Illicit Financial Flows Conference
University of Notre Dame London Centre, October 23, 2013
This conference focused on the future of the movement to curb illicit financial flows. Academics and activists from leading NGOs presented policy priorities for reducing illicit financial flows and strategies for mobilizing voters around issues of financial transparency at an ASAP UK workshop in London on October 23, 2013. Event speakers Martin Kirk, Global Campaigns Director at The Rules, Toby Quantrill, Policy Advisor on Tax Justice at ActionAid UK, Alice Lépissier, Research Assistant at the Center for Global Development, and ASAP President Thomas Pogge offered diverse proposals for how activists might capitalize on political momentum coming out the G8 and G20 summits.
Martin Kirk described the costs and benefits of talking about illicit financial flows as a part of a larger story about “poverty creation”. He emphasized the power of illicit financial flows to challenge widely held assumptions – such as the belief that poverty can largely be explained by local factors like corruption – and to reveal the ways in which global rules and institutions perpetuate poverty.
Toby Quantrill urged the audience to focus on keeping pressure on policy makers to tackle tax evasion, warning that modest reforms initiated at the G8 and G20 summits could easily persuade voters that the tax justice problem has been solved.
Alice Lépissier spoke on the possibility of a post-MDG target for curbing illicit financial flows, noting that the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda recommended such a target in its report. She was critical of the language that the Panel had proposed for such a goal, because it includes a numeric target for the reduction of illicit financial flows. Lépissier argued that estimates of the amount of money illicitly moving out of developing countries are too controversial for such a target to garner necessary political support. She proposed that the framework should have a target for policy changes enacted by states and at the international level to curb illicit financial flows, instead of focusing on a reduction in hard-to-measure outflows.
Thomas Pogge argued that academics and activists should mobilize around the abolition of secret bank accounts, both in the lead-up to 2015 and beyond. In a recent essay for the Comparative Research Programme on Poverty, Pogge proposed that the MDG successors should include the requirement that states abolish secret bank accounts and that all states levy an Alternative Minimum Tax on multinational corporations, to make up for the tax revenue lost through tax evasion.
You can read about these presentations in the conference outcome document.