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From debates to data: what we’ve been up to the first half of the year

June 21st, 2018

The first few months of FTC’s year have been as hectic as they have been diverse. From debates on the definition of illicit financial flows to technical submissions on beneficial ownership transparency, the FTC and its member organizations have been active around the globe. While the types of events and issues discussed varied, they all coalesced on a single point: increased transparency to curb illicit financial flows and tax abuse.

In February, multilateral organizations, policymakers, private sector actors and civil society came together in New York City for the first Global Conference of the Platform for Collaboration on Tax (PCT), which is part of a multi-party initiative spearheaded by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, United Nations, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund. The FTC was active throughout the conference, with FTC Director Sargon Nissan moderating a session that included economists Joseph Stiglitz, Jose Antonio Ocampo and Magdalena Sepulveda, Oxfam’s head of tax Susana Ruiz, Hamlet Gutierrez, the head of the tax privileges division of Dominican Republic’s tax revenue authority and Logan Wort, director of the African Tax Administrators Forum.

The FTC also co-hosted a second event at the inaugural PCT conference, Illicit Financial Flows and Regional Perspectives from the South, that involved the presentation of case studies from India, Nepal and East Africa, outlining specific examples of abusive tax practice. In each case the detail of tax structuring, and the impact on the source, countries was examined and then discussed in a panel session. Discussions took place based on the proposition that these examples of abusive practice should be included under any definition of ‘Illicit Financial Flows’. The event also served to launch the ‘independent working group’ coordinated by the Financial transparency Coalition on defining IFFs.

But the discussion around IFFs didn’t end there. Weeks later, the development world converged in the US again, this time in Washington DC, for the Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank. Again, the FTC sought to ensure that illicit flows and tax stayed on the agenda throughout the week. The FTC co-sponsored an event during the meetings looking at inter-linkages of development finance including IFFs and all FTC members converged on the US capital for advocacy meetings, side events, and strategy sessions. This included Transparency International, which launched its analysis of G20 members’ performance meeting their own recommendations relating to beneficial ownership transparency: G20 Leaders or Laggards?

Between these important discussions taking place in the global north, the FTC and its members the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability and Christian Aid attended the Nepal Social Forum in March, organizing two panels on domestic resource mobilization, illicit financial flows, and tax justice. The meetings brought together a wide array of civil society actors from Nepal and across the region to discuss the societal effects of poor government policies. And in an inspiring end to the week, a daylong meeting was organized to produce the Kathmandu Declaration on ‘Illicit Financial Flows: Restoring Justice for Human Rights’. The declaration was then presented by FTC member Latindadd in to the World Social Forum in Salvador, Brazil in March.

But the past few months have not only been about advocacy and debates around the issues. The FTC has been active in advising policymakers on the best paths forward for legislative reform, most recently in Canada, where we provided comments to the government’s consultation of its Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorist Financing Regime. We made the technical case for why Canada must step up and make real strides on the issue of beneficial ownership transparency, an area where they lag severely behind many of their G20 counterparts. It should no longer be a safe haven for dirty money and anonymous companies. This is only the latest in FTC’s regular expert submissions to country authorities and international organizations like the OECD, where we can often find ourselves being the only civil society, critical voice responding to policy consultations.

Our work in the first half of the year will prove to be just as vital in the upcoming months, as many FTC member organizations begin scaling up their efforts for the Civil 20 (C20), which will take place in August, and the G20 Summit, which will follow at the end of November. But as we move through the year, we’ll also continue to react to external events that shift the debate, such as the latest investigation from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalist, #WestAfricaLeaks, and the UK’s commitment to require its overseas territories to create public registers of beneficial ownership. Look out for more FTC blogs as the fight against illicit financial flows continues.

Written by Sargon Nissan

Sargon is Director of the FTC.

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