By Porter McConnell - Manager of the Financial Transparency Coalition.
When the Task Force on Financial Integrity and Economic Development was created in 2009, only a handful of experts were following the issue of illicit financial flows. The subject was decipherable only to finance professionals taking advantage of tax havens, and a handful of civil society groups and finance journalists. Meanwhile, each year nearly a trillion dollars was being secreted out of developing countries, robbing them of revenue needed to build better lives for their citizens.
Over the last four years, a growing number of policymakers and citizens have begun to take heed. What good is pouring money into foreign assistance when ten times that amount leaves developing countries in corruption, crime, and corporate tax evasion, often arriving right back in rich country bank accounts? Meanwhile, activists in developing countries are pushing back against austerity, and demanding that foreign investors in oil, gas and mining and local elites pay their fair share.
Today, the issues we work on are front page news:
- The US Senate is now investigating Apple’s tax avoidance schemes in Ireland and the US
- This spring, it was revealed that French budget minister Jerome Cahuzac had been secretly funneling money into a Swiss bank account for years; he has been charged with tax fraud
- Global Witness recently uncovered evidence of the instruments used by the ruling family in Sarawak to skirt Malaysia’s laws and taxes, and to sell off the country’s timber wealth
These are exciting times, and we are changing with them:
As of today, we are changing our name to the Financial Transparency Coalition. We are a global group of experts, activists, and governments working together to blow away the smokescreen of financial secrecy and to build a more transparent financial system that works for everyone. It’s a simple premise, and it demands a simple name.
I joined the Coalition in March as part of the changes. In a decade in the development field, I heard the same message from colleagues in civil society groups from Malawi to Bangladesh: foreign assistance is great, but managing our own domestic resources with transparency and accountability is better. In joining this truly global Coalition, I hope to honor their sentiment.
The Financial Transparency Coalition will build on the incredible foundation that the Task Force has created. We are continuing to invest in our global network of over 150 civil society groups, economists, and governments . Our growing global reach has allowed us to respond to political opportunities from Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean, and we hope to expand this work in the coming year.
We are energized by recent signs of progress, but the battle is far from over. Developing countries lost an estimated $859 billion in illicit outflows in 2010 alone, up from 2009. The Coalition has committed to an ambitious work plan for this year and next, ranging from training journalists in developing countries on illicit financial flows to advocating that the U.S. Congress pass legislation to name the true owners of shell companies.
Be sure to check out our new website, FinancialTransparency.org, where we will continue to bring you the latest news on illicit financial flows and the resources you need to interpret it. We’ve consolidated most of our sections into one feed, to create the most informative experience possible.
And to witness for yourself the movement that we’ve created together, join us at the Financial Transparency Coalition annual conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on October 1-2, 2013.
This blog post originally appeared on FinancialTransparency.org: http://www.financialtransparency.org/2013/05/29/announcing-the-financial-transparency-coalition/