Ambassador Christopher Robinson
Friday, December 8, 2023
International Anti-Corruption Day event
Good morning, Labrīt. Director Straume, Executive Director Tauriņa, distinguished guests.
The Embassy is honored to co-sponsor today’s event marking International Anti-Corruption Day, a day that calls on us to reflect, unite, and reaffirm our commitment to combating corruption. This year’s campaign holds special significance, commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. It’s a moment to celebrate our successes even as we recommit ourselves to continuing the hard work of combating corruption.
The title of today’s event frames the issue perfectly: Corruption is a threat to global and national security. It’s a point I made in my op-ed this week in Delfi: that we must treat economic security with the same urgency that we place on military security. Economic security includes shoring up the vulnerabilities created when our economies are influenced by corrupt actors. Given the geopolitical challenges facing the United States, Latvia, and our democratic allies today, I would argue that these efforts are more important than ever.
I am profoundly inspired by the strides Latvia has made in its fight against corruption and money laundering. We’ve witnessed remarkable progress – the Latvia of today is not the Latvia of 2018.
The United States has been proud to be your partner every step of the way. We’ve provided expertise, technical assistance, and training to strengthen Latvian law enforcement agencies, the judicial system, and regulatory bodies. In the past three years, our Department of Justice team, in partnership with U.S. law enforcement agencies, has organized over 67 workshops and training engagements for Latvian partners that have included nearly 300 prosecutors, 350 law enforcement officials, and 120 judges.
Our two nations have also worked closely together on joint criminal investigations resulting in convictions in several countries. Our joint endeavors help us exchange best practices and intelligence to combat the transnational corruption networks that threaten our security.
Yet, even as we celebrate Latvia’s remarkable strides in combating corruption, we recognize that our collective journey is far from over. While Latvia today stands as a testament to strengthened institutions and resolute efforts to tackle corruption at its core, we must always do more. The timely conclusion of major corruption cases continues to pose a challenge, perpetuating a perception that some public officials elude accountability. This erosion of trust between citizens and their government casts shadows on the progress Latvia has made. The many agencies detecting, investigating, and stopping corruption face stark personnel gaps, even as the challenges only grow.
Furthermore, Russia’s renewed aggression in Ukraine has heightened the need to defend ourselves against any vulnerability – whether military, cyber, or economic. The corrupt elite in Russia are actively invested in seeing Latvia stumble in its anti-corruption efforts. Moscow stands ready to exploit corrupt networks, viewing any instability in a NATO ally as an opportunity. Sustaining the momentum in the fight against corruption remains not just an issue of good governance but a critical component of safeguarding national security.
However, amidst these challenges, please know that the United States stands unwaveringly as Latvia’s friend, partner, and ally. Our partnership transcends mere rhetoric; it is deeply rooted in shared values and a profound commitment to fostering transparent governance. That is something our adversaries cannot match.
This is the sort of robust international partnership that the fight against corruption requires. After all, transnational organized crime, corruption, and money laundering know no boundaries. Collaborating across nations is not just an option – it is an imperative. Together, we have the collective strength to dismantle these nefarious networks with cooperation that transcends law enforcement and brings in government agencies, civil society, the private sector, media, and international organizations. These collaborations bolster our collective resilience against the evolving tactics of corrupt actors.
We must also combat corruption at home. Let’s keep working to strengthen oversight bodies and promote transparency through initiatives such as open data policies and whistleblower protection mechanisms. President Biden likes to say: “Democracy doesn’t happen by accident.” Likewise, the fight against corruption requires this sort of purposeful action.
Your presence here today is an example of purposeful action. Each of you plays a vital role – government makes law, law enforcement uncovers wrongdoings and enforces law, the financial sector ensures transparency, NGOs advocate for accountability, and the public’s vigilance holds all accountable. I urge you to persist in your collaboration and advocacy, as your work contributes significantly to creating a more transparent and just society, not just here in Latvia, but worldwide. Your commitment and efforts are pivotal in achieving our shared goals against corruption.
Let me finish by taking this opportunity to thank you and your organizations for your excellent partnership with the United States in our shared fight against corruption. I wish you good luck and positive collaboration during today’s event and beyond. Paldies.