Explanation of Position on a Resolution on the Promotion of International Cooperation to Combat Illicit Financial Flows

Jesse Walter
Advisor for Economic and Social Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 24, 2020


The United States firmly believes that combating money laundering, terrorist and proliferation financing, corruption, and other related forms of illicit finance is essential to our common security and economic prosperity. However, the language in this resolution undermines our ability to work constructively on challenges.

We encourage Member States to reconsider allowing this discussion to continue in the General Assembly.

The UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) is the first global instrument to address the recovery and return of the proceeds of corruption. The UNCAC Conference of States Parties (COSP) serves as the UN’s lead body promoting anti-corruption and related anti-crime policy, and is the appropriate venue for relevant experts to consider issues addressing the recovery and return of the proceeds of these crimes. This resolution undermines the UNCAC COSP’s role in leading discussion at the global level and overstates the role of the UNCAC as a general tool of asset recovery and return.

The resolution is not sufficiently clear about what specific underlying illegal activities are in question here, such as embezzlement, bribery, money laundering, and other corrupt practices or related crimes. All Member States should focus more concretely on measures they can take at home to prevent, investigate, and prosecute the underlying criminal acts that yield the proceeds of crime in the first place. Member States should also take measures that encourage transparency and accountability in the use of recovered assets to ensure that recovered assets benefit those harmed by acts of corruption. This resolution does not achieve that objective.

The resolution places too much attention on the return of confiscated proceeds of crime. Effective asset recovery requires detection, investigation, and prosecution as well as cooperation between Member States. Attention and resources must be devoted to establishing competent domestic legal and regulatory frameworks and institutions necessary to facilitating the proper detection and investigation of criminal proceeds, and the freezing, seizure, and confiscation of the same.

We do not believe that asset recovery should be coupled so directly with sustainable development. While these issues may be linked in some cases, this resolution implies that they must necessarily be connected, when the focus should remain on law enforcement and fighting impunity. Asset recovery should be done in accordance with our obligations under the UNCAC. Our focus should be on our treaty obligations.

We recognize the vital work of, and stress the importance of coordination with, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). FATF’s internationally accepted standards provide a common set of commitments to mitigate the risk of money laundering, terrorist financing, proliferation financing, and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system. Any meaningful action to combat illicit finance must support these standards and the FATF’s work overall. Attempts to undermine the work of the FATF or exclude its standards from the resolution will only serve to hinder our common efforts in this area.

We refer you to our general statement delivered on November 18, regarding our positions with respect to the term illicit financial flows and the 2030 Agenda.