ECOSOC Chief Munir Akram calls for ‘robust’ global efforts to fight corruption
Associated Press Of Pakistan
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 02 —The President of UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Pakistani Ambassador Munir Akram, Wednesday called for strengthening international cooperation to fight corruption, which leads to massive outflows of illicit finance out of developing countries and is one of the main reasons for their economic under-performance.
“Immediate and robust national and international action is needed to stop the bleeding of developing countries,” he told a special session of the UN General Assembly against corruption.
Stressing that corruption stifles opportunities for the poor, condemning them to a life of misery and inequity, Ambassador Akram said an estimated $2.6 trillion, or 5 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP), was lost annually to such behaviour, and developing countries lost $1.26 trillion, nine times all official development assistance (ODA).
Noting that the pandemic had pushed millions into extreme poverty, resulting in the loss of 250 million jobs, the ECOSOC chief said, “Allowing corruption and illicit financial slows to continue in these circumstances is nothing short of criminal.” Robust national and international action was needed to stop the bleeding of developing countries, he added.
Emphasizing that corruption must be addressed by the perpetrators, as well as the enablers, he said the establishment of global beneficial ownership registry would help identify perpetrators.
While corruption must be tackled at the national level, he said it was equally important to impose penalties on the lawyers, accountants and all those enabling such behaviour, with global standards agreed and imposed to ensure this end.
The absence of effective mechanisms to secure the return of stolen assets also had created a sense of impunity, he continued, and led to the parking of $7 trillion in safe havens.
Going forward, Ambassador Akram said the secrecy jurisdictions must be eradicated, and new legal instruments agreed to facilitate the obligatory return of stolen assets.
Standards for international extractive companies meanwhile must be devised, including inter-state agreements that allow for nullification of corporate contracts should corruption be discovered, he said.
A moratorium should be imposed on all investor-state disputes, in which corruption was clearly visible, and a trust fund created to help developing countries pursue the often lengthy administrative and legal proceedings for the return of their stolen assets.
The ECOSOC chief said with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reporting that curbing corruption could deliver $1 trillion annually in tax revenues across the world, or 1.2 per cent of global GDP, money that could be used by governments to support health, education and infrastructure. A minimum global corporate tax would be a good first step to end tax crimes, he said.
Noting that the current institutional environment of international tax cooperation was dominated by voluntary forums and bilateral tax treaties, with no universal tax convention to compare with the Convention against Corruption, Ambassador Akram called for the work of the United Nations Tax Committee to be made completely intergovernmental, with negotiations initiated for devising a global United Nations tax convention.
Also, as collective action to stem illicit financial flows is impeded by disparate entities with narrow mandates and restricted representation, the ECOSOC chief underscored the urgency of establishing an inclusive, legitimate global coordination mechanism at the United Nations.
Indeed, Ambassador Akram said corruption and illicit financial flows were systemic problems. Fighting them required global efforts, he said, stressing: “International cooperation is indispensable.”