Second Committee Statement on Agenda Item 17f “Promotion of international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows & strengthen good practice

Jason Lawrence
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 27, 2019


Thank you, Mr. Chair

We refer you to our remarks delivered on November 21 regarding our positions with respect to illicit financial flows, the 2030 Agenda and Leave No Country Behind.

The United States firmly believes that combating money laundering, corruption, and other related crimes is essential to our common security and economic prosperity, and we appreciate the opportunity to address these threats today. However, we believe the language in this resolution undermines our ability to work together constructively to address these challenges.

With 186 States Parties, the UNCAC’s Conference of States Parties (COSP) serves as the UN’s lead governing body on crime and corruption and is the appropriate venue for relevant experts to consider issues related to asset recovery and return. This resolution undermines UNCAC COSP role in leading these global discussions and we encourage Member States to reconsider allowing this discussion to continue in the General Assembly.

While we acknowledge that the term, “illicit financial flows” has been used in prior resolutions adopted by the General Assembly, the United States generally opposes its inclusion because it is a term with no agreed-upon international definition. In the absence of any common understanding of what constitutes illicit financial flows, we should be clearer about the specific underlying illegal activities that produce or contribute to this threat, such as embezzlement, bribery, money laundering, other corrupt practices, or other crimes. All Member States should focus more concretely on measures they can take at home to prevent, investigate, and prosecute the underlying acts of corruption and other crimes that lead to the creation of proceeds of crime in the first place, and measures that encourage transparency and accountability in the use of recovered assets so as to ensure that recovered assets are best utilized to 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, while not adequately addressing the importance of the other critical parts of the asset recovery process. Effective asset recovery requires detection, investigation, and prosecution as well as cooperation between Member States. Without Member States adequately implementing their own commitments to recover the proceeds of crime, discussions about asset return are moot.

The resolution also focuses on asset return or disposition to the detriment of other critical steps in the asset recovery process. Equal 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. By focusing almost exclusively on the return of assets, and not also acknowledging the importance of these other equally integral components of the process, this resolution undermines the balanced approach reflected in the UNCAC to successfully recover stolen assets.

We also 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.

We would like to stress the importance of coordination with and recognition of the important work of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). We are disappointed that certain Member States view the inclusion of internationally accepted FATF standards as problematic, and we view this intransigence as a puzzling effort to undermine the work of that body given that most countries in the world belong to FATF or a FATF-Style Regional Body.

Lastly, we have concerns with the workload of this committee. This year, we have 47resolutions – more than ever before, and our work seems more hectic and rushed. We believe we can improve our ability to consider more thoughtfully our work if we were to address the issue of periodicity and triennialize and biennialize a number of resolutions. There is not enough meaningful change on many topics so as to require annual consideration.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.