International and regional cooperation is key to tackling the challenges of SDG 16.4 – significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery, return stolen assets and combat organized crime.
At the Global Conference on SDG 16, these issues were highlighted in a dedicated panel as part of the broader conversations around achieving SDG 16 ahead of its formal review at the High-Level Political Forum in July.
Illicit financial flows and corruption affect countries across the development spectrum, speaking to the universality of the 2030 Agenda. What’s more, it is a cross-border challenge that can spill over to multiple countries.
For many developing countries it becomes a vicious cycle where weak economies are more vulnerable to corruption and other forms of organized crime. The prevalence of such crimes hampers progress and growth, said Ernesto Savona, Director for the Joint Research Center of Transnational Crime at the University of Cattolica.
“It is also a problem that money, which was the product of illicit financial flows in Somalia is then laundered in Kenya or Uganda. So it produces a lot of crime in one country but the economic benefit of that crime goes to other countries,” Mr. Savona added.
Examples shared from Kenya explained that the focus has been on recovering stolen assets that have been stashed abroad and investing them in public programs. This not only sends a signal to those engaged in corruption, but also repairs public trust in government institutions and the judicial system.
Returning stolen assets across boarders requires strong networks and increased international cooperation, and there is also a need to share knowledge, data, expertise and experiences between countries, explained panelist Judith Shamalla, Senior Attorney at the Civil Litigation and Asset Recovery division at the Kenyan Ethics and Anticorruption Commission.
While countries have successfully recaptured stolen assets abroad, there is a risk in some countries that the returned money ends up in the pockets of kleptocratic elites, warned Mat Tromme, Director of Sustainable Development and Rule of Law Program, Bingham Center for the Rule of Law.
“Most people [therefore] agree that you need to find a third-party monitor and achieve as much transparency as you can in this process.”
Effective institutions represent a pillar of SDG 16 and are vital to building public trust, and in turn access to justice for all. As countries strive to implement SDG 16, tackling corruption is key.