VIENNA, 3rd November 2015 (WAM) — Ending corruption is vital to efforts to achieve sustainable development, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the world’s largest anti-corruption forum, which began today in St. Petersburg, Russia.

“The world counts on you to take bold decisions and act decisively to strengthen the global fight against corruption and bribery,” Mr. Ban told more than 1,000 participants gathered for the Sixth Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption.

In a message delivered by the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov, the Secretary-General underlined that ending corruption and bribery is crucial for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted in September by Member States to wipe out poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate over the next 15 years.

“The 17 Sustainable Development Goals contain the promise of a better collective future for people and planet, and they address the potential challenges that can impede our progress,” he stated. “One such threat is highlighted in Goal 16, which calls for substantial reductions in corruption and bribery in all its forms.”

He also noted that across the globe, corruption and bribery “devastates lives.”

“No country is immune; everyone suffers,” he stated, adding that the malicious impact of corruption makes people’s lives more expensive; it erodes consumer confidence and business credibility; it depletes public funds and destroys prospects for a fair society. Corruption also facilitates other crimes, including human and illegal wildlife trafficking, and terrorism.

“Our ultimate goal must be to turn hands thrust out in hope of payment into hands joined together against this pernicious crime,” he continued. “Let us forcefully convey the message that when bribes are paid, everyone counts the cost.”

Adopted in 2003, the UN Convention against Corruption is the only legally binding universal anti-corruption instrument. The treaty, which currently has 177 States Parties, covers five main areas: prevention, criminalization and law enforcement measures, international cooperation, asset recovery, and technical assistance and information exchange.