High-level Meeting: “AU Silencing the Guns initiative - the role of illicit financial flows in fuelling instability in Africa”

The United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on Africa and the Permanent Observer Mission of the African Union to the United Nations, in partnership with the Permanent Missions of South Africa and Nigeria to the United Nations, are co-organizing a high-level virtual meeting on Thursday, 10 December 2020, from 8:30 am to 11:30 am New York time, titled, “AU Silencing the Guns initiative - the role of illicit financial flows in fuelling instability in Africa”.

The high-level event, featuring Government representatives at the Ministerial level, will focus on the impact of Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) in exacerbating existing vulnerabilities in Africa. It will provide an opportunity to delve into the role of IFFs in fuelling instability in the region, depriving countries of the region of important resources that could otherwise have been used to finance development programmes, improve livelihoods and promote opportunities for economic participation, including for women and youth.

The examination of this theme, which is addressed in Goal 16 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, will take place through the lens of the African Union’s Silencing the Guns in Africa initiative, established with a view to achieving the peaceful and secure Africa called for in Aspiration 4 of Agenda 2063.

The year 2020 was supposed to be the year when African countries focused closely on taking stock of progress and remaining challenges in ending conflict. In this regard, the African Union theme adopted for 2020 is “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa's Development”. While silencing all guns within 2020 may have been ambitious, the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic early in the year made that objective even more difficult, with countries around the world, including African countries, the African Union, development partners and multilateral forums being forced to turn their primary attention to the pressing priority of containing the health and socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic and eventual recovery from and building back better after the pandemic.

Among the hazards that pose a threat to stability and security in Africa are IFFs, defined by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development as “cross border exchanges of value, monetary or otherwise, which are illegally earned, transferred or used”. These funds typically originate from three sources: commercial (tax evasion, trade mis-invoicing and abusive transfer pricing); criminal activities (including drug trade, human trafficking, illegal arms dealing and smuggling of contraband); and bribery and theft by corrupt government officials and their collaborators. IFFs fuel conflict and work against the acceleration of sustainable development on the continent by undermining institutions and democracy and eroding the base by diverting vital resources for sustainable development and poverty reduction and, in doing so, derailing the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2063 priorities and aspirations.

Silencing the guns in Africa is more necessary now than ever, as highlighted by the UN Secretary-General’s 23 March 2020 call for a global ceasefire and UN Security Council resolution 2532 (2020) demanding a “general and immediate cessation of hostilities in all situations”. The COVID-19 pandemic further complicates efforts to address violent extremism and terrorism, and in this connection, African countries require strengthened support to sustain efforts to end conflicts at the same time as they face the pandemic.

This event is an open meeting, with expected participation from the membership of the United Nations, representatives from the African Union, the private sector, civil society, academia and the UN system.