CAPAR as a driver for the achievement of the SDGs in Africa


Kunle Aderinokun

Africa is a continent very rich in natural and financial resources, which has attracted the interest of national and foreign investors. However, these resources are not being converted into wealth for Africans as one might expect.

Lack of equitable access and limited control has resulted in resources being plundered and intentionally or unintentionally taken out of the continent to places where they are not available for the benefit of the peoples of Africa. For many years, African countries have been and continue to witness huge proportions of their resources being sent to foreign jurisdictions without proper compensation and return.

According to the Commonwealth Secretary General, Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland, the need for African countries to tackle corruption has become compelling as corruption leads to illicit financial flows causing the continent to lose $1.26 trillion to IFFs.

Concerned about this development and with the aim of ensuring that Africa derives better profits from looted funds and to mobilize its resources for inclusive and sustainable growth, a forum was held on the sidelines of the 9th Conference of States Parties at the United Nations Convention against Corruption in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

The forum, a hybrid event (physical and virtual) attended by representatives of African governments, was organized by the Independent Commission on Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses (ICPC) in collaboration with the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption (AUBC) and Collation for Dialogue.

The event titled “Understanding and Implementing the Common African Position on Asset Recovery (CAPAR)” aimed to launch new alliances, partnerships and collaborations for the successful implementation of CAPAR.

It was chaired by the President of the ICPC, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye; while Ambassador Bankole Adeoye, Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security of the AU Commission, delivered the keynote address. Statements were also made by Mr. Issaka Garba Abdou from the Department of Political Affairs, Peace and Security of the AUC; Ms. Seynabou Ndiaye Diakhate, Vice President, AUBC Advisory; and Ms. Souad Aden-Osman, ED, Coalition for Dialogue on Africa.

Speaking at the event, Adeoye said that for many years African countries have been and continue to witness huge proportions of their resources being sent to foreign jurisdictions without proper compensation and return. As a continent endowed with precious resources, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security said Africa deserves better deals and should be better able to leverage its resources for a inclusive and sustainable growth.

However, he lamented that this will never be possible if the continent continues to allow its resources to be taken without compensation. He said: “Sometimes these assets are recovered and seized by foreign governments but not repatriated to their country of origin. Such a practice is counterproductive, as these assets are used to fund foreign economies to the detriment of the true owners. “It is for this reason that the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, at its 33rd session in February 2020, endorsed the CAPAR to guide African countries in the recovery and management of stolen assets”.

He described CAPAR as a critical platform that will help stem illicit financial flows from Africa and recover and return assets within a contextualized historical, political, economic and social context. CAPAR sets out recommended measures and actions needed to effectively address the continuing loss of African assets and to effectively identify, recover and manage African assets that are in or have been recovered from foreign jurisdictions, in a manner that respects the development priorities and sovereignty of African countries. Member States of the Union.

CAPAR has four pillars, which highlight the priorities for asset recovery in Africa. The four pillars are detection and identification of assets, recovery and return of assets, management of recovered assets and cooperation and partnerships.

Adeoye told forum participants that already, the four pillars have been approved and are now an official instrument that needs to be implemented. However, he noted that unless stakeholders raise awareness about it, many people will not know it exists and may not know how to interpret and use it. He added: “So we organized this event to raise awareness, discuss and better understand CAPAR. We would also like, through this event, to seek your advice on how best to support countries in implementing this very important instrument. “Through consultations and dialogues such as this, the authorities and individuals concerned will know what to do with CAPAR and we will be able to obtain the necessary support and commitment for its implementation.”

Also speaking at the roundtable, Abdou said CAPAR will address the issue of the loss of African resources and assets over the centuries, adding that estimates of Africa’s losses due to IFFs make Africa a net creditor vis-à-vis the rest of the world. He explained that IFFs and the illicit consignment of African assets to foreign jurisdictions would continue to undermine Africa’s development goals and aspirations, the Post-2015 Agenda and Agenda 2063 unless the community world and AU member states take action. He called for national, regional and global awareness raising on CAPAR, engagement of relevant stakeholders for the success of CAPAR as well as implementation of CAPAR policy recommendations. In his presentation, Stephen Karangizi, Former Director and Managing Director Officer, African Legal Support Facility, said that African States are unable to systematically pursue asset recovery due to several factors. He said that often recipient states struggle to dictate how assets should be used, adding that lengthy recovery efforts could also erode the value of assets. To address these challenges, Karangizi called for institutional collaboration at the national level to identify assets – tax, accounting, customs, banking and beneficial owners. He also called for greater legal and institutional collaboration between governments of transferor and transferee countries, saying there was a need to expedite commercial/criminal cases to enforce asset recovery while harmonizing laws and sanctions across the participating countries. He also called for the establishment of an African Fund where assets are deposited while negotiations are underway on their ownership and use. He said, “There is need for Africa to formulate a clear policy and legal framework for asset recovery. This could start with guidelines that African countries could follow in the process. “The policy should cover in particular the management of assets while they are still held by third States. Certain initiatives – such as ATAF – Mutual assistance in tax matters should be encouraged.

“The AU high-level committee should push for the removal of identified impediments to secrecy. The high-level committee should push for the creation of a neutral body such as Fad to hold liquid assets and assess illiquid assets. Increased capacity building, such as the purchase of necessary tracing tools, and increased knowledge and advocacy. »

In her presentation at the event, Ms. Lilan Ekeanyanwu, Head of Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-Corruption Reforms, TUGAR, Nigeria, spoke about the efforts made by Nigerians to recover assets from different jurisdictions, including including Abacha’s loot as well as artifacts. Some of these efforts, she said, included setting up a legal framework, using resources by engaging lawyers and other professionals, seeking international cooperation and also engaging international institutions. such as the StAR and ICAR initiative and the sponsorship of resolutions on asset recovery. She said recovering stolen assets is not easy but results from a series of both formal and informal negotiations, resilience and endurance. Ekeanyanwu said Nigeria has spent a lot of money to recover assets because the country has to hire lawyers and other professionals to navigate the court process which is sometimes complex to carry out.

She revealed that under the convention, the requested country has the right to deduct the administrative costs, adding that this diminishes the value of the asset when it is finally recovered. She also mentioned that requested states also use settlement or no-trial resolutions to prevent victim states from recovering their assets. She concluded that due to the conditionality imposed on the recovered asset despite the fact that the convention provides for the sovereignty of States parties, Nigeria used the recovered asset for projects aimed at building confidence and assurance that the assets are not repossessed.

At the end of the discussions, it was recommended that there is a strong and clear legal framework and guidelines/templates on asset recovery and the creation of a registry of recovered assets. It was also agreed that there is a need to engage all stakeholders as asset recovery involves political, economic and legal diplomacy. Participants also agreed on the need to build capacity in small African countries, create awareness and advocacy on CAPAR in Africa as well as seek international cooperation from international institutions and conventions. Prevention of outflow of assets from African shores has been strengthened while further sensitization of CAPAR in Africa should be conducted to build awareness.

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