Sunday Read: What is CoSP??

National Whistleblower Center
6 min readNov 6, 2023
This article was sent as part of NWC’s “Sunday Read” series that aims to educate supporters about the laws governing corruption and the role whistleblowers play in securing justice. For more information like this, please join our mailing list.

This December, a treaty body which gives guidance to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) will meet to present new methods for tackling corruption. The Conference of the States Parties (CoSP) to the United Nations Convention against Corruption is the biannual meeting where state parties — with input from non-governmental organizations, international organizations, decisionmakers, and more — assess their progress and present new ideas to limit and prevent this global and omnipresent risk.

The goals of the CoSP naturally align with the National Whistleblower Center’s (NWC) mission, which is “to support whistleblowers in their efforts to expose and help prosecute corruption and other wrongdoing around the world.” The match is very practical and NWC is proud to announce it was invited to participate in CoSP’s tenth session in Atlanta, Georgia from December 11–15, 2023.

In this Sunday Read, we’ll explore the meaning of CoSP and the significance of the NWC’s presence in Atlanta next month.

About CoSP 10

The United Nations is an influential intergovernmental organization at the center of global cooperation and human rights initiatives. The U.N. brings Nations together around agreements called “conventions.” The U.N. has a number of committees, initiatives, and treaties that have impacted global politics and the lives of millions as a forum for cooperation between countries and fostering shared values worldwide.

The Conference of States Parties (CoSP) is an opportunity for representatives from countries that have signed and ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption (“the Convention”) to discuss how their countries are fighting corruption and discussing policy ideas for the committees responsible for overseeing this Convention.

The Conference was established as per article 63 of the Convention and has created subsidiary bodies operating under its mandate to assist in carrying out its work. These subsidiaries include working groups on Prevention and Asset Recovery, and are supplemented by an expert meeting on international cooperation. UNCAC invites non-profit organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGO), journalists, and others to observe and present at the conference. There are also a number of side events that create a forum for ever more robust discussion. The conference is held in a different location for each instance; this December the conference will be hosted by the United States and take place in Atlanta, Georgia.

This is the tenth meeting of states parties under the Convention. CoSP 10 will provide a chance to reflect on what the international community has achieved in the fight against corruption and also outline a vision for what must be done over the next 20 years. National Whistleblower Center’s participation in this event will enable NWC experts to ensure whistleblowers are highlighted in this important planning process.

CoSP Priorities in 2023

CoSP 10 is using its milestone to address specific priorities in the U.S., its host country, which are also emblematic of global issues. These priorities include:

Promoting Stronger Law Enforcement Cooperation on Asset Recovery. With a special focus on practitioners, the CoSP can help move multilateral asset recovery discussions away from finger pointing toward more constructive, technical discussions that achieve concrete results. This type of engagement can help countries make meaningful progress on actual asset recovery cases and ensure the proceeds of corruption are returned to their rightful owners.

Strengthening Global Action to Promote Financial Transparency and Integrity. Expanding on the dialogues from the Summit for Democracy, G7 and G20 for example, the U.S. will work with interested partners to advance issues such as transparency of beneficial ownership of companies, corruption in high-risk sectors such as real estate, and addressing the role of gatekeeper professions. This work will help tackle the financial secrecy that corrupt actors rely on to hide their proceeds of corruption.

Pushing for Stronger Measures to Promote Accountability. Ensuring accountability and ending impunity are cornerstones of the fight against corruption. Collaboration with States Parties will aid in following through on commitments to investigate and prosecute corruption as well as to deny safe haven to corrupt actors and their ill-gotten gains. These efforts will help advance the objectives of the Summit for Democracy and its Democracies Against Safe Havens Initiative. As attendees at the IX Summit for Democracy which was held in Los Angeles in 2022, NWC is a natural contributor to this focus area.

Highlighting the role of civil society in the fight against corruption. This priority is perhaps where NWC can contribute the most. Governments cannot fight corruption alone, and the U.N. has acknowledged this opportunity to showcase the experience and expertise civil society brings and contributions it can make to countering corruption.

“As part of these efforts, the United States is organizing the first ever Anti-Corruption Civil Society Forum prior to the Conference,” as stated on the CoSP10 site. “This will be one of the largest gatherings of anti-corruption NGOs from around the world and it will enhance dialogue between States Parties, civil society, academia, and other stakeholders, and we hope it will lay the groundwork for further action during the CoSP.”

The NWC’s Role In Fighting Global Corruption

Whistleblowers are integral to exposing and preventing corruption in government and among corporations and those tasked with public health and safety, among others. In recent years, NWC has been invited to participate in the Transparency International, International Anti-Corruption Conference as well as the IX Summit of the Americas. Furthermore, NWC was selected as one of the Grand Prize Winners of USAID’s Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge.

NWC’s participation at CoSP further demonstrates that the organization is a recognized authority in this practice area, and that global leaders in the fight against corruption value our input and perspective.

“CoSP is the perfect opportunity for NWC to observe discussions about global anti-corruption efforts and grow the community of whistleblowers supporters worldwide. It is an honor to be invited,” said NWC Executive Director Siri Nelson.

Whistleblowers are addressed and included in the UN Special Report on Human Rights Defenders. At CoSP, NWC will further its work in highlighting that importance of whistleblowers and their protections in international anti-corruption efforts.

One such milestone for the NWC and the whistleblower landscape was the enactment of the Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Whistleblower Improvement Act in 2022. NWC has long advocated for program improvements to the AML whistleblower program and NWC supporters also engaged in advocacy efforts to ensure these improvements continue to be a priority.

The AML Whistleblower Improvement Act proved effective almost immediately. On Jan. 23, 2023 the Department of Justice announced charges against Charles F. McGonigal, a former Special Agent in Charge of the FBI New York Counterintelligence Division, and Sergey Shestakov, a former Soviet and Russian diplomat with violating U.S. sanctions against Oleg Deripaska, another Russian oligarch. McGonigal is one of the highest-ranking former FBI officials ever charged with a crime.

The DOJ asserted that in 2021 McGonigal and Shestakov, “conspired to provide services to Deripaska, in violation of U.S. sanctions imposed on Deripaska in 2018.” As reported by Whistleblower Network News (WNN), the defendants in both cases face money laundering charges as well as sanctions evasion charges.

These achievements in legislation are indicative of the NWC’s influence.

“NWC is non-partisan and above all, we are committed to advancing whistleblower rights and educating decision makers about the value whistleblowers can bring to their enforcement efforts,” Nelson said. “The invitation to observe CoSP is a wonderful and unique opportunity to engage with global policymakers, learn from them, and bring actionable takeaways back to our own organization to help further our mission.”

Support NWC

NWC will bring a three-person delegation to Atlanta, Georgia this December. This delegation of diverse representatives will allow NWC to make new connections and spread the word about whistleblowing to global leaders. The trip will cost nearly $7,000 and your support is urgently needed to help cover these costs. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit our awareness building work is made possible with the support of our generous donors. Please consider donating as much as you can today to support NWC’s participation in CoSP 10 in Atlanta, Georgia this December.

This story was written by Justin Smulison, a professional writer, podcaster and event host based in New York.

Updated information about the United Nations and NWC’s involvement in various U.N. projects has been provided by Scott Hajost, National Whistleblower Center’s Senior Wildlife and Climate Policy Advisor.

--

--

National Whistleblower Center

National Whistleblower Center is the leading nonprofit working with whistleblowers around the world to fight corruption and protect people and the environment.