Transparency International and International Centre for Asset Recovery call for active engagement between civil society and governments
Transparency International and the International Centre for Asset Recovery (ICAR) today called on G20, Arab governments and member states of the Arab Forum on Asset Recovery to engage further with civil society in the recovery of stolen assets. The call comes on the occasion of the third Arab Forum on Asset Recovery (AFAR) in Geneva where, for the first time, civil society was included as an integral player in the event.
“We welcome this opportunity for constructive dialogue between governments and civil society organisations (CSOs) from the Middle East and North Africa region and concerned jurisdictions where assets are frozen. It shows continuity from work done under AFAR last year, where the contribution of CSOs to asset recovery was widely acknowledged, and provides a unique opportunity to strengthen recovery of stolen assets efforts in the region,” said ICAR Managing Director Gretta Fenner.
Between 2006-2012, OECD countries froze US $2.63 billion with nearly 40% originating from Arab Spring countries. However, of the global frozen amounts, only US $423 million has been returned.
“Arab governments must strengthen their engagement with civil society in our common goal of recovering stolen assets,” said Transparency International’s director of the Middle East & North African programme Ghada Zughayar. “Civil society can and should play an important role in the process and is ready to work with governments to support their work in the return of stolen assets.”
The Middle East and North Africa region is the fastest growing part of the world for illicit financial flows leaving their origin countries. This ill-gotten wealth should be used for economic projects that benefit their citizens and not fund the luxurious lifestyles of the corrupt. Billions of dollars from corrupt individuals and families have been laundered through an intricate system of shell companies that hide their identities. Transparency International’s global campaign Unmask the Corrupt calls on G20 governments to curb cross border corruption by having every country publish registers that show the real, beneficial, owners of all companies.
Civil society from 13 countries across the Middle East and North Africa and from asset receiving states came together at the invitation of Transparency International and ICAR during the third AFAR event and made the following recommendations for civil society engagement in asset recovery:
- In order for civil society to be an active partner in informing the public and in supporting the process of asset recovery, states should create a mechanism for information sharing between civil society and government.
- States must provide a legal framework and environment conducive to civil society playing an active role in asset recovery, including whistleblower protection as provided for in the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).
- States and civil society should work together to develop national asset recovery reform strategies.