Munir Akram

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 24 (APP): The President of Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Pakistani Ambassador Munir Akram, said on Thursday the key to addressing the three challenges that the world faces – the coronavirus pandemic, the realization of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the existential threat of climate catastrophe – was to mobilize adequate financing to deal with each one of them.

“This will be the first priority for ECOSOC during the Pakistan’s presidency,” he said in his closing remarks to the UN’s High-Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity (FACTI), which was formed in March to help address the financing gap for implementing the SDGs by 2030.

The high-level panel, which met virtually Thursday, was addressed among others by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“Such financing will have to be mobilized at both the national and international levels,” Ambassador Akram said, while pointing out that the ability of developing countries to mobilize domestic finance was constrained, and further diminished due to the grave impact of the COVID crisis.

In its Interim Report, the FACTI Panel identified the huge resources, which the developing countries lose due to illicit financial flows as a result of corruption, bribery, crimes and tax evasion.

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“They (developing countries) could not afford to lose these resources in the best of times,” the ECOSOC chief said, adding they certainly could not afford following the COVID crisis, which had triggered major economic contractions in most developing countries.

“To allow illicit flows to continue, at this time, would be nothing short of criminal,” Ambassador Akram declared.
In this regard, he welcomed the initiative to set up the FACTI panel by his predecessor, Ambassador Mona Juulof Norway and the former President of the General Assembly Ambassador Tijani Muhammad Bande of Nigeria.

“Illicit financial flows stifle opportunities, deny vulnerable people access to basic infrastructure, services, and condemn them to a life of inequality and poverty,” the ECOSOC chief said.

“These flows are a key contributory factor for the economic under performance of developing countries and a major obstacle to poverty eradication.”

The estimates of illicit financial flows in the Interim Report of the Panel, he said, were “appalling”, underscoring the urgency and scale of the challenge that must be addressed in order to halt and reverse such flows.

“Financial accountability, transparency and integrity is a global problem, and requires global solutions,” Ambassador Akram said.

Noting various gaps and challenges identified by the Panel, he proposed for consideration the following additional points:
1. As the volume of assets returned to countries of origin, identified in the report, was only a tiny fraction of the proceeds of illicit finances, it should make actionable proposals to address these deficiencies.
2. Our discourse for the development of global norms and standards should be inclusive, noting that at present the countries, which are most impacted by illicit financial flows, are not part of such discussions.
3. There is need to develop international tax norms that promote more coherent and equitable rules on tax collection and eliminate tax havens. A minimum global corporate tax could resolve this problem.
4. Also, there is need for ensuring that all companies, including multinationals and the Internet giants, pay taxes where economic activity occurs and value is created.
5. A review the role of certain bilateral investment treaties, which are manifestly unfair to developing countries as recent financial awards against a number of developing countries, indicate the need for more equitable structures of international financial adjudication.
“I am confident that the final report of the Panel would suggest ways to address gaps, challenges, and shortcomings in the current legal and institutional framework to promote financial accountability transparency and integrity,” Ambassador Akram said, while winding up the discussion.

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