Speech by minister Hoekstra at the panel discussion on establishing an International Anti-Corruption Court

Speech by Minister of Foreign Affairs Wopke Hoekstra at the panel discussion on establishing an International Anti-Corruption Court, 1 June 2022.

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

In 2018, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council that businesses and individuals pay more than 1 trillion dollars in bribes every year.

To put that number into perspective: that’s more money than Apple, Google, and Saudi Aramco put together, make in annual revenue.

And this is only the figure for bribes.

The total costs of corruption are much higher.

Reliable figures are hard to come by, but the World Economic Forum estimates it at 5 per cent of global GDP.

About as large as Germany’s economy.

This damage is done in all sorts of ways.

Powerful public figures can inflate the costs of government projects, and make their profits disappear.

Kleptocrats can manipulate elections, repress journalists, and silence civil society.

Government officials can embezzle donor money and distribute these funds to friends and families.

But corruption is about more than the extortion of money.

It’s an assault on the fabric of society, on its stability, prosperity, and security.

Money that could have gone to building hospitals, educating children, or paying the salaries of public servants, instead disappears into rigged elections, untraceable shell companies, and offshore accounts.

Government agencies that should protect people are used to pressure and to silence them.

Countries with the highest corruption ratings are also the ones where most human rights defenders are murdered, and where most civil liberties are breached.

It’s this combination of injustice and impunity that makes corruption so devastating.

It robs nations of their wealth.

It robs citizens of stability and opportunities.

It robs people of their lives.

Kofi Annan rightly called corruption an ‘insidious plague’.

Like a disease, it can go unnoticed while it spreads, but its effects on society are devastating.

And they’re still spreading.

There are 189 parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, and all of them have criminalized corruption in their domestic jurisdictions.

But the problem hasn’t disappeared.

Far from it.

The Corruption Perceptions Index, a report by Transparency International, shows that, over the last ten years:

  • 131 countries remained at the same level of corruption.
  • 23 declined.
  • Only in 25 countries did the situation improve.

So more action is clearly needed.

That is why I’m glad that we’re gathered here today, to discuss establishing an International Anti-Corruption Court.

The Netherlands strongly supports this.

We believe that corruption is a corrosive, that eats away at the foundations of stable societies.

It undermines democracy, the rule of law, and exacerbates inequality.

And there are too many instances where grand corruption goes unpunished.

This is where the international community should step in, with a complementary court that can take over grand corruption cases when states are unable or unwilling to do so.

Like the ICC, such an institution would be a court of last resort.

It would fill a gap in accountability, strengthen international justice, and show victims of corruption that their cases are taken seriously by the international community.

Doing this on an international level is crucial, because corruption – more than most crimes – often has an international dimension.

Money flows across borders to untraceable locations.

Establishing an Anti-Corruption Court would be a serious step in the right direction.

Not in the least because autocratic regimes that violate the rule of law, are often also highly corrupt.

This court would provide the international community with an additional instrument to safeguard the rule of law.

It’s also an excellent business case.

Imagine if we could use all the money that is lost on corruption for real investments: in economies, in health, in education.

A court in itself is not going to achieve this.

But it will be a large step towards fairness, as well as stability.

And I believe that we should take it.

Thank you.