01. December 2021

OECD recommends anti-corruption Collective Action in its revised Anti-Bribery Recommendation

2021 OECD Anti Bribery Recommendation

The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) has recommended the use of Collective Action to address corruption in its long-anticipated revised Recommendation of the Council for Further Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions ("2021 Anti-Bribery Recommendation").

This is a positive step in efforts to bring together the public and private sectors, civil society and other stakeholders in the fight against bribery.

It is the first time that Collective Action has been explicitly and formally recommended in a key international standard addressing bribery. The endorsement builds on increasing global attention to the need for Collective Action and multi-stakeholder collaboration to address complex challenges from corruption and climate change to human rights.

Why is the endorsement significant?

First, in holding governments accountable. The Anti-Bribery Recommendation is one of the legal instruments included in the rigorous peer review mechanism for parties to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention have to undergo.

Future monitoring reports will thus enable the private sector and civil society to identify what efforts countries are making to encourage Collective Action approaches to combat bribery.

Second, for inspiration and guidance. Many non-member countries look to the OECD anti-bribery instruments for inspiration and best practices. Alerting these countries to Collective Action is likely to lead to more demand and support for these types of collaborative multi-stakeholder efforts to prevent and combat bribery.

This includes more governments endorsing this concept in National Anti-Corruption Strategies, as countries such as the UK, Malawi and others have already done.

Third, by advancing the OECD’s existing Collective Action support. The revision gives a formal boost to the OECD Secretariat’s long-standing engagement and support for Collective Action tools, such as the High Level Reporting Mechanism (HLRM).

Developed by the OECD together with the Basel Institute and Transparency International, the HLRM is a unique tool that targets corruption prevention in high-value public procurement processes. It can thus play a critical role in countries’ efforts to revitalise their economies during and in post-pandemic times. It can also help improve foreign investment and trust in government.

Fourth, by helping to address risks faced by companies that operate internationally and are confronted by demands for bribes from foreign public officials.

Collective Action offers a variety of innovative and tried-and-tested tools not only to help companies address their own risks, but also to encourage constructive engagement between the public and private sectors on bribery prevention.

What does the revised Recommendation say about Collective Action?

Adopted on 26 November 2021, the revised Recommendation aims to address challenges, good practices and cross-cutting issues that have emerged in the global anti-corruption landscape since 2009. It updates the 2009 revised Recommendation, which in turn updated the 1997 Revised Recommendation of the Council on Bribery in International Business Transactions.

The revisions cover a wide range of topics, including Collective Action in three areas:

  1. Awareness-raising in the private sector for the purpose of preventing and detecting foreign bribery. The document states that, among other things, each member country should take concrete and meaningful steps to do this “…through collective action and partnerships between the private and public sector in awareness-raising activities."
  2. Addressing the demand side of bribery. Member countries should “consider fostering, facilitating, engaging, or participating in anti-bribery collective action initiatives with private and public sector representatives, as well as civil society organisations, aiming to address foreign bribery and bribe solicitation.” This opens up a wide range of possibilities for member countries to engage in and support Collective Action. For governments that are unsure of how to initiate engagement with the private sector, it provides a good starting point for the discussion.
  3. The document also recognises the crucial role that business organisations and professional associations can play in helping companies to implement measures to prevent and detect foreign bribery. It recommends that such organisations consider "promoting Collective Action" where appropriate, as part of wider efforts to provide advice on resisting extortion and solicitation.

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Gemma Aiolfi

Senior Advisor, Legal and Compliance