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Speech from Morgan Johansson

Statement by Mr Morgan Johansson on challenges and measures to prevent and combat corruption and strengthen international cooperation


Special session of the General Assembly, United Nations, New York, 2–4 June 2021

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Mr President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, let me express my gratitude to the UNODC and the Conference of the States Parties for their efforts in preparing and organizing this special session, despite the challenges of a global pandemic.

Sweden welcomes the declaration and theme of this special session. They mark our common determination to combat corruption. We welcome the declarations strong focus on the role that civil society, academia, private sector and media play to identify, detect and report on cases of corruption.

Sweden supports the statement made on behalf of the European Union

There is a number of key elements that could be further emphasized in our common efforts to prevent and combat corruption. Let me point out a few.

First of all, I am proud to say that Sweden in most international evaluations comes out as one of the countries in the world with the lowest prevalence of corruption. And when you ask me why, I have one word, and that is transparancy.

Transparancy is crucial. Transparency helps us to expose corruption, but it is not enough. Real transparency in its turn relies on access to information and official documents. To expose corruption, we also need freedom of the media and strong legislation to protect the whistle-blowers.

I speak from experience. Transparency and freedom of the media have on several occasions made it possible to reveal misconducts. Empowered and protected by constitutional rights to access official documents, the Swedish media has made exposures that has given my government and previous governments the opportunity to act forcefully.

The right to get access to official information makes it possible to detect corruption. But it can also prevent corruption. Compelling officials to think twice if they consider taking advantage of their position, for instance.

Transparency also relies on the citizens legal freedom to communicate with the media without fear of penal consequences. It is equally important that authorities and other public bodies are legally prohibited to investigate and to undertake any negative measures against the citizens when using their legal freedom.

The rights to access official documents and protection of the anonymity of sources are vital rights in a modern democracy.

To expose corruption, employees also need the right to report misconduct. This is important for the individual worker and an important part of a free and democratic society. No one should be afraid of being terminated from work for being a whistle-blower.

So, there we have the key elements: transparency, freedom of the media and protection of the whistle-blowers and the right for public officials to spead to media anonymously without being afraid of losing their jobs, guaranteed in the constitution: that’s why corruption levels in Sweden are low. But to prevent and combat corruption on a global scale, we need to combine all our efforts working together at all levels.

Therefore, international cooperation and coordination between the EU, GRECO, the OECD and UN play an important role in our collective efforts against corruption.

Last, let me point out that one of the biggest obstacles to sustainable development is corruption, and that is putting the whole 2030 Agenda at risk. Sweden has therefore made anti-corruption an explicit goal in our strategies for development cooperation. Countries that we work with in development cooperation must take corruption very serious, and that is a very cleas signal from us.

Let me also stress that women and girls are disproportionally affected by corruption. The commitment to gender equality and the empowerment of women that we make in the declaration is a welcome first step in addressing the gender-differentiated impact of corruption.

Sweden looks forward to the possibility to participate in the discussions these coming days. And therefore, let us work together to achieve tangible results in the fight against corruption.

Thank you!