Combating Illicit Financial Flows

State Secretary Marte Ziolkowski's remarks (virtual) at the Global Forum side event - in cooperation with the African Union high-level panel .

I would like to begin by thanking Germany and the GIZ for hosting today’s side event. We are pleased to have this opportunity to cooperate closely with you on illicit financial flows. And to continue to raise awareness and learn from each other about a problem that locks people and countries in poverty. 

I would also like to thank former President Mbeki for his tireless efforts and steady leadership on this topic. It has inspired us in our ongoing work. Foreign Minister Eriksen Søreide sends her regrets that she is unable to participate today due to previous commitments.

In the last 15 years, we have seen increasing interest among the international community to understand the effects of, and solutions to, illicit flows. Much of this was described in detail in the AU’s high level Panel’s report. However, there is still a lot to be done. Norway remains committed to this task.

As long as corruption and financial and economic crime is allowed to persist, we will not reach our targets. As long as secrecy and misuse of power is allowed to continue, poverty will remain, markets will fail, and democracies will not thrive.

We have a responsibility, developed and developing countries alike, to make sure there are no safe havens for proceeds of crime, corruption and tax evasion.

The AU high-level panel did an excellent job in showing how detrimental this has been - and continues to be - for Africa’s development. And the developing countries are, indeed, the most severely affected. However, illicit flows are a global phenomenon, and have a detrimental effect on institutions, governance, democracy, poverty and security that reach far beyond Africa’s borders.

This has become even more evident in the current context of Covid-19, which has revealed how illicit flows further exacerbate economic challenges. The effects pose a serious threat to us all.

It is about more than just mobilizing resources and stopping leaks of large sums of money. It is also about making the global financial system more fit for purpose. And it is about regaining the public’s trust and confidence in their elected leaders and public institutions.

We must therefore work to establish new common practices and norms and create a global financial system that is sustainable in the long term. To this end, Norway in its capacity as Ecosoc President launched a High-Level Panel on Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity (Facti panel) together with the President of the 74th General Assembly earlier this year.

The Facti-Panel will publish its final report in February. The valuable lessons learned in the AU’s High-level panel and other ongoing processes should be included in its considerations.

It is now time for political commitment to be translated into action. We all have a responsibility to act. Recently, Global Financial Integrity reported that the proceeds of international crime are estimated at around

4 trillion USD (!), and that international law enforcement has failed to respond effectively. Needless to say, we must do more.

Part of it means promoting more implementation of UN conventions and build on efforts that are producing results in organisations such as the OECD.

However, we must not shy away from considering proposals for real improvements where these are needed. The Facti-panel’s interim report describes how there are clear gaps in implementation, and many of the tools at our disposal are inadequate in combatting tax evasion and wide-spread corruption. Our aim must be to make our international institutions and frameworks more robust.

This will require us to also look at what we can do at national and regional level. As European countries with representation in central financial institutions and multilateral organizations, we have a responsibility to prevent illicit flows from passing through the financial institutions in our jurisdictions. And we must do more to promote a new global consensus on taxation rights.

Finally, I want to mention that journalists, a free media and civil society groups have critical roles to play in documenting corruption and Illicit flows, and often put their lives in peril in the process. We must do more to support and protect those who help us hold power and institutions accountable.

I am an optimist. I believe that continued focus on preventing corruption and illicit flows by all actors will lead to greater resolve. The work in this global forum and the upcoming report of the Facti panel will be crucial in that context. Norway will do its part. We will remain actively engaged in the efforts of the Global Forum, and the Facti panel and will continue to work with colleagues from around the world to achieve our common goal.

Thank you.