Governments around the globe seek to curb corruption to counter its negative effects on political stability, welfare, economic development and international trade and investment. In 1999, the Governments in Asia-Pacific resolved to cooperate in the fight against corruption by launching the Anti-Corruption Initiative for Asia-Pacific under the joint leadership of the Asian Development Bank and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (ADB/OECD).
Bhutan became a member of the Initiative in September, 2007 as its 28th member. As of today, there are 31 member countries committed to action against corruption. 31 countries and jurisdictions from Asia and the Pacific that have joined the Initiative are Afghanistan; Australia; Bangladesh; Bhutan; Cambodia; People’s Republic of China; Cook Islands; Fiji Islands; Hong Kong, China; India; Indonesia; Japan; Republic of Kazakhstan; Republic of Korea; Kyrgyz Republic; Macao, China; Malaysia; Mongolia; Nepal; Pakistan; Republic of Palau; Papua New Guinea; Philippines; Samoa; Singapore; Solomon Islands; Sri Lanka; Thailand; Timor-Leste; Vanuatu; and Vietnam. These countries have jointly developed the Anti-Corruption Action Plan for Asia and the Pacific and works together towards its implementation. The Action Plan sets out the goals and standards for sustainable safeguards against corruption in the economic, political and social spheres of the countries in the region.
The Initiative’s work is guided by the Steering Group, comprising representatives from the member countries, the Advisory Group and the Secretariat. The Steering Group meets annually to review the progress of the implementation of the Action Plan and exchange experiences of reforms initiated by member countries, discuss and agree on the work and strategy of the Initiative.
The Steering Group meeting (SGM) and the seminar/conference, which is held back to back, bring together senior policy-makers and anti-corruption actors from the member countries, experts and observers from international and regional organizations and initiatives, members of the Advisory Group and the Secretariat. Member countries host the three days meeting and the seminar/conference on a voluntary basis. The last SGM and the regional seminar were hosted by Mongolia in November 2015.
Bhutan, represented by the Anti-Corruption Commission has been playing an active role in policy dialogue and capacity development, exchange of information/experience and strengthening cooperation between the members and its development partners. Using the platform of the Initiative, Bhutan engaged in almost every SGM, conference and seminar to share its latest developments in the anti-corruption field. Further, Bhutan particpated in two thematic reviews (of the four reviews undertaken by the Initiative so far) namely, “The Criminalization of Bribery” in 2010 and “Corporate Measures to Prevent and Detect Corruption” in 2014.
With Gross National Happiness (GNH) as her development philosophy and with strong political will to fight corruption, Bhutan has made great strides in this field. Global trends of the country related to Good Governance and particularly the fight against corruption has been increasing over the years. Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index ranked Bhutan as the 27th least corrupt country out of 168 countries and territories which is further corroborated by the increase in National Integrity Score from 7.44 in 2009 to 8.37 in 2012. Progressive trends is also shown by World Bank’s World Wide Governance Indicator in “control of corruption”. Corruption does not feature as “the most problematic factors for doing business” in Bhutan as per the 2015 - 2016 Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum.
Therefore, hosting the 2016 SGM and the seminar provides Bhutan with the opportunity to: 1) reiterate the strong Political Will and the country’s commitment in fighting corruption; 2) provide a platform for ACC to showcase its best practices as well as learn from its regional counterparts; and 3) promote the capacity development of ACC and law enforcement authorities in the country through wider exposure on recent developments in the field of anti-corruption.