IFF AGENDA GAINS GLOBAL MOMENTUM – CODA SUPPORTS THE AFRICAN UNION AND ITS MEMBER STATES TO PROMOTE INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION TO STEM IFFs FROM AFRICA AND STRENGTHEN ASSETS RECOVERY AND RETURN TO THE CONTINENT

he Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA) supported the African Union Commission (AUC) to deliver a High Level Event which was sponsored and supported by several governments – Nigeria, Ethiopia, Namibia and Zambia, South Africa, Antigua and Barbuda, Norway, Japan, and Mexico. It was held on the margins of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). The event was held to promote international cooperation for the reduction of Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) from Africa and the improvement of asset recovery and return practices. It was also supported by several international countries and partner organizations.

H.E. Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which initiated the organization of the event expressed his country’s commitment to strengthening good practices for the recovery and return of Africa’s assets. In his statement, he identified that “asset recovery and return is a complex matter and as such, Nigeria works to promote good practices to lift hurdles to recover stolen assets due to international laws”.

In her remarks, H.E. Sahle-Work Zewde, President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia called for innovative solutions to tackling IFFs from Africa. She added that “this requires member states to collaborate in the spirit of partnership and shared responsibility. In the same vein, we must address the global financial architecture and international laws which have been put in place to undermine financial transparency.”

The President of Zambia, H.E. Edgar Lungu spoke to the need for further collaborative studies on IFFs. He stressed that “more needs to be done to overcome this challenge. Limited understanding of IFFs contribute to the lack of cooperation and it is therefore imperative to look at the institutional mechanisms required to overcome the phenomenon”.

H.E. Prof. Tijjani Hommmad-Bande, President of the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) expressed commitment to the progress of this agenda during his tenure. He said that the “task to deal with IFFs is very much for diplomats, scholars and activists as this seriously hampers peace, security and development. It is now established that when aid is given to Africa, it is not up to a quarter of what is stolen: IFFs must therefore be blocked. Return of stolen assets without condition is a worthwhile effort. This ill causes corruption and other criminal activities that are created in vulnerable countries. IFFs is no longer an issue for Africa to address alone if we want to bring development and peace”.

The Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) and Co-Chair of the Consortium of African Institutions working to Stem IFFs from Africa, H.E. Thomas Kwesi Quartey called for continued collaboration to stem IFFs from Africa. He elucidated that the AUC through the Consortium to Stem IFFs from Africa as well as its technical arm, the IFF Working Group (IWG) have been working to build the capacities of African Union Member States to adequately tackle IFFs and strengthen asset recovery and return. This includes the development of a Common African Position on Asset Recovery (CAPAR), engaging further study of the phenomenon of IFFs and lead regional and global advocacy in order to effectively strengthen good practices for asset recovery and return. In closing, he declared that “the African Union as a whole shall not rest until IFFs from Africa are reduced”.

The government of Namibia represented by its Hon. Minister of Finance, Carl-Hermann Gustav Schlettwein underlined the need to be prepared at all times for opposition to the continent’s efforts as well as not to lose focus on the real perpetrators of IFFs from the continent. He added that “those we fight will fight back. Corruption composes only five percent of IFFs and so it cannot be the focus”.

The meeting also saw the heads of several other African and non-African institutions also deliver remarks in support of the agenda. This included H.E. Dr Ibrahim A. Mayaki, Former Prime Minister of Niger Republic and current CEO of AUDA-NEPAD who strongly highlighted that “colonialism was a full-fledged mechanism of IFFs and UN member states must unite and demand the return of stolen assets unconditionally”. He went on to propose several concrete measures to overcome IFFs including strengthening the collaboration between FIUs and anticorruption agencies and encourage periodic national risk assessment on IFFs.

The meeting further provided a global platform for an exchange of views on the best way to realise the target of curtailing IFFs by 2030 and sharing of national experiences and best practices on partnerships that can work.

Foot Note:

The recommendations of the High Level Panel (Mbeki Panel) were promptly adopted by African Heads of States at the 24th African Union Summit in 2015. Following this adoption, a Consortium of African Institutions to stem IFFs from Africa and its technical arm, the IFFs Working Group (IWG), were established to oversee the implementation of the Panel’s recommendations. An Action Plan, Monitoring and Evaluation framework as well as specifically targeted projects have been developed in a bid to enhance a strong coalition for a Joint Delivery of actions on the basis of comparative advantage and pooling of resources. The eighteen African institutions in the Consortium (led by Thabo Mbeki and the AUC) unanimously agreed to maintain and upscale ongoing efforts at national, regional and global level to implement cohesively and report in a structured manner. They also committed to foster additional research to deepen the understanding of the phenomenon and strengthen national level interventions.