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.
As a part of ASAP’s Impact: Global Poverty initiative, leaders of poverty and global justice research centers around the world gathered at Yale October 18-20, 2013 for the ASAP-sponsored conference, Human Rights & Economic Justice: Essential Elements of the Post-MDG Agenda. Each of them was asked to give a short presentation on how they have pursued positive impact on poverty alleviation policy and practice, very broadly construed. The PowerPoint and Prezi presentations they prepared for this purpose are below.
Lessons from Campaigns of Civil Resistance for the Battle Against Illicit Financial Flows: Adding Citizens to the Global Financial Integrity Equation by Peter Ackerman, Founding Chair of the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict and Shaazka Beyerle, Senior Advisor to the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict
Access to Medicines: Barriers Relating to Intellectual Property Rights and Data Exclusivity by Julian Cockbain, Consultant European patent attorney, and Sigrid Sterckx, Professor of Ethics at Ghent University
Contesting the Frame: Engaging with South Africa’s Anti-Poverty Consensus by Andries du Toit, Director of the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies at the University of the Western Cape
Putting Universalism to the Service of Global Justice: Can Two-Tiered Social Services Be Avoided? by Juliana Martínez Franzoni, Associate Professor at the Institute of Social Sciences at the University of Costa Rica
Impact at Just World Institute by Tim Hayward, Director of the Just World Institute at the University of Edinburgh
Could the Post-2015 Development Agenda Promote Poverty Eradication as an International Social Norm? by David Hulme, Director of the Brooks World Poverty Institute at the University of Manchester
Perspectives on Illicit Financial Flows Post-2015: Intergovernmental Organization Perspectives by Gail Hurley, Policy Specialist in Development Finance at the UNDP
Child Poverty and Equity: Concepts, Methods, and Action by Alberto Minujin, Executive Director of Equity for Children at the New School
Academia and Action by Jonathan Morduch, Managing Director of the Financial Access Initiative at New York University
Illicit Financial Flows, Poverty, and Human Rights by Thomas Pogge, Director of the Global Justice Program at Yale University
Piloting the Health Impact Fund by Thomas Pogge, Director of the Global Justice Program at Yale University
Successfully Promoting Justice: Closing Address by Thomas Pogge, Director of the Global Justice Program at Yale University
Towards a Global Governance System for Infectious Diseases by Harvey Rubin, Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
MDGs, Poverty, and Malnutrition: The Role of Social Inclusion by Nidhi Sadana Sabharwal, Director of the Indian Institute for Dalit Studies
Impact at the Hague Institute for Global Justice by Jill Coster van Voorhout, Researcher at The Hague Institute for Global Justice
Impact at Birmingham’s Center for the Study of Global Ethics by Heather Widdows, Director of the Center for the Study of Global Ethics at the University of Birmingham
Sunday, October 20, the closing day of Human Rights & Economic Justice: Essential Elements of the Post-MDG Agenda demonstrated both the diversity of scholars’ approaches to impact and the desire for greater coordination among academic activists. Speakers picked up the theme of academic impact, which was introduced in panel discussions on Saturday.
ASAP Board Member and Project Lead Luis Cabrera chaired the conference’s third and final panel on academic impact, which, perhaps more than any other, demonstrated the diversity of approaches that academics take to achieving impact on poverty.
As Director of the Just World Institute at the University of Edinburgh, Tim Hayward has led impact efforts that seek to make the university the site of social change, for example by calling on the school to divest from fossil fuels. Heather Widdows, Director of the Centre for the Study of Global Ethics at the University of Birmingham, said in addition to research and consulting, one of her most important contributions has been mentoring young scholars in how to survive in academia while engaging in political work.
Teddy Cruz and Fonna Forman, co-directors of the Blum Center for Cross-Border Poverty Research and Practice at the University of California-San Diego, said they had sought impact on poverty by engaging locally, carrying out public art and policy projects in the cities of San Diego and nearby Tijuana. Jill Coster van Voorhout, Researcher in the Rule of Law Program at the Hague Institute for Global Justice, spoke on the importance of developing understanding of international law in conflict-affected areas.
The final panel speaker, Darrel Moellendorf, Principle Investigator at the Normative Orders Cluster of Excellence at Goethe University Frankfurt, said that academic impact can be largely captured by three categories: research and writing; institution building; and—not to be forgotten—teaching. And, indeed, several of his co-panelists remarked upon their gratification at seeing their students building careers around an ambition to promote global justice.
At the conclusion of these presentations, ASAP President Thomas Pogge gave a closing address, in which he called on academics to unite around a lean agenda for alleviating poverty and promoting justice. He argued that such cooperation runs counter to the incentives of academia. “To be successful as academics,” he said, “we must distinguish ourselves by developing new views on existing issues or else pioneer a new issue. To be successful in promoting justice, we must focus our energies upon a politically achievable goal or schedule of goals and then collaborate in realizing this goal together.”
Pogge put forward four policy reforms, which he said would deliver dramatic reductions in the extent of poverty and hardship worldwide and were strategic, insofar as they would shift power towards people living in poverty and would have a sufficient number of wealthy and powerful supporters that the could conceivably succeed. These reforms were: implementation of the Health Impact Fund; curbing illicit financial flows, either through global automatic exchange of tax information or an alternative minimum tax on multinational corporations that would compensate developing countries for money lost through tax abuse; a tax on protectionist trade policies, which would be used to fund poverty alleviation; and finally a global ban on the most carbon-intensive energy production methods. A global campaign by academics and activists to put such reforms into place “might be the beginning of the end of poverty,” he said.
Global health and academic impact on poverty were the discussed during the second day of Human Rights & Economic Justice: Essential Elements of the Post-MDG Agenda at Yale this Saturday. A global health panel showcased innovative proposals to improve access to healthcare, ranging from proposed reforms to the World Health Organization to a new method for powering vaccine refrigerators. The academic impact-focused panels featured the heads of poverty and global justice research centers around the world and their efforts to influence poverty-alleviation policy and development practice.
Kaveh Khoshnood, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Yale University, chaired the first session, which featured Julian Cockbain, a Ghent-based patent attorney; Steven Hoffman, Assistant Professor of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at McMaster University; Thomas Pogge, President of ASAP; Harvey Rubin, professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania; and Sigrid Sterckx, Professor of Bioethics at Ghent University.
Pogge presented the Health Impact Fund (HIF) as a way to extend access to new medicines to people around the world, regardless of their ability to pay, and announced that in the coming year there would be a pilot of the HIF in India, focusing on multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. Rubin shared his Energize the Chain (EtC) initiative, which will provide vaccine refrigerators in remote areas using electricity from cell phone towers. Rubin told his audience that more than 2 million people die from vaccine-preventable disease each year, in part because of breaks in the “cold chain” of vaccine refrigerators. In areas where electricity for refrigeration is unavailable, vaccines breakdown and become unusable. He argued that the prevalence of cell phone towers throughout the developing world makes the EtC proposal the best available solution to this problem.
ASAP Board Member Luis Cabrera led the “impact” sessions of the conference, which spanned Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. These sessions were inspired by his Impact: Global Poverty initiative and featured academics who have worked to make an impact on poverty and global justice. To date, Impact: Global Poverty has been a tool to share widely the stories of academics who’ve led successful poverty alleviation efforts, and Cabrera said that he hoped the conference would illuminate new ways in which ASAP could support impact work by academics.
Martha Chen, Lecturer in Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, spoke about the work of Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), of which she is International Coordinator. In her talk, she argued that there is a strong link between informal employment and poverty and that widespread informal employment is generated by unjust structures in the global production system and urban politics in developing countries. WIEGO has led many successful advocacy campaigns to improve the lives of women working in the informal economy.
Mitu Sengupta, ASAP Board Member and President of ASAP Canada, chaired the first Impact: Global Poverty panel, which focused on impact and the Global South. Teddy Cruz, Co-Director of the Blum Center for Cross-Border Poverty Research and Practice at the University of California-San Diego described public art and urban design projects he had led in an effort to promote social connections and learning across cultural and income differences. Nidhi Sadana Sabharwal, Executive Director of the Indian Insitute for Dalit Studies, described research on the impacts of social exclusion and discrimination in India and the policy agenda that has emerged from that work. Andries du Toit, Director of the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies at the University of the Western Cape, spoke on the opportunities and challenges presented by the “pro-poor consensus” in South African politics. Juliana Martinez Franzoni, Associate Professor at the Institute of Social Sciences at the University of Costa Rica, spoke on the merits of universalist social policies as an alternative to narrow anti-poverty programs. According Professor Martinez: “universalism must confront segmentation and marketization” in order to build the cross-class solidarity necessary for achieving social justice.
Amy Gordon, Researcher and Sessional Lecturer in Philosophy at Dominican University College, chaired the panel Impact in Comparative Perspective, which featured Jonathan Morduch, Managing Director of the Financial Access Initiative at New York University; Alberto Minujin, Executive Director of Equity for Children at the New School; and Alberto Cimadamore, Scientific Director of the Comparative Research Programme on Poverty (CROP). Morduch spoke on the dilemmas he’s faced as an academic pursuing poverty impact, especially as his research has focused on microfinance. He told the audience he’d chosen to act as a constructive critic of microfinance, rather than a cheerleader, but that this choice involved significant traeoffs. Minujin described the challenges of defining and measuring poverty and equity for the policy advocacy efforts of Equity for Children. Finally, Cimadamore outlined CROP’s advocacy on the MDG successors and the challenges of influencing public discourse around poverty.
The day concluded with keynotes by Sukhadeo Thorat, Chairman of the Indian Council of Social Science Research, and David Hulme, Executive Director of the Brooks World Poverty Institute at the University of Manchester. Thorat focused on the importance of research for understanding the needs of the different groups living in poverty around the world and of fighting discrimination. During his speech, Hulme gave a critical assessment of the MDGs, saying they had made a “small net contribution but [were] NOT transformational” and that the UN-led process of identifying goals to succeed the MDGs had failed to reshape public attitudes and mobilize the grassroots. However, he expressed optimism about the potential of the post-MDG framework to encompass more of the commitments necessary to end poverty.
You can read about presentations made during the first day of the conference here.
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.