Human Rights and Economic Justice: Essential Elements of the Post-MDG Agenda kicked off this Friday at Yale University. It is the fifth annual conference on illicit financial flows and financial transparency co-hosted by the Yale Global Justice Program and Global Financial Integrity. For the second year in a row, Academics Stand Against Poverty is serving a co-organizer, presenting panels on anti-poverty efforts led by academics.
Tom Cardamone, Managing Director of Global Financial Integrity, chaired the day, which had five sessions on the themes related to illicit financial flows: recent political developments; action by intergovernmental organizations to promote transparency; domestic policy perspectives; analysis of proposed policy solutions by scholars and journalists; and the potential of nonviolent resistance to combat illicit financial flows.
During the opening session, Raymond Baker, Director of Global Financial Integrity, canvassed recent commitments by the G20 and others to combat tax dodging and called on the audience to capitalize on growing political momentum while rejecting the incrementalist approach advocated by many governments. ASAP President Thomas Pogge explained how the existing supranational architecture, which permits of trade protectionism, arms trade, intellectual property law, and tax havens, generates inequality between people and countries and laid out proposed institutional reform goals that could be added to the post-MDG framework to reduce these harms.
Lena Diesing, Governance Advisor in the Global Partnerships and Policy Division at the OECD, and Gail Hurley, Policy Specialist in Development Finance at the UNDP, presented the work of their respective organizations to curb illicit financial flows. Ms. Diesing presented a report by the OECD on illicit financial flows, and Ms. Hurley spoke on the strengths and weaknesses of the post-MDG framework as a tool for promoting financial transparency.
Jose Cuisia, Jr., Ambassador of the Republic of the Philippines to the United States, Ebrahim Rasool, Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa to the United States, Jarmo Viinanen, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Finland to the United Nations, and Rafael Espada, Former Vice President of Guatemala each spoke on the ways in which illicit financial flows affect their respective countries and domestic efforts to fight the growth of these outflows.
According to Dr. Espada, working to alleviate poverty in Guatemala during his term as Vice President was extremely difficult, because it required solving four widespread problems: “corruption, tax evasion, money laundering, and violence”. However, he said that Guatemala had made significant progress on these fronts through legislative action. The Guatemalan government worked with the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative and NGOs like Global Financial Integrity and Transparency International. Espada said that while much work remains to be done, “at least now there are no anonymous associations and no more secrecy of banking”.
Zorka Milin, Yale Gruber Fellow at Global Witness, chaired the panel of academics and journalists, which featured Itai Grinberg, Associate Professor of Law at Georgetown Law School, Susan Rose-Ackerman, Henry R. Luce Professor of Jurisprudence at Yale University and Lee Sheppard, Contributing Editor at Tax Analysts’ Tax Notes.
The last two speakers, Peter Ackerman and Shaazka Beyerle of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, stressed the power of nonviolent resistance to create greater democracy. Ackerman stressed the impressive track record of nonviolent movements: “In 50 of the 67 transitions from authoritarianism (75%) in the from 1972-2005, nonviolent civic resistance was a key factor” and “of the 50 transitions above, 32 (64%) have led to high levels of respect for political rights and civil liberties”. Following this argument, Shaazka Beyerle focused added that nonviolent civic resistance “disrupts activities, practices, dishonest relationships, and the overall status quo within systems of corruption and illicit financial flows”, strengthening the international mechanisms to implement legal administrative measures.