UNCTAD fears illicit trade to threaten SDGs achievement


The global economy loses over US$ 2 trillion annually due to smuggling, counterfeiting, trafficking of humans and wildlife as well as other forms of illicit trade that hold back progress on the global development agenda, reports BSS.  “Illicit trade endangers all aspects of development and all 17 of UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” said UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi.

He said “It creates a triple threat to the financing of development: crowding out legitimate economic activity, depriving governments of revenues for investment in vital public services and increasing the costs of achieving the SDGs by eroding the progress already made.” To address this alarming problem, UNCTAD and the Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (TRACIT) are convening first-ever Illicit Trade Forum on 3 and 4 February in Geneva, said a UNCTAD release on Monday.

The forum is designed to encourage an open dialogue among representatives from Member States, experts and non-governmental observers, with the aim to share expertise, promote international enforcement cooperation, coordinate resources and ensure countries are adequately equipped to mitigate illicit trade.

TRACIT Director-General, Jeffrey Hardy, said: “Given the scale and damaging effects of illicit trade, a coordinated and sustained global response by governments and companies is urgently needed.” The international response to illicit trade is largely fragmented among many sectors vulnerable to illicit trade, which necessitates a joint approach that considers the interconnected nature of the problem, commonalities and points of convergence among its various manifestations.

“Every country is feeling the malignant effects of illicit trade, underscoring the need for expanded partnerships and cooperation among governments to push back against this deterrent to global sustainable development,” said Pamela Coke-Hamilton, UNCTAD’s Director of International Trade.

Illicit trade drains nearly 3 percent of the world’s economy. It endangers public health, as sub-standard and fake anti-malarial medicines alone cause more than 100,000 deaths per year in Sub-Saharan Africa. Illicit trade also pushes endangered species to the brink of extinction and causes irreversible damage to ecosystems. For instance, illegal logging, with an estimated annual value of up to $ 157 billion, is the world’s most profitable crime involving natural resources.

The forum will discuss how stakeholders can better deter illegal trade across sectors, address vulnerabilities in supply chain systems, report criminal activity, promote sustainable resource management and protect against forced labour and other human rights abuses. It is expected to generate a roadmap for collective action by government, business and other stakeholders, including a call for shared policy guidelines and a process to ensure Member States benefit from intergovernmental experiences and expertise.