Wednesday, April 13, 2016

International cooperation for corruption and tax havens: an obstacle in the way to reach the Sustainable Development Goals

Opinion article by: Maria Isabel Aguilar Goez *
Student of Law (Universidad EAFIT)

The collaboration of different subjects and actors in the international context is perceived as a useful tool to acquire all kinds of interests that can vary depending on the objectives of those actors. A recent event showed a cooperation that certainly obeys to the interest of a group and at the same time damages the interests of others. In this short article, the incident will be explained together with the influence that it has in the international community and how trough The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) the reasons that produce such a happening can be confronted.

Clearly, the Panama Papers have caused a global feeling of repulsion to corruption, the fact that such a happening exploded recently involving public figures, has risen a concern in the international community society about tax heavens. According to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the brother-in-law of China’s president, the children of Pakistan’s prime minister, the cousins of Syria’s dictator, the late father of David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister and also friends of Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, all of them, did business with Mossack Fonseca, the law firm established in Panama that stands in the eye of the storm. The leak also provides details about the hidden financial dealings of 128 more politicians and public officials around the world and the cache of 11.5 million records shows how a global industry of law firms and big banks sells financial secrecy to politicians, fraudsters and drug traffickers as well as billionaires, celebrities and sports stars, says the ICIJ.

It is not the first time that the international cooperation that shall be implemented for poverty, climate change and many causes is used in the wrong way, more specifically for corruption. This problem is all over the world making it poorer, less equal and is willing to keep it in that way “When politicians steal, they reduce the amount of public cash left over for roads or schools. When they give sweetheart contracts to their chums, they defraud taxpayers and deter honest firms from investing in their country. All this hobbles growth” (The Economist, 2016).

Surprisingly, a cooperative initiative was made in another sector as well, the ICIJ labels it as “the largest media collaboration ever undertaken” because it involved journalists working in more than 25 languages who “dug into Mossack Fonseca’s inner workings and traced the secret dealings of the law firm’s customers around the world. They shared information and hunted down leads generated by the leaked files using corporate filings, property records, financial disclosures, court documents and interviews with money laundering experts and law-enforcement officials” in the words of the Consortium.

Due to the undeniable intercommunication trough social media, the civil society from countries all over the globe, and also the governments pointed at the need of more regulation in the financial sector, such a measure is essential to progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. These objectives draw the guidelines to how we want to be at 2030, they are an integration but the ones that could help to prevent and fight for this kind of problems is the SDG number 10 that establishes the need of reduction of inequality and the SDG number 16 that talks about the importance of strong and transparent institutions in the process to obtain peace and justice.

The Sustainable Development Goal number ten aims to reduce inequality and it is evident that the goal is directly affected by tax shelters, however what some of its targets suggest could be very effective to fight this problematic issue First, the governments must ensure equal opportunities and should also reduce inequalities of outcome, including eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and action in this regard. Second, fiscal, wage and social protection policies shall be adopted to progressively achieve greater equality, and third improve the regulation and monitoring of global financial markets and institutions and strengthen the implementation of such regulations (United Nations, 2015). In addition to this, it is also relevant to promote a transparency culture, since the globalization constitutes an undeniable fact it is necessary to promote a significant change in the minds of the society to not use this kinds of tools to protect their money. It is often that people with a higher income who live in financially unstable countries are tempted to consume the tax heavens services, under the believing of protecting their money but offshore companies are also used to evade taxes and hide illicit wealth.

Regarding to the SDG number 16 the governments should face this problem since they are obviously and directly affected by this issue. This goal establishes how important is to create and reform the institutions in order to make them transparent, effective and capable of developing trust in the citizens trough the promotion of inclusive societies and providing access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels (United Nations, 2015). Besides , the interconnection between the goals is what makes them so special, to achieve this two goals, first there must be education, promotion of a honesty culture and total repulsion for such acts, the corruption problematic can low any progress made by a nation and discourages the people for the change and convince them that such a thing as the global society action and power doesn’t exist, when it is completely the opposite and the people needs to realize about this and, how the GG number 17 says, alliances for sustainable development must be created, because nothing is stronger than unity.


The Economist. (2016). The lesson of the Panama papers: More should be done to make offshore tax havens less murky, Apr 9th 2016, Available at:

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalist. (2016). Giant Leak of Offshore Financial Records Exposes Global Array of Crime and Corruption: Millions of documents show heads of state, criminals and celebrities using secret hideaways in tax havens. Available at:

United Nations. (2015). United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Available at:

No comments:

Post a Comment