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Study on the impact of the non-repatriation of funds of illicit origin on the enjoyment of human rights

During its 19th Session, the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 19/38 (A/HRC/RES/19/38) on "the negative impact of the non-repatriation of funds of illicit origin to the countries of origin on the enjoyment of human rights and the importance of international cooperation," in which it requested the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights (“Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights”), to conduct a study on this subject.

As stressed in the resolution, “corruption is a serious barrier to effective resource mobilization and allocation and diverts resources away from activities that are vital for poverty eradication, the fight against hunger, and economic and sustainable development.”

The resolution also recalls that “the enjoyment of human rights, be they economic, social and cultural, or civil and political, in particular the right to development, is seriously undermined by the phenomenon of corruption and the transfer of funds of illicit origin, which may endanger the stability and security of societies, undermine the values of democracy and morality and jeopardize social, economic and political development, especially when an inadequate national and international response leads to impunity.”

A study prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) concerning the negative impact of the non-repatriation of funds of illicit origin to the countries of origin on the enjoyment of human rights, in particular economic, social and cultural rights (A/HRC/19/42) indicates that “only around 2 per cent of the estimated funds of illicit origin annually leaving the developing world are repatriated to their countries of origin.”

In March 2013 the Independent Expert presented his interim report on the non-repatriation of illicit funds to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/22/42). The report stresses that 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 investment flows, hindering development, exacerbating poverty and undermining the enjoyment of human rights. The interim report provides an overview about estimates of illicit financial flows, information on their countries of origin and destination, reviews current initiatives to curb illicit financial flows, and assesses their impact from a human rights perspective.

On 21 March 2013 the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 22/12 (A/HRC/RES/22/12) witch noted with appreciation the interim study of the Independent Expert and requested the High Commissioner to assist the Independent Expert holding a consultation on the topic.

Expert consultation and call for submissions

The consultation took place from 20 and 21 June 2013 in Geneva. Experts from around the world in the fields of human rights, finance and economics participated. The consultation is intended to inform the final study of the Independent Expert.

In addition written submissions may be provided to the Independent Expert on the following topics:

  • The impact of illicit financial outflows (from corruption, tax evasion, transfer mispricing, trade mis-invoicing, etc.) on Government revenues and the realization of economic, social and cultural rights in countries of origin.
  • Initiatives taken in countries of origin and destination to return “stolen” assets as contemplated in Articles 53-55 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), as well as main practical and legal obstacles experienced in returning such assets to their legitimate owners.  States are also invited to provide the following information: (a) how many request for mutual legal assistance were made to which countries, the number of completed and on-going cases involving asset recovery and the total value of assets identified and frozen in your jurisdiction since 2006 (after entry into force of UNCAC); and (b) the total value of assets that were returned to the requesting country or a foreign jurisdiction in accordance with article 57 UNCAC since 2006.
  • The main human rights issues relating to the outflow, seizure, freezing and return of stolen assets, and how human rights considerations should inform the management of returned assets.
  • Human rights issues relating to the protection of witnesses, experts, victims and reporting persons (including journalists, anti-corruption activists and human rights defenders) as contemplated for example in Articles 32 and 33 UNCAC.
  • With reference to the interim report of the Independent Expert (A/HRC/22/42), comment on the issues which in your view the final report of the Independent Expert should address.

Submissions received will be posted on the web page of the Independent Expert and may be sent to:

Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights
c/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Special Procedures Branch
Palais des Nations, CH-1211 Geneva, Switzerland
Email: registry@ohchr.org and ieforeigndebt@ohchr.org

Deadline for submissions is 31 July 2013.

Submissions received