At a time when Africa is mobilizing resources for pandemic recovery and sustainable development, illicit financial flows (IFFs) are robbing the continent of $50 billion annually, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told a high-level virtual meeting on Thursday held under the African Union’s (AU) ‘Silencing the Guns’ initiative.
These “staggering losses” would be enough to bridge nearly 75 per cent of Africa’s health financing gap, provide inclusive education for all children there, and fund infrastructure projects, she added.
“These flows pose a threat to stability and security in African countries, undermine institutions and democracy, and jeopardize sustainable development and the rule of law,” said Ms. Mohammed.
“Women and girls are particularly exposed to criminal activities and conflicts driven by IFFs as they are subject to trafficking and sexual violence which are used as weapons of war”, she added.
Fuelling instability and insecurity
Illicit financial flows refer to the illegal movement of money from one country to another, for example, through tax fraud, criminal activities, money laundering or bogus invoicing.
The high-level meeting examined how they fuel instability in Africa. It was co-hosted by the Office of the UN Special Adviser on Africa and the AU’s Permanent Observer Mission to the UN, together with South Africa and Nigeria.
“There is circumstantial evidence that illicit financial outflows contribute to the devastation of peace and security by providing conflict, terrorist and criminal groups the financial means to conduct their operations and undermine peace”, said Fatima Kyari Mohammed, the AU’s Ambassador to the UN.
‘Silence’ needed now more than ever
The event’s organizers emphasized that silencing the guns in Africa is needed now more than ever, as highlighted by the UN Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire to focus on the common fight against COVID-19.
Cristina Duarte, UN Special Adviser on Africa, said the health and socio-economic fallouts from the crisis have strained African governments’ efforts to ensure access to services and improve livelihoods, while also placing hard-won development gains at risk.
Meanwhile, the economic crisis it has generated which will only worsen funding gaps as African countries push to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
“While the world is pursuing a sustainable recovery under the Secretary-General’s call to ‘build back better’, it’s both a development necessity and moral obligation to ensure that Africa can make use of all its capabilities and resources to ensure that the recovery is sustainable, genuine and inclusive”, said Ms. Duarte.
The pandemic has only made it more critical to not only understand the patterns of illicit financial flows but also to identify means to counter them, including through implementing existing international agreements, according to the President of the UN General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir.
He urged governments to take greater action, warning that sustainable development will be in jeopardy.
“As President of the ‘parliament of humanity’, I call on countries to scale up the level of cooperation to curb illicit financial flows and recover the proceeds of crime; to develop effective tools and create a policy environment for combating illicit financial flows, in accordance with the existing relevant international frameworks,” he said in a pre-recorded video message.
Mr. Bozkir announced plans for a forthcoming special session of the General Assembly, in coordination with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), to examine the whole global corruption issue.