerned that progress made in tackling the scourge of corruption runs the risk of being compromised as national and sub-national authorities in the region rush to implement new policy responses and emergency measures, including the rapid disbursement of large amounts of public resources and new lines of credit, sometimes without the necessary anti-corruption and accountability safeguards.”
In the context of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the entities of the JSWG underlined their determination, individually and collectively, to support partners in the region (countries, subnational governments, private sector, civil society and journalists) to defend the best practices of democratic governance and integrity to promote the full implementation of international instruments to combat corruption and money laundering in the region.
The United Nations undersecretary-general and regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Luis López Calva, said: “The COVID-19 crisis in Latin America is not just a health and socioeconomic crisis but also a governance crisis.” “It is a systemic shock that has exacerbated pre-existing structural conditions and, without a doubt, will deepen them if there is no determined and effective public action,” added López Calva.
Additionally, the entities committed that their own loan and/or technical assistance programs will recognize and apply in practice standard safeguards on transparency in contracting and availability of public data throughout project cycles, including comprehensive audits by internal authorities and third parties, including civil society.
In the Declaration, the entities placed special emphasis on establishing measures to promote their accountability mechanisms, as well as public access to their activities. These measures, highlights the document, will inform their support programs for democratic governance and against corruption, in applying the standard safeguards on transparency and in contracting their own loan and/or technical assistance programs.
The Joint Summit Working Group is made up of:
- The Organization of American States (OAS)
- The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)
- The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)
- The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)
- The World Bank
- The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA)
- The Development Bank of Latin America (CAF)
- The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB)
- The Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI)
- The International Organization for Migration (IOM)
- The International Labour Organization (ILO)
- The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
- The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)