ASEAN for Good Governance: Addressing Cross Border Corruption and Transnational Crime

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The ASEAN region has witnessed remarkable economic growth and development over the years, thanks to the synergy of its member states. Yet, this growth has not come without challenges, and perhaps one of the most persistent and pervasive is corruption. Corruption, in all its forms, threatens not only the economic prosperity of our region but also the very principles of transparency, accountability, and good governance that form the bedrock of a thriving democratic society.

Corruption is a complex and multifaceted issue, affecting societies and economies worldwide. In the ASEAN context, it presents unique challenges due to the region’s diversity, both culturally, economically and politically diversity, undermining the very essence of our shared values. The differences in democratic expressions and space and human rights standards within this region also make seeking accountability from state actors a challenging endeavour.

The Challenge of Cross-Border Corruption

Corruption, by its very nature, is a transnational issue that transcends borders and jurisdictions. Identified under article 3 of the UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION AGAINST TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME (UNTOC) defines transnational crimes as crimes committed in more than one state. It infiltrates every facet of society, from public institutions to private enterprises, and from urban cities to rural villages. It erodes trust in governance, diminishes public services, and perpetuates inequality. But perhaps most ominously, it thrives in the shadows of secrecy and lack of accountability. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have emerged as crucial stakeholders in the fight against corruption, advocating for transparency, accountability, and ethical governance across borders.

In line with the aspiration of Article 13 of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) for civil society participation, The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center) takes pride in hosting the upcoming “ASEAN FOR GOOD GOVERNANCE” (AGG Conference). This two-day conference is not just a gathering; it is a platform for ASEAN NGOs to unite, share experiences, and chart a collective course towards addressing the pressing issue of cross-border corruption, recognizing that this issue is particularly daunting in a region as diverse and interconnected as ASEAN. Whether it’s the smuggling of cigarettes across borders or the exploitation of migrant workers through corrupt recruitment processes, these issues serve as poignant examples of the complex web of corruption that spans our region.

Our Research Papers: Illuminating the Shadows

C4 Center will present two research papers during the AGG Conference. The first paper, “Uncovering Smuggling of Cigarettes,” delves into the illicit trade in tobacco products that traverses ASEAN borders, into Malaysia, highlighting the economic consequences and the strain it places on governance structures. The second paper, “Corruption in Migrant Workers Recruitment Process” casts a critical eye on the recruitment of migrant workers in Malaysia, exposing corrupt practices that perpetuate human rights abuses and human smuggling activities.

These research papers are not just academic exercises but are meant to serve as rallying points for action. They are an invitation to explore, analyze, and understand the depth of the challenges we face and to envision the change we can collectively bring about in this region on common issues affecting us.

Leveraging UNTOC as a Framework for Combating Transnational Organised Crime in the ASEAN Region

The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC) and its protocols, stands as a comprehensive international framework to address transnational organised crime. The aspiration of UNTOC can be derived from Article 1 “The purpose of this Convention is to promote cooperation to prevent and combat transnational organised crime more effectively.” The Convention can serve as a valuable guide for ASEAN nations to strengthen legal frameworks, enhance enforcement mechanisms, and foster international collaboration. By aligning discussions and strategies with the UNTOC framework, we can pave the way for a more coordinated and effective response to the challenges faced in this region.

Beyond Borders: Collaboration and Innovation

However, let us be clear that our collaboration will not be limited to these conventions or research topics presented. The AGG Conference is a platform for dialogue, innovation, and collaboration that extends beyond borders and conventional boundaries. We seek to identify other areas of concern, to stimulate new ideas, and embark on new initiatives that can transform our region.

Our conference goals are ambitious yet attainable:

  1. Identify Common Issues: We aim to identify those common threads that unite us in our fight against cross-border corruption and transnational crimes. Through this process, we hope to strengthen our understanding of the issues and recognise their interconnectedness.
  2. Understanding ASEAN commitments: We will identify international instruments such as the UNTOC and discuss national commitments surrounding these structures to combat transnational crime and cross-border corruption.
  3. Collaboration Opportunities: This conference is a unique opportunity to explore and build collaborations. By connecting with like-minded organisations and individuals, we can magnify our advocacy efforts, pooling our resources, expertise, and passion.
  4. Brainstorming and Idea Generation: Innovation is the lifeblood of progress. Together, we will brainstorm, ideate, and develop innovative strategies and activities that can address the challenges posed by corruption at the ASEAN level.

Who are the participants:

We invite representatives from civil society organisations working on corruption and good governance issues across the ASEAN region to apply for participation in this conference. Organisations are curated based on merit and relevance to the conference themes. To enable sufficient time for each organisation to participate in a meaningful manner, we are limiting registration to only one (1) member from each organisation.

Travel subsidy is provided based on the following:

  • Economy return flight to Penang, Malaysia at MYR1,000 per participant for all Southeast Asia country participants
  • RSVP and confirm your availability via this form , and declare travel subsidy requirement.
  • We will send a registration form to capture details for flight and hotel reservations upon confirmation of your participation.
  • Plan your travel dates based on arrival on-site on 4 December 2023 and departure from conference location on 7 December 2023.
  • The travel subsidy cap covers costs for flights/rail, local transfers, travel insurance and visa fees.
  • To check if you require a visa for entry into Malaysia, please click here


Participants will be provided accommodation up to 3 nights and assigned rooms on a twin-sharing basis, with consideration given to gender, and country of origin whenever possible. Additional night stays will be at participants’ own cost. For participants who indicated a requirement for single occupancy and additional nights stay, these will be at your own expense. The rates will be communicated to you upon confirmation of participation.

Kindly please register via this form before the 20th of October 2023. Successful applicants will be notified by the 31st of October 2023.

Conclusion: The Significance of Our Mission

As we embark on this journey, let us remember that collaboration knows no borders. The solutions we seek to forge will ripple through our region, impacting lives, shaping policies, and strengthening the ASEAN community. C4 Center welcomes your application and participation in the “ ASEAN FOR GOOD GOVERNANCE: ADDRESSING CROSS BORDER CORRUPTION AND TRANSNATIONAL CRIME CONFERENCE. Let us unite, inspire, and commit ourselves to the pursuit of a brighter and more just ASEAN.

Please find the tentative program agenda here




All publications by C4 Center are downloadable for free. Much resources and funds have been put into ensuring that we conduct cutting edge research work for these issues to be brought to the attention of the general public, authorities, as well as public policymakers and lawmakers. If you like our work, please do consider supporting us by donating to us. Your financial support will go a long way in ensuring that we can continue fighting for a clean, and better, Malaysia.