Good morning everyone. Thank you for inviting me to such a wonderful and important event. I’d like to acknowledge the guests of honor by standing on existing protocol.
Corruption is a problem faced by all societies around the world. It knows no boundaries. It touches numerous vital elements of society: rule of law, transparency, good governance, criminality, poverty, and ultimately, democracy itself. The United States recognizes this and is taking action.
In June 2021, the Biden – Harris administration released the National Security Study Memorandum on the Fight Against Corruption. This Memorandum highlights the President’s commitment to prioritizing anti-corruption efforts and bringing greater transparency to U.S. and international financial systems.
With this Memorandum, the President formally established the fight against corruption as a core national security interest of the United States. Think about this – the President is not treating corruption as merely a crime or societal issue, but as a core national security interest of the United States.
The Memorandum directed the U.S. government to formulate a report and recommendations on how the U.S. government and its partners can modernize, coordinate, and resource efforts to better fight corruption; curb illicit finance in the U.S. and international financial systems; hold corrupt actors accountable; elevate our diplomatic engagement while preserving and strengthening the multilateral anti-corruption architecture; and bring diplomatic efforts and foreign assistance resources to bear strategically, reinforcing each other to advance our policy goals.
Later, on December 6, 2021, the White House released the United States Strategy on Countering Corruption. Some of you may remember this during the lead-up to the inaugural Summit for Democracy.
This first-ever United States Strategy on Countering Corruption lays out a comprehensive approach to how the United States will work domestically and internationally, with governmental and non-governmental partners, to prevent, combat, limit, and respond to corruption and related crimes.
As the Strategy highlights, corruption drains the public resources needed to lift people out of poverty, improve health outcomes, and ensure that children have access to a quality education.
The Strategy places special emphasis on the transnational dimensions of corruption, including recognizing the ways in which corrupt actors have used the U.S. financial system and other rule of law-based systems to launder their ill-gotten gains. One of its central pillars calls for international partnerships to counter this transnational threat.
While systemic corruption remains a pervasive challenge within countries, it has also become a transnational threat that causes severe harm to communities and democratic institutions around the world.
The Administration is confident that implementation of this strategy will lead to new, bold, and decisive actions to combat global corruption in U.S. engagements overseas and will limit the ability of criminals to move stolen funds through the U.S. and international financial systems. The United States recognizes our own responsibility in addressing deficiencies within our legal regime in order to strengthen global efforts to limit the proceeds of corruption and other illicit financial activity.
The State Department will elevate and mainstream anti-corruption efforts across the Department. On December 9, Secretary Blinken announced the creation of a Coordinator on Global Anti-Corruption who will integrate the fight against corruption across all aspects of U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance.
The United States has encouraged partners from around the world to announce impactful commitments to advance the themes of the Summit for Democracy, and we hold ourselves to the same standard. The Strategy on Countering Corruption demonstrates the Administration’s commitment to a whole of government approach to fighting corruption, and mirrors anti-corruption priorities we are working to advance with democracies from around the world. We will continue to work with partners to make strides in the fight against corruption throughout the 2022 Summit for Democracy Year of Action and beyond.
Here in Nigeria, the United States has a long history of working on anti-corruption initiatives with government and civil society organizations, such as technical training and capacity building. This is an inter-agency partnership, with efforts from the Department of Justice, Department of State, and USAID. While these are great starts, there is more to be done. That’s why I’m thrilled to see you all here today ready to cooperate on the common goal of combatting corruption.
I’ll close with a quote directly from the Strategy on Countering Corruption, which accurately describes the people and groups in this room: “Countering corruption is not a simple task. Changing embedded cultures of corruption requires significant political will, and achieving sustained progress can take decades. Positive change requires consistent leadership, public accountability, an empowered and impartial judiciary, and
a diverse and independent media. Mindful of these realities, the United States will increase support to state and non-state partners committed to reform, boost the capacity of other governments to tackle corruption, and empower those, including activists, investigative journalists, and law enforcement on the front lines of exposing corrupt acts.”
Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from our experts in today’s workshop.