Tale/innlegg | Dato: 13.12.2007
Statsekretær Gulbrandsen fremholdt i sin åpningstale at ulovlige transaksjoner og hvitvasking et stort problem som undergraver all samfunnsbygging.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to Oslo and to this first meeting of the Task Force on Illicit Financial Flows.
I believe that the general reaction of the development community when hearing about this initiative and the Task Force has been: “Finally!”. It is quite clear that a lot of concerned people strongly welcome the focus that is now being put on the problems related to illicit financial flows. But this is not the first time the problem is being addressed. Indeed, I believe some of you here today have been involved in this work for a long time. There have been previous attempts to tackle capital flight, tax evasion and similar problems, and with some success. This Task Force should be able to draw lessons from past successes and failures alike.
Minister of the Environment and International Development Erik Solheim is very sorry that he could not be here today to welcome you. His portfolio was recently extended to include the environment, so he had to attend the conference in Bali. But I can assure you that he feels strongly about this initiative, and that the Government gives it its full backing.
This is one of the more exciting initiatives that my ministry is involved in, and it is an important one. Combating corruption is one of this government’s highest priorities. This year we also launched a national debate about what globalisation means for our society and in particular for our foreign policy. Illicit financial flows are a result of corruption and are facilitated by globalisation. In our view these flows reflect some of the greatest challenges posed by globalisation, but also some of the greatest opportunities, such as beneficial investments. However, in the worst case, cross-border export of corruption, crime and conflict have the potential to ruin our economies and undermine our democracies.
I don’t think anyone believes that tackling this challenge will be easy. Our adversaries are numerous, powerful and clever. But so are we. Even though our “mission” may seem entirely justified, we should be prepared to argue our case. In doing so, it is vital that we have the best possible idea of scale and impact. What this Task Force can do is to increase knowledge and improve understanding of this problem. Our work must be based on facts.
You all know that the issues we are discussing may be politically sensitive, in particular those related to tax competition and the role of tax havens. But there should be nothing sensitive or controversial about stemming the flow of illicit funds across borders or about ensuring that the poorest countries are not deprived of their rightful resources. It is important to bear in mind that this Task Force is not about tax policy, or about fighting tax havens as such; it is about stopping huge illicit flows of resources out of developing countries.
I can see from the list of participants that this is a very diverse gathering, with representatives of countries from both North and South, multilateral organisations and civil society, as well as activists and experts. This is a strength. If we are to succeed in this endeavour, we need to engage on many fronts. We need to take initiatives through the UN, we must strengthen national legislation and control, we should use the media, and we must remember that civil society has a very important role to play. We should also cooperate with professional associations of accountants, lawyers, bankers and others.
I will stop there as I am sure you are eager to get to work. I would just like to say how happy we are that you could come to Oslo at such short notice. It’s a shame that it had to be at the darkest time of the year. I hope you will have fruitful discussions, and I wish you every success in your endeavours. And remember that the days will soon be getting brighter.