Remarks at the Global Forum on Asset Recovery Hosted by the United States and the United Kingdom
Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Let me begin by congratulating everyone on the successful conclusion of the inaugural Global Forum on Asset Recovery. I would like to thank our fellow co-host, the United Kingdom, and our partners at the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative for helping to organize this event. Perhaps most importantly, I would also like to thank all of the invited jurisdictions and international organizations who have participated over the last three days in this event.
When this forum was first conceived, the objectives were simple, and there were three of them. Number one, reaffirm our collective political will to strengthen international cooperation on asset recovery cases; number two, build capacity among our practitioners; and most important of all, make progress on actual ongoing asset recovery cases. After three days of hard work, I believe we have achieved all three of these important objectives.
As we reflect on what we have accomplished over the past three days and over the months of preparation for this Forum, we can acknowledge how far the international community has come in tracking down and recovering the proceeds of corruption.
In just a couple of days, the world will celebrate International Anti-Corruption Day and the twelve-year anniversary of the entry into force of the UN Convention against Corruption. It is easy to forget that this treaty created the world’s first universally agreed legal framework for asset recovery in 2005 – meaning we have only been learning how to use it effectively for a little over a decade. In this relatively small window of time, countries around the world, in every region, have made significant progress in their ability to investigate and confiscate the proceeds of corruption within their borders.
As corruption has evolved, and new challenges have emerged that we could not have imagined a decade ago, the international community has responded. Innovative initiatives like the Arab and Ukraine Forums on Asset Recovery were organized and launched to respond to the urgent needs of countries looking to recover assets following political transitions. These fora are a valuable model for how the international community can respond when emerging needs arise.
GFAR was organized based on these models. And the success of this Forum is the result of the hard lessons we have learned over the past decade. We learned that convening asset recovery practitioners to engage in face-to-face consultations on actual cases is critical to successful cooperation. This is why nearly 100 bilateral or multijurisdictional consultations took place over the past three days. This is a tremendous amount of work.
Further, we have learned that governments alone cannot prevent and combat corruption. We are extremely happy to welcome the participation of our partners in civil society. Their work is critical to helping expose graft and shining a very bright light on corruption, as well as advocate for the reforms necessary to prevent corruption from happening in the first place.
We have evolved to understand that a main goal in the asset recovery process is not the recovery of stolen assets itself. Rather, the ultimate goal is that these assets benefit the people affected by the corrupt acts in the first place. And, of course, for this to happen there must be an improvement in the ability of our governments to work together on asset returns. To this end, I would like to congratulate Switzerland and Nigeria once again on the MOU signed earlier this week. This cooperation is a good reminder of what we are all working towards, and why events like GFAR are so important.
Perhaps most importantly, however, we have learned that our work does not stop at the conclusion of events like this. If anything, our workload has only grown as we will need to follow up on issues discussed over these past three days. It is now up to all of us to build upon the momentum we have achieved through this Forum, and continue the discussions and cooperation we have started here.
There is certainly a full menu of work ahead of us, and our commitment to effective asset recovery is critical. We have said from the beginning, GFAR is not the end; it is a touchstone to propel the process forward.
Now, if I may for a moment, before ending my remarks, deviate from the prepared remarks, which always makes those who prepared the remarks very nervous. What many of you do, whether you are in government or civil society, requires a tremendous amount of courage; a true sense of what is right and what is wrong; and a call to fight for justice and fairness.
In joining this fight, many of you have put yourselves, and perhaps your families, in peril. And we recognize this. I want to recognize this. And I want to thank you for your bravery, for your courage, for your resilience, and for your willingness to fight for what is right for you, your communities, and for your countries. And for the world at large. It is not easy, but we will be here to support you in that fight, and do our part in this fight.
And on that sentiment, I want to congratulate you all once again, and wish you luck in the work ahead.