Accountability of Political Leaders cattaui

Maria Livanos Cattaui, 10th IACC, Speech, Governance

 

Maria Livanos Cattaui:

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. On behalf of the organizers, I am pleased to open the 10th International Anti-Corruption Conference. Before introducing our distinguished panelists of this opening plenary, I understand that there will be a projection of a short film featuring the gala opening and the exhibition "Art Against Corruption".

This certainly was a delightful reminder and in this respect I would first of all like to thank all those who have been responsible for organizing this tenth conference, the structures, organizations and above all each individual person who has put so much effort into this extremely important meeting.

Our opening plenary today is entitled "The Accountability of Political Leaders". When this session was originally devised, the terrible events of 11th September were still quite far away. However, I believe that perhaps more than anyone could have envisaged at that time, political accountability has assumed an ever greater importance. What has been brought home to each of us with renewed clarity is the fact that government does indeed count, that good government, accountable government is of paramount significance. It is clear that bad governance and leaders unanswerable to their people are at the core of failed states and catastrophic conditions. We can see the consequences all too clearly in the world. Integrity and trust form the link between leaders and their constituents whether in political, corporate, or social life. The obligation and the willingness to accept responsibility, to account for one's actions, and to be answerable to the people, to one's constituency, to one's followers and to the rules by which they consent to abide and be governed, all of this is assumed under the title of our session this morning.

We like to believe that in democracies confidence and trust vested in our elected political leaders is based on their moral standards and intellectual honesty. But what happens when this isn't the case? What are the structures and means, the mechanisms and ways through which we have to insure the accountability of political leaders, indeed of any leaders? What is the responsibility of citizens? They must insure that their leaders answer to them. And what is our responsibility worldwide? Actually I should ask: Do we have a responsibility in cases where citizens cannot or do not hold their leaders to account? Are there only national standards of accountability as for the traditions, structures, processes and practices of national democracies, or do we have any international standards, and if so, who in turn is responsible and accountable for imposing them?

These are some of the questions that occurred to me in preparing this session. I am sure that this distinguished panel here will address them. All of its members, by the way, are leaders themselves, in politics, law enforcement, the judiciary and society. Let me conclude this brief introduction by stressing that the International Chamber of Commerce has taken a strong position for many decades in the fight against corruption because any tolerance in this field harms all citizens, harms consumers, harms workers, harms businesses. It negates the proper functioning of a rules-based competition and markets, and it undermines all our concepts and structure of democracy.

Ladies and gentlemen, I will be turning to the panel now. It is my great honor to introduce our keynote speaker, the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Mr. Milos Zeman. He became Prime Minister in 1998. He is a member of the Czech Social Democratic Party. He began his political career by being very actively involved in the Civic Forum during the Velvet Revolution of 1989. He was elected to the Federal Assembly in 1990, and continued on to become his party's chairman shortly thereafter.

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