Speech/statement | Date: 25/09/2019
By Former Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein (New York, 25 September)
Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein's statement at the event "Promotion of International Cooperation to Combat Illicit Financial Flows and Strenghten Good Practices on Asset Recovery and Return to Foster Sustainable Development"
I have to start by thanking Nigeria and fellow co-hosts for this event. Together we have put illicit flows on the agenda for many years now. And I dare say we have succeeded in shining light on a problem that locks people and countries in poverty. But, as the speakers here have shown – there is still a lot to be done. And Norway is committed.
Let me say this loud and clear:there can be no excuse for ignoring the problem of dirty money. The very few people who gain from illicit financial flows - do so at the cost of the many. We have committed to leaving no-one behind. Illicit Financial Flows and those who benefit, leave almost everyone else behind.
Ultimately this issue is about ordinary people’s lives and opportunities. It is about making crime and corruption unprofitable. It is about restricting the means for human traffickers, terrorists, and those who commit irreversible environmental crime.
It is about fighting inequality, about making power accountable – and it is about creating a fairer world.
While it is important to measure the precise size of the problem, let us not get lost in issues of measurement and definition. If your roof is leaking, you don’t rush off to find a measuring jar to find out precisely how much water is leaking through your roof. You climb the roof and start patching up the holes. Or at least I would.
The big picture is clear: the leaks are enormous. For us the definition is also clear enough. That which is illicit is forbidden by law, rule or custom. An illicit financial flow can be sourced either from corrupt, criminal or commercial activities. And if money is either illicitly obtained, transferred or parked – it is an illicit financial flow.
7 trillion USD. A figure corresponding to 8% of global GDP. That is the amount of private wealth hidden in offshore financial centers – and according to the IMF – a large portion of it comes from illicit activities. In a world of scarce resources for development, that is nothing less than a tragedy.
But it is a fixable tragedy. We already know what is needed. We must abolish opacity and embrace transparency. We must dismantle the shadow financial system through openness, cooperation and regulation. We must become able and willing to investigate, prosecute and punish those who are engaged in illicit flows – including those who help facilitate the flows. We must rally around this mission and strengthen our international mechanisms for cooperation on tax policy, anti-corruption and financial accountability.
Illicit Financial Flows represent a poison to society. As long as they are allowed to continue, our economies will underperform. Private sector and innovation suffer as a result of artificially high barriers and unfair competition. Democracies falter as citizens loose trust in those in power.
And most importantly – if the flows are allowed to continue – we will fail in leaving no-one behind. ButI am confident we can succeed if we act decisively now.