Corruption poses a significant problem for a number of member countries. The Commonwealth Secretariat has initiated an anti-corruption project which provides member states with the legislation and tools to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute corrupt activity, and trace and confiscate the proceeds.
We have held workshops on asset recovery and international co-operation in anti-corruption investigations. Through these we have engaged the services of international legal experts, forensic accountants, investigators and prosecutors. This work seeks to build legal and technical expertise to help memeber states implement preventive measures to stop the roots of corruption and strengthen proactive measures to recover and return stolen assets to the public.
The continual growth of transnational crime has made it vital that states are able to seek and provide assistance by extradition and mutual legal assistance. As a result, one of the key continuing mandates of the Criminal Law Section is to facilitate international co-operation capacity and practice.
The increase in production of fake goods has resulted in the need to develop mechanisms to combat counterfeiting and piracy. This has been linked with organised crime and terrorism. The Secretariat is working to develop and maintain local expertise and best practice for use by enforcement officers and prosecutors.
Many Commonwealth countries do not have enough lawyers to effectively draft legislation, which leads to a backlog of new laws. This is because much of the work involved in drafting laws requires highly skilled and specialised lawyers.
A curriculum for a 12-week course has been developed under the auspices of the Secretariat. These courses are intended to minimise periods of absence from drafting offices while the specialist attorneys are trained.
We have three informal schemes which member states can chose to participate in:
We have also set up the Commonwealth Network of Contact Persons. This provides an initial point of contact in a country for those seeking mutual legal assistance. This point of contact can be approached to gain informal advice on how to initiate a formal mutual legal assistance request and the requirements.
Our HIPC Initiative is a method to reduce the debt of a heavily indebted poor country. It aims to help countries manage repayment of their existing debt or take on new debt through a mixture of sound policies, generous debt relief, and new inflows of aid.
We give legal advice to member countries facing active debt litigation, or likely to face litigation from commercial creditors. Technical and advisory support is given to strengthen legal expertise and negotiating abilities regarding loan agreements. We are also working towards the enactment of a fiscal responsibility framework which if adopted will bring fiscal discipline in the countries.
Twenty two countries have benefitted from our HIPC Initiative and have received debt relief. They are: Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guyana, Honduras, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.