Remarks by Dr. Ashok Nigam, UNRC and UNDP RR at Nazaha 2: on Governance, Transparency and Accountability

Feb 20, 2017


Your Royal Highness, Prince Faisal bin Bandar, Governor of Riyadh

Your Excellency, Dr. Khaled bin Abdulmohsen Al-Muhaisen, President of Nazaha

 Excellencies, Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

Al Salaam Alaikum

I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to Dr. Khaled bin Abdulmohsen Al-Muhaisen, President of Nazaha for organizing this high level event under the auspices of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques His Majesty King Salman focusing on governance, transparency and accountability.

Distinguished guests,

On January 2016, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — adopted by world leaders in September 2015 at an historic UN Summit — officially came into force.  Over the next fifteen years, countries will mobilize efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that "no one is left behind".

Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals is fully aligned with this conference’s theme; “governance, transparency, and accountability in public and private sectors”.  Goal 16 is dedicated to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, the provision of access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels.

The Saudi Vision 2030 represents an ambitious blueprint that is full of long-term goals and expectations. Saudi Vision 2030 and the SDGs are similar not only in their respective timeframes, but in their multi-dimensional approach to sustainable development.

Saudi Arabia has expressed its commitment to achieve the SDGs. Both the SDGs and the Saudi Vision 2030 call for inclusive processes of development whereby all stakeholders get involved.

Vision 2030 commits to meeting high standards of transparency and accountability. The Vision calls for a commitment to manage finances efficiently and effectively, and to create agile public organizations, tracking performance and achieving results. Corruption is an obvious impediment to achieving the goals.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message, delivered to the Anti-Corruption Summit, in London on 12 May 2016 stressed on a major point, namely that corruption and bribery threaten not just to undermine our collective efforts to achieve Goal 16, but the entire 2030 Agenda by exacerbating inequalities, siphoning off essential funds from schools and hospitals, stifling growth, hampering innovation and spreading environmental devastation.  Corruption threatens the achievement of the Saudi Vision 2030 and the targets in the National Transformation Plan.

At the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, held in Addis Ababa in July 2015, countries agreed that financing is considered the linchpin for the success of the new sustainable development agenda.  Domestic resource mobilization is central to the agenda. Countries also agreed to an array of measures aimed at widening the revenue base, improving tax collection, and combatting tax evasion and illicit financial flows.

The UNCTAD World Investment Report 2014 estimates that total investment needs in developing countries alone range from $3.3 trillion to $4.5 trillion per year, for basic infrastructure (roads, rail and ports; power stations; water and sanitation), food security (agriculture and rural development), climate change mitigation and adaptation, health, and education. At today’s level of investment – public and private – in SDG-related sectors in developing countries, there is an average annual funding shortfall over 2015-2030 of some $2.5 trillion.  This is a big enough challenge but if we do not combat corruption with good governance, transparency and accountability then the bill can be considerably higher and these can be the single most important impediment to the achievement of the SDGs globally, and in the case of Saudi Arabia, also for Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Plan.

Corruption impacts development in a disastrous manner, especially since funds that should be allocated to schools, health clinics and other vital public services are instead diverted into the hands of criminals or dishonest officials.  In the long term an even greater impact is the perpetuation (and almost normalization) of such behavior, delaying for generations to come, the development and progress of countries.

In achieving sustainable development, and in particular SDG Goal 17 on partnerships, the private sector plays a major role in fighting corruption.  Back in 2013, on International Anti-corruption Day High-level Plenary, then Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki Moon urged representatives from the world of business to engage with the UN Global Compact, to join the Call to Action and to ask Governments to give priority to anti-corruption measures in the post-2015 development agenda. The UN Global Compact is “The world's largest corporate sustainability initiative”.  It is a call to companies to align strategies and operations with universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, and take actions that advance societal goals.  Principle 10 of the Global Compact states that businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.

As Mr. Ban ki Moon noted “No country is immune, and every country bears a responsibility to end it (corruption)”.  I would add to this that “everyone” bears a responsibility to end corruption.  Good governance, transparency and accountability are critical in fighting corruption and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

I wish you all success for Nazaha 2.


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