Vast quantities of resources, much-needed for development, are lost every year through corruption, tax avoidance and evasion, and money laundering.
A High-level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity for Achieving the 2030 Agenda is working to identify and address the gaps, blockages and weaknesses in international institutions and legal frameworks.
When the United Nations was created 75 years ago from the ashes of the Second World War, the need for cooperation among nations was among its fundamental purposes. Today, although the challenges we face have changed, the remedy remains the same. Joint, coordinated, multilateral action is of critical importance to the future of our world.
The COVID-19 pandemic poses unprecedented challenges to our nations, with its devastating impacts on the lives and livelihoods of people, and severe disruptions to our societies and economies. The coming global recession is also set to exacerbate inequality, discrimination and unemployment around the globe. Again, we are likely to see the poorest and the most vulnerable, particularly those from developing countries, pay the highest price.
All of this is occurring in the very year that countries of the United Nations agreed to embark on a “Decade of Action” to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs – the global blueprint agreed by world leaders in 2015 to end poverty, to protect the planet, to ensure prosperity for all, and to foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies.
In this light, many question just how we can remain optimistic about achieving these ambitious targets. Especially given the previously wide, and now increasing, gap between public resources and the financing needed to make the SDGs a reality. Vast quantities of resources, much-needed for development, are lost every year through corruption, tax avoidance and evasion, and money laundering. We need to mobilise sufficient political will, and work together to prevent it from being siphoned away.
As the Presidents of the General Assembly – the most inclusive deliberative body of the UN – and of the Economic and Social Council – the heart of the UN’s development system – we heard from countries across the globe about the need for action on this issue, and we are pleased to announce that work has begun.
Several months ago, before the crisis took on the magnitude we are seeing today, we launched a High-level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity for Achieving the 2030 Agenda. This ‘FACTI Panel’ is comprised of 17 leaders in policymaking, academia, civil society and the private sector, who are working together to identify and address the gaps, blockages and weaknesses in international institutions and legal frameworks. Their work now takes on even more urgency in the light of the current crisis.
Recovering funds after they have been stolen and transferred to other countries is extremely difficult, requiring years of investigative work and legal proceedings. The Panel is considering how to simplify and speed up this process. One thing is certain: transparency is crucial.
It makes even more sense to act now to prevent the diversion of these funds in the first place. Strengthening tools to prevent corruption is also on the Panel’s agenda, because public funds are urgently needed to fill immediate needs in a time of crisis. The world should also ensure that we are building robust and inclusive health systems in the process. We cannot miss this opportunity to shift the world toward a more sustainable and resilient path.
We are confident that the recommendations the FACTI Panel will help guide the United Nations and its Member States towards a future with financial and economic systems that serve our aims of sustainable development.
We are undoubtedly facing a global challenge. We can only tackle COVID-19 through a truly multilateral response and the same can also be said for addressing our economic, social and political challenges. Let’s work together to deliver for all. This is our hope and solemn commitment. We are confident that by doing so we can succeed in making sure that the United Nations’ 75th anniversary message, “Striving together, delivering for all”, is not just rhetoric.
In September, on the sidelines of the opening of the General Assembly, the FACTI Panel will release its interim report, which will set out some of the gaps it has identified. The final report will be released in February 2021. To meet the co-chairs and the other 15 board members, watch the meetings, and receive updates and news about events, please sign up at https://www.factipanel.org/
This guest article was authored by Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, President of the United Nations General Assembly, and Mona Juul, President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council