On May 16, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN gave an intervention during the High-Level Meeting on International Cooperation to Combat Illicit Financial Flows and Strengthen Good Practices and Asset Returns, which took place at UN headquarters in New York.
In his statement, Archbishop Auza said that illicit financial flows (IFF) harm the development, especially of poorer nations by depriving them of needed developmental resources, encouraging criminal activity, undermining the rule of law and political stability, promoting human trafficking and catalyzing the exploitation of natural resources by extractive industries. Combating IFFs, he added, requires strong international cooperation and the recognition that the problem is not just technological or financial, but ethical.
Following is Archbishop Auza’s Full Statement
The Holy See wishes to thank you for convening this high-level meeting to take stock of the progress made and of the challenges that remain in reducing illicit financial flows (IFFs) and promoting best practices in asset recovery and repatriation.
IFFs constitute a serious challenge to development because, by diverting resources from public spending and by cutting the capital available for private investment, they deprive developing countries of the desperately needed resources to provide public services, fund poverty-reduction programs and improve infrastructure. Illegal flows also encourage criminal activity and undermine the rule of law and political stability of a country. Their widespread prevalence indicates, in fact, the presence of transnational crime, corruption, money laundering, tax evasion, weak institutions and lack of accountability.
Of particular concern for the Holy See are the IFFs related to human trafficking. It has been estimated that the illicit proceeds obtained from forced labor and sexual exploitation amount to USD 150.2 billion per year. In addition, the profits of illicit organ trafficking amount close to USD 1.2 billion. Human trafficking is, in fact, one of the most significant generators of criminal proceeds in the world.
Other IFFs are connected to the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources by extractive industries, in which rules designed to protect the environment and fees designed to promote a more sustainable use of natural resources are all too often violated. Corruption and weak law enforcement seriously endanger fisheries, forests, and biodiversity, and it is always the poor who are left behind to endure the most devastating consequences.
Because IFFs frequently involve the transnational transfer of illicit profits from poor countries to wealthy economies, combatting it requires strong international cooperation and concerted action by developed and developing countries. Curbing IFFs is, thus, an essential step to support the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.
The biggest challenge facing us is not mainly technological or even financial, because the world is rich enough to increase investments in skills, infrastructure, and technological know-how to meet our needs at the same time that we protect the planet and its inhabitants. It is above all an ethical one, summoning us to find ways to enable everyone equitably to benefit from the fruits of the earth and human ingenuity. This High-level meeting is a much-needed opportunity for the international community to rise up together to meet that challenge.
Thank you, Madam President.
1. FATF Report “Financial Flows from Human Trafficking” July 2018, p. 13.
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