- Blame game
- True reform or reverting to the norm?
- Rays of light
- Tech threats
- The moral investor
- Failure is not an option
- More than words
- TAI Spotlight
Ramifications from the #PandoraPapers continue to ripple – not least in the Czech Republic, where the Prime Minister’s party narrowly lost, giving up a pre-Pandora lead. At least eight countries have announced investigations into the financial activities of some of their most high-profile citizens and institutions, including Brazil, which summoned their finance minister to explain his offshore activities to congress.
What to do? Jodi Vittori lists five things the United States can do to stop being a haven for dirty money. Will the upcoming Summit for Democracy provide the opportunity to commit to these steps?
Across the Atlantic, The Guardian calls for the thriving tax haven sector to be brought to heel while Ian Birrell details how Britain is not only a destination for dodgy money from abroad but needs to confront its own blatant corruption. At the same time, members of the European Parliament are slamming the E.U.’s executive bodies for their perceived lack of action to curb large-scale tax avoidance revealed in the leaks.
Taking a step back, Bastian Obermayer and Frederik Obermaier (instrumental to the Panama Papers release five years ago) worry that the revelations will only further weaken democracy. See the case of Iraq, where anti-corruption protests of 2019 have now subsided into voter apathy in last week’s election.
True reform or reverting to the norm?
The leaks are certainly prompting soul searching about a global tax system suffering from an accountability failure just as the OECD finally pushed a global corporate tax deal over the line – Ireland among those to agree to a 15% minimum rate in the end.
Yet, George Turner says the global minimum tax deal does not add up – the U.S. Government will be the biggest winner from increases in taxes on big tech. Oxfam says the deal is set to become a rich country stitch-up with about 52 developing countries set to receive as little as 0.02 percent of their collective GDP in additional annual tax revenue. Time will tell.
Meanwhile, global investors call on the Financial Accounting Standards Board to underscore public country-by-country tax reporting, highlighting the movement towards promoting transparency and public trust. Good Jobs First reveals that Amazon, which has profited hugely during the pandemic, has received $650m in tax breaks from state and local governments in U.S. this year alone. Clearly, much need for further advocacy, research, and coalition building for fairer and more effective tax systems – a theme philanthropy has typically neglected (see TAI Spotlight below for more).
Rays of light
Wonderful to see the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to two journalists deeply involved in anti-corruption work and pushing for government accountability.
Accountability Lab has partnered with Open Government Partnership to develop a toolkit powered by young people to support open government reformers. Take this short survey to help them understand the state of youth participation in the OGP process.
Is there a link between clean financial audits and local government service delivery? It seems so. Watch this interview on South Africa’s Watch Dog news show.
Check out GovLab’s 100 questions initiative, which aims to crowdsource the most important questions across a number of different domains around governance.
Europe is not waiting for the U.S. to act on Frances Haugen’s whistle-blowing on Facebook as top European policymakers call for new laws and regulations aimed at silicon-valley giants. Former head of Facebook’s civic-integrity team, Samidh Chakrabarti, would probably nod in support as he confirms a “need for algorithmic regulation, research transparency, and independent oversight to be entirely valid for debate.”
Reema Patel reviews ‘In A.I. We Trust’ by Helga Nowotny, noting that human values and perspectives should be the starting point for designing systems that shape our lives and society. Speaking at the Athens Democracy Forum, Luminate’s CEO, Stephen King, says, “we need to ensure that the big tech platforms and their business models operate in support of democracy rather than systematically undermining it.”(More in TAI Spotlight below).
The moral investor
Checkout how activists are using moral analogies with rogue industries and states to stigmatize fossil fuels. Their work in part done for them by industry revelations. A corrupt oil trader turns on former colleagues at Glencore in a massive bribery case.
A review of 34 publicly available contracts from eleven oil-producing countries shows they may limit governments’ policy flexibility and ability to respond to climate risks.
The International Monetary Fund is calling on regulators to act on greenwashing and have a standardized responsible investment rating system. As if in response, a new sustainability reporting standard for the oil and gas sector by GRI could help address transparency complexities in transitioning to a low-carbon future. On the mining side, the International Council on Mining and Metals members make a collective commitment to a goal of net-zero Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Less positive, Publish What You Pay detail a lack of transparency for mining and tax/royalties receipts in Brazil.
Experts share their experiences on how regulatory tools can promote gender equality in the sector. Curious about how gender equality progressed across all 17 SDGs? Have a look at the 2021 gender snapshot by U.N. women.
Failure is not an option
Last week, we featured Bo Rothstein’s three reasons why anti-corruption programs fail, so only right that we cover Matt Stephenson’s detailed riposte – a chance to “get off of my chest much that has bothered me about ongoing trends among scholars.” Worth the long read.
An anti-corruption school in Banda Aceh is attracting students from around Indonesia even as graft continues to soar in the country. Meanwhile, Ana Pisonero highlights progress in Ukraine’s anti-corruption movement with the launch of a high anti-corruption court, a new transparent assets declaration system for politicians, and legislation limiting oligarch’s influence. Plus, don’t miss Jack Lord’s take on how state-owned enterprise can best disclose their beneficial ownership.
More than words
To achieve greater diversity, equity and inclusion among NGO executives, it is important to be honest about specific challenges people of color face and not set up new leaders to fail. Skoll Foundation emphasize the importance of proximity of those funded to their communities, especially in driving to racial equity
Caryl Stern calls on funders to complicate the concept of collaboration to include diversity of input rather than to simply work with those who have similar perspectives, while Forbes includes empathy, transparency, and regularity in their list of eight strategies for improved aid accountability.
Finally, FeedBack Labs reminds us of the philanthropic goal to work ourselves out of a job.
Transparency and Accountability Initiative (TAI)‘s Executive Director, Michael Jarvis, and Open Society Foundatons’ Savior Mwambwa on why philanthropy should scale up grantmaking on tax.
Luminate‘s CEO, Stephen King speaks on the disinformation black hole at the Athens Democracy Forum.
Hewlett Foundation‘s latest on their #ShiftThePower series features Program Officer Sarah Lucas and Executive Director of Open Institute, Al Kags, reflection on decolonizing development and how to be irreverent.
Ford Foundation signs on to the People’s Vaccine Alliance, advocating for all people to have free access to vaccines.
MacArthur Foundation‘s On Nigeria program supported a comparative study of a series of case studies on sandwich strategy initiatives to analyze how they drive change in Nigeria and the global South. Checkout this new model for creating accountability in Nigeria.
Jobs at TAI members
- 2021 Rule of Law Index Global launch — October 14, 2021 (10:00 am EST)
- Sustainable Territories and Participatory Democracy conference – October 20-22, 2021
- Global Investigative Journalism conference – November 3-5, 2021
- National Tax Association conference – November 18-20, 2021
- The Summit for Democracy – December 9-10, 2021
- Open Government Partnership global summit – December 13-17, 2021
- International Convention on Anti-Corruption, Good Governance, and Human Rights – April 21-22, 2022 (Boston, MA)
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