At the Third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Accra, Ghana in 2008, more than 1,700 participants from governments, aid agencies and civil society organizations came together to review progress on the Paris Declaration and to define the steps forward to further improve aid effectiveness. One result was the Accra Agenda for Action, in which donor countries committed themselves to fight corruption, in particular to “take steps in their own countries to combat corruption by individuals or corporations and to track, freeze, and recover illegally acquired assets.”
This declaration created momentum in the international fight against corruption, addressing a facet that had hitherto been largely neglected by the international development community, but which has important repercussions worldwide. Vast sums of financial assets are stolen from developing countries and hidden in financial centers around the world – money that could provide education, food or health services to the poor. Estimates reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars, and, although, there is some disagreement about these figures, it is clear that they probably exceed the level of official development assistance by a significant margin. Those stolen assets can be returned to their lawful owners and used for development programs, sending a clear message to corrupt political leaders that OECD countries are prepared to take action against corrupt practices at home.
This publication reviews the compliance of 30 OECD donor countries with the anti-corruption commitments they made in Accra. It assesses progress in combating corruption and in tracking and recovering illegal assets to inform decision-makers of progress at the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, which will be held in Busan in November 2011. The report shows that four countries – Australia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States – have repatriated a total of USD 227 million to foreign jurisdictions between 2006 and 2009, with another two countries – France and Luxembourg – having frozen assets pending a court decision. Assets frozen total slightly over USD 1.2 billion.
The findings of the report highlight the need to develop a concrete follow-up action plan in Busan, as most countries have not yet taken sufficient steps to translate the commitments they made in Accra into policies generating concrete results. However, positive examples show that, with strong political leadership and institutional mechanisms in place, important results can be achieved in the fight against corruption and asset recovery. This report is a reminder of the commitments made in the fight against corruption. It provides us with practical recommendations on how action to recover stolen assets can be improved.