Tackling corruption in international investment

International investment is a primary engine for boosting economic growth and rapid recovery, with a view to contributing to the attainment of 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Governments invest a significant portion of their national budgets in investment projects. However, there is often a sizeable investment gap due to the vast demand for development. To address the investment deficit, governments often need to cooperate with international players, such as foreign governments, multilateral financial and development institutions, or business entities, including through public-private-partnership. Foreign direct investment (“FDI”) also play an important role. By investing abroad, private sector actors expand their business and open up new markets, which, for States hosting the investments, can lead to additional tax revenues, increased employment, and easier access to new technologies. Against this backdrop, international investment plays a vital role in helping countries, in particular developing countries, mobilize global resources, bridge financing gaps and promote economic development.

Corruption poses significant threats to countries around the world and negatively affects the attraction and retention of foreign investments. It weakens institutions, erodes trust and threatens economic growth, including undermining fair competition and discouraging investment. Due to their vast financial scale, complex delivery requirements, and involvement of international players, international investment projects are constantly exposed to higher corruption risks.

Resolution 8/9 of the Conference of States Parties to UNCAC, adopted at its Eighth Session in December 2019 in Abu Dhabi, noted the positive role of international investments and the importance of minimizing opportunities for corruption and transfer of proceeds of crime in this context. In its resolution, the Conference requested the UNODC to consider organizing expert meetings and discussions to discuss the issues of the existence and extent of corruption and transfer of proceeds of crime in the context of international investments, with a view to raising awareness of existing issues in this area and promoting the implementation of UNCAC and other relevant international instruments.

At its special session on challenges and measures to prevent and combat corruption and strengthen international cooperation, held from 2 to 4 June 2021 in New York, the General Assembly adopted the political declaration “Our common commitment to effectively addressing challenges and implementing measures to prevent and combat corruption and strengthen international cooperation”. The political declaration also noted the importance of minimizing opportunities for all acts of corruption in international investments, and the Member States, inter alia, committed to adopting measures at the national level to put safeguards in place to prevent business and investment policies from being abused by corruption offenders.

In order to enhance synergies between promoting sustainable development through the support of UNCAC implementation and mitigating corruption risks in relation to international investment projects, UNODC is helping States dealing with such projects to improve their accountability and integrity structures, by developing and disseminating relevant knowledge products, enhancing the exchange of information, good practices and knowledge, promoting international cooperation and strengthening capacities in the prevention and combating of corruption in international investment.

The UNODC project entitled “Fostering Sustainable Development by Supporting the Implementations of UNCAC in Countries along the Silk Road Economic Belt” is designed for this purpose:

UNODC is also working to build synergy between anti-corruption and foreign investment specialists. Enhancing cooperation and the understanding of issues of the existence and extent of corruption in the context of FDI and investor-state dispute settlement will facilitate discussion of challenges and identification of ways forward for minimizing the risks of and opportunities for corruption in foreign direct investment and appropriately addressing corruption allegations in investment-state dispute settlement mechanisms.

Further information on UNODC’s work in this regard can be found at: