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Recent Acclaim for FTC Members & the World's Desire for More Transparency

February 12th, 2014

This year, when the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program at the University of Pennsylvania (TTCSP), made its annual index of 2013 Global Go To Think Tanks, it chose four Financial Transparency Coalition members among its ranks. They included Global Witness, Tax Justice Network, and Global Financial Integrity, which ranked #32, #54, and $63 (respectively) for Think Tanks with the Best Advocacy Campaigns. FTC member Transparency International was also highly celebrated on the list, appearing a full twelve times, many of which were top ten spots. Among others, TI ranked #12 for Top Think Tanks Worldwide, #1 for Top Transparency and Good Governance Think Tanks, and #10 for Think Tanks with Most Significant Impact on Public Policy.

Every year, TTCSP releases this index to “acknowledge the important contributions and emerging global trends of think tanks worldwide.” And “gain understanding of the role think tanks play in governments and civil societies.” It compiles the list by eliciting nominations and receiving comments from literally hundreds of individuals and organizations around the world. These include current and former directors of think tanks, public and private donors, policymakers, journalists, scholars, civil society representatives, and academics. For a think tank to even be eligible for the list, it must receive no less than five independent nominations and then undergo two rounds of rankings from experts.

The rankings are a clear reason to celebrate the success of our FTC members, but they may also provide us with an opportunity for a moment of introspection.

All of our FTC members – and these think tanks in particular – have accomplished a great deal over their organization’s lives and, in particular, in recent years. For example, over the last few years, Global Financial Integrity has taken the term “illicit financial flows” from unknown to not just commonplace, but discussed at the highest levels of government. One need not look farther than the response by the Philippine President to GFI’s recent report on his country to see the impressive policy impact of their work. Similarly, Global Witness and its contributions to the campaign against corporate secrecy had an impressive policy impact when the UK committed to a public registry of company beneficial ownership.

These accomplishments are impressive on their own, but in the context of the acclaim FTC members received on the recent TTCSP rankings, I think they deserve an even closer look. FTC issues are receiving worldwide attention at the highest levels of policy and government. They are showing up at the G8, G20, and the European Union, and are discussed among Prime Ministers and Presidents worldwide.

The key question, then, is why? And why now?

I think there are two major reasons. The first is hinted at in the TTCSP rankings, where all of the FTC members who were listed were ranked in the top 100 for Best Advocacy Campaigns. FTC members clearly have talented staff who are effective at getting their messages heard.

The second reason, though, may be more important. And that is: transparency is an idea whose time has come. In part this is a response to strained budgets and dwindling tax revenues among the world’s powerful nations. In part, it’s because the world realizes that the technology of financial markets has far exceeded the policies with which we address them and it’s high time for a change.

But mostly, I think the world is beginning to recognize unfairness and inequality with a degree of alarm we have not seen before. And yes, while FTC issues are important because of tax revenue and progress in policy, they are more important because of their implications for the world’s distribution of economic resources. The current international tax system is plainly unfair and disturbingly unequal. The world knows it needs to change. And that’s where the FTC can help.

Written by Ann Hollingshead

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