Commentary on the FACTI Panel’s Report and Recommendations (Part 1)

This past February, the United Nation’s cumbersomely-named “High-Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity for Achieving the 2030 Agenda”—which, thankfully, everyone simply refers to as the FACTI Panel—released its report on Financial Integrity for Sustainable Development. The report (which was accompanied by a briefer executive summary and an interactive webpage) laid out a series of recommendation for dealing with the problem of illicit international financial flows. Though the report states that it contains 14 recommendations, most of these have multiple subparts, which are really distinct proposals, so by my count the report actually lays out a total of 35 recommendations.

I had the opportunity to interview one of the FACTI panelists, Thomas Stelzer—currently the Dean of the International Anti-Corruption Academy—for the KickBack podcast, in an episode that aired last week. Our conversation touched on several of the report’s recommendations. But this seems like a sufficiently important topic, and the FACTI Panel report like a sufficiently important contribution to the debates over that topic, that it made sense to follow up with a more extensive analysis of and engagement with the FACTI Panel’s recommendations.

Of the 35 distinct recommendations in the report, eight of them (Recommendations 2, 3B, 4A, 4B, 4C, 8A, 11A, and 14B) all deal with tax matters (such as tax fairness, anti-evasion measures, information sharing among tax authorities, etc.). While this is an important topic, it is both less directly related to anticorruption and well outside my areas of expertise. So, I won’t address these recommendations. That leaves 27 recommendations. That’s too much for one post, so I’ll talk about 13 recommendations in this post and the other 14 in my next post.

I should say at the outset that, while some of my comments below are critical, overall I am hugely grateful to the members of the FACTI Panel for their important work on this topic. The Panel’s report should, and I hope will, prompt further discussion and careful consideration both of the general problem and the Panel’s specific recommendation. Part of that process is critical engagement, which includes a willingness to raise concerns and objections, and to probe at weak or underdeveloped parts of the arguments. I emphasize this because I don’t want my criticisms below to be mistaken for an attack on the Panel or its report. Rather, I intend those criticisms in a constructive spirit, and I hope they will be so interpreted.

With that important clarification out of the way, let’s dig in, taking each recommendation in sequence.

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New Podcast, Featuring Thomas Stelzer

A new episode of KickBack: The Global Anticorruption Podcast is now available. In this week’s episode, I interview Thomas Stelzer, who is currently the Dean of the International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA), and who recently served as a member of the United Nations High-Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity for Achieving the 2030 Agenda (a mouthful of a name, which is why this distinguished group is usually referred to as the FACTI Panel). After Dean Stelzer opens our conversation with a discussion of his own professional background and interest in corruption, the interview turns to the FACTI Panel’s report, published this past February, and the report’s recommendations for combating illicit international financial flows. (In addition to the full report, which runs to 49 pages not including annexes and references, FACTI has released a shorter executive summary, as well as an interactive web page.) I asked Dean Stelzer about several of the report’s recommendations that seemed especially pertinent to the fight against grand corruption, and he gamely responded some of the questions and concerns that I raised about certain aspects of the report. In addressing these issues, Dean Stelzer emphasized the importance of more and better research on the topic of illicit financial flows, as well as the need for sustained efforts to ensure effective implementation of reforms such as those that the FACTI Panel outlined. You can also find both this episode and an archive of prior episodes at the following locations: KickBack is a collaborative effort between GAB and the ICRN. If you like it, please subscribe/follow, and tell all your friends! And if you have suggestions for voices you’d like to hear on the podcast, just send me a message and let me know.