“Lack of Strong Political Will by UN Member States Hinders Fight Against Illicit Financial Flows” – Envoy Kemayah tells High-Level UN General Assembly

Amb. Kemayah IFF

(New York, May 21, 2019)  Liberia’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, His Excellency Ambassador Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemayah, Sr., says strong political will from Member States is needed to address the problem of illicit financial flows.

Ambassador Kemayah told a High-Level United Nations General Assembly Meeting on Illicit Financial Flows, that nationally and internationally, there are numerous initiatives and frameworks to mitigate illicit financial flows; but stressed that strong political will, as being exhibited by His Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia was critical to ensuring success.

Said Ambassador Kemayah: “It is not that we lack the initiatives or frameworks in our efforts to mitigate Illicit Financial Flows; rather, it is the lack of strong political will by Member States of the United Nations that is hindering our achievements in this endeavor. For example, there are a number of frameworks under the umbrella of various institutions such as the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC); the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) among others, related to combating Illicit Financial Flows and facilitating cooperation. Relevant National Policies and International Mechanisms to fight corruption, tax evasion, money laundering and other trans-national crimes should be further strengthened, to make them fit for purpose. That is why the political will, already alluded to, will be critical to buttressing all these efforts mentioned supra. For us in Liberia, it is more than encouraging that His Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah, President of Republic of Liberia continues to relentlessly demonstrate such political will.”

Ambassador Kemayah asserted that though a universal phenomenon, smaller and poorer developing countries are the most vulnerable and affected by illicit financial flows; evidenced by alarming statistics from Africa and effects on economies. “The 2015 Report of the African Union /United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (AU/UNECA) High-Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows referred to as the “Mbeki Report” suggests that, at a conservative estimate, Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) from the continent of Africa amount to between Thirty to Sixty Billion United States Dollars (US$ 30 and 60 billion) per year. It is important to indicate that since then, this estimate has increased rapidly over the years.” He explained.

The Liberian Ambassador to the United Nations further stated, like commodity price downturn and its related uncertainties, illicit financial flows also have  effects on the capacities of developing countries to generate adequate and appropriate fiscal revenues to support their national development plans; with consequences for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Ambassador Kemayah then stressed the need to take stock of the current framework(s) and guidelines for international cooperation on combating illicit financial flows; and enhancing asset recovery and return, to ascertain whether these framework(s) and guidelines are serving the purpose; and take concrete steps to address inadequacies as necessary.

Encouraging advocacy, awareness and promotion of exchange of information and synergy between and among all stakeholders, Ambassador Kemayah called for international cooperation to be viewed in the context of providing technical assistance to developing countries to enhance their capacities to prevent, detect and combat illicit financial flows; as well as strengthening institutional frameworks and regulatory capacities. Ambassador Kemayah also called for the provision of requisite support to regional initiatives to facilitate the practical implementation of the recommendations of the Mbeki Report (The High-Level Panel Report on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa) which was birthed under the auspices of the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

The “United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) High-Level Meeting on International Cooperation to Combat Illicit Financial Flows and Strengthening Good Practices on Asset Recovery and Return” convened in New York on Thursday, May 16, 2019.

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