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Financing Sustainable Development ~ Illicit Financial Flows and Trade Misinvoicing

Beirut, Lebanon

Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) constitute major disablers to sustainable development. As such, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda entailed a premeditated commitment to eliminate these flows by 2030. Commitment to combat IFFs was further captured by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG-16). The United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on its part recognized that IFFs constitute an impediment to domestic resource mobilization. IFFs continue to undermine the rule of law; challenge effective tax administration and revenue collection (e.g.: tax evasion.); distort trade figures and the gains from multilateral and preferential trade (e.g.: trade misinvoicing); worsen macroeconomic and security conditions (terrorist or conflict financing).

Yet, to date, there is no multilaterally agreed upon definition of IFFs or an agreed-on methodology for their measurement. Different institutional stakeholders resort to different methodologies to measure IFFs, thereby frustrating the attempt to provide comparable global and regional assessments across time and space.

Today, IFFs continue to account for substantial resource leakages in developing countries. International institutions were therefore called upon to publish estimates of the volume and composition of IFFs. Empirical estimations for the Arab region, suggest that IFFs may well have outstripped the combined values of ODA and FDI in the region.

Against this backdrop, ESCWA is organizing a focused expert group meeting to jump start discussions, both in the Arab region and across regions, among leading international experts to conjure a common scope, definition, working parameters and methodology to qualify and quantify illicit financial flows and trade misinvoicing. The meeting would identify the elements and components that make up the bulk of IFFs affecting the Arab region, thereby providing a needed premise to advance the findings of the first UNESCWA report on IFFs and trade misinvoicing in the Arab region.

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