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Macroeconomic policies

Illicit financial flows, human rights and the post-2015 development agenda

Illicit financial flows generated from crime, corruption, embezzlement and tax evasion represent a major drain on the resources of developing countries, reducing tax revenues and the scope for progressive taxation, hindering development and the rule of law, exacerbating poverty and inequality, and undermining the enjoyment of human rights. Tax evasion and abuse are considered to be responsible for the majority of all illicit financial outflows, followed by illicit financial flows relating to criminal activities, such as drug and human trafficking, the illicit arms trade, terrorism and corruption-based illicit financial flows. According to some estimations developing countries lost USD 991 billion in illicit financial outflows in 2012 and those flows increased in real terms at a rate of 9.4 per cent per annum over the period 2003–2012. The annual loss is substantially more than the estimated yearly costs of achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

In a new report submitted to the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council, the UN Independent Expert on Foreign Debt and Human Rights updates earlier reports by the same Thematic Mandate. The new report outlines how illicit financial flows undermine the enjoyment of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights and emphasizes the need for due diligence and due process in the fight against illicit financial flows, for better protection of witnesses and whistle-blowers and for incorporating human rights considerations in the management of returned stolen assets. It concludes with recommendations on how the goal of curbing illicit financial flows could be operationalized within the post-2015 development agenda of the United Nations.

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February 2017
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