By Robin Gomes
The Holy See is calling for stepping up the fight against illicit financial flows (IFFs) saying they are a challenge to development and are fuelled by evils such as human and organ trafficking, forced labour, sexual exploitation and illicit exploitation of natural resources.
Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York, made the point at a high-level meeting on Thursday, on combatting IFFs, strengthening good practices and recovering assets.
Chocking development, rule of law
The archbishop pointed out that IFFs are 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.
The Holy See diplomat expressed particular concern over IFFs’ link with human trafficking. Illicit proceeds from forced labour and sexual exploitation generate over $150 billion per year, and profits from illicit organ trafficking are estimated at over $1.2 billion.
“Human trafficking is, in fact, one of the most significant generators of criminal proceeds in the world,” Archbishop Auza said.
Unsustainable exploitation of natural resources
The Vatican official also noted that illicit proceeds are connected to the illegal and unsustainable exploitation of natural resources by extractive industries.
Corruption and weak law enforcement, he said, seriously endanger fisheries, forests, and biodiversity, and it is always the poor who are left behind to endure the most devastating consequences.
Archbishop Auza called for a strong international cooperation to combat IFFs as they frequently involve the transnational transfer of illicit profits from poor countries to wealthy economies. This, he said, is needed to step up support for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.
This challenge, the archbishop said, 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.