Strategy 2024-2027

CiFAR’s strategy for 2024 – 2027 covers four results areas, each with specific areas of work. Within each of these areas, we set out the aims we seek to achieve. In breaking it down in this way, we aim to be as clear as possible in identifying what we seek to achieve over the coming four years at a strategic level.

Results Area 1 – Setting Standards seeks to establish the foundation for our work internationally, regionally and nationally. It encompasses work to develop and set principles and policies that will make asset recovery more transparent, accountable and participatory. Our work here will build on our existing experience and focus on the link between asset recovery, and various processes, tools and modalities closely connected to it, including illicit financial flows, asset management, sanctions, social reuse, victims, and enablers of grand corruption.

Results Area 2 – Implementing reforms will see us engaging globally, regionally and nationally to advocate for the implementation of best practice and international standards around asset recovery. As part of this, we will promote ongoing reforms and support to CSOs to advocate and campaign for these reforms. A particular focus at the regional level will aim to support the gains made in Africa and Europe over the past four years around asset recovery.

Results Area 3 – Advancing transparency encompasses both CiFAR-led investigations, data gathering and publishing, and support to investigative journalists and CSOs to undertake investigations and provide information on asset recovery. It will see us both continuing to support journalists to investigate asset theft and financial crime more broadly, as well as to develop the skills of our partners to do so. It will also see us working to make the asset recovery process more transparent, through collecting and publishing information on agreements, cases and return modalities.

Results Area 4 – Networks for change includes work with and support to thematic and case-based CSO networks. It also includes the holding of global and regional meetings of CSOs, building on our Global CSO Asset Recovery Forum in 2022, and strengthening CiFAR as a hub for asset recovery.

These results areas are designed to work together and should not be seen in isolation. Activities undertaken in Results Area 1 both inform the global debate and feed into the work we are doing to advocate for adoption of standards nationally, regionally and internationally in Results Area 2, for example. So too is work in Results Areas 1 and 2 informed by the information we uncover in Results Area 3 and all are underpinned by strengthening networks in Results Area 4. In other words, while divided into areas to help us focus our work, this strategy is holistic and all parts need to be supported and engaged with for us to achieve our goals.

As part of our strategy and given the rapid developments that have taken place in asset recovery in recent years, we will plan a mid-term review of the strategy with our international board and key stakeholders in January 2026. This review will provide us with the opportunity to reflect on how well our priorities fit within current realities and allow us to course change should alterations to the current strategy be needed.

Results Area 1. Setting Standards

This results area aims at developing and promoting international and regional level standards and CSO-led principles with the goal of making asset recovery more accountable, transparent and participatory.

Since 2019, CiFAR has been looking at the conditions for developing robust and transparent anti-corruption sanctions regimes, providing civil society and stakeholders with sanctions analysis and advocating for increased data accessibility. We looked particularly at the EU misappropriation regime on Tunisia, Egypt and Ukraine and launched a first publicly available platform, Sanctions Watch, listing and describing anti-corruption sanctions worldwide.

The past decade has seen the rapid increase in the use of anti-corruption sanctions as a tool to prevent persons suspected of corruption from accessing their wealth overseas. From the initial development in the US of the Global Magnitsky Act, several countries have introduced ways to freeze the assets of suspected kleptocrats.

What has been missing and which may be on the cusp of change, is the relationship between anti-corruption sanctions and investigations into the origins of those assets. Historically treated as two separate processes, the introduction of task forces and institutional policies following the 2022-2023 Russian sanctions has begun to see movement towards creating a linkage between the imposition of sanctions and the opening of investigations into the source of sanctioned wealth in the sanctioning jurisdiction.

Our work in this area aims to build on these developments and has the purpose of driving the global debate towards institutionalising the link between anti-corruption sanctions and anti-corruption investigations.

Over the past four years, we have increased our work focussed on advocating for transparency, accountability and participation in asset recovery. This has included developing sets of Civil society principles on accountable asset return in 2021, as well as on asset management, sanctions and victims in 2023, topics identified as priorities by our partners.  These principles, particularly those on accountable asset return, have been used to engage nationally and internationally with governments to advocate for more open asset recovery policies. One area where this is particularly important is when indirect modalities are used to return stolen funds and hence where it is harder to rely on national transparency and participation rules to engage with returns.

Our planned work in this area aims to promote these principles at the national, regional and international levels, such as through the UNCAC Conference of State Parties (CoSP) and the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC), ourselves and in cooperation with partners, and to particularly focus on advocating for transparency, accountability and participation in return modalities.

Engaging on the topic of enablers and enabling environments for cross-border and grand corruption has to date only been a marginal topic of work for CiFAR. This has primarily been due to this thematic area being advanced by several other CSOs and our work therefore being focussed on supporting their efforts. Discussions with partners have indicated that engaging in this topic would be important for CiFAR, especially regarding those enablers that have seen less focus from other actors.

Our planned work in this area therefore aims to address enablers in two specific settings. The first of these are real estate agents in emerging and newer housing markets, a group little addressed in the discourse to date but of high importance in our priority countries. The second is on reputation laundry as a facet of asset recovery.

Results Area 2: Implementing reforms

This results area focusses on national, regional and global engagement to implement best practice and international standards and to promote ongoing reforms; support to CSOs to advocate and campaign for these reforms; direct advocacy towards global and regional reforms.

Over the past four years we have done extensive work to support partners to engage in reforms to legislation and policy to enhance their country’s response to asset recovery and to use asset recovery as a tool to support transparency, accountability and participation. This has included reviewing legislation, developing research to support reform recommendations, and direct outreach to governments with partners. While our mandate has and will remain global, in the second half of our previous strategy we focussed on specific countries where we felt the potential for collaboration and reform was stronger.

Our 2024 – 2027 strategy sees a similar focus on priority countries where we will devote more resources to supporting national level reform. These countries are: Angola, Brazil, Kenya, Moldova, and Mozambique.

CiFAR has engaged in global and regional reforms since its inception, in particular supporting common civil society positions and voices at global events, such as the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) in 2017 and Conferences of States Parties to the UNCAC, as well as at the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC). Regionally, our focus has largely been on engagement with the European Union as a bloc, which is both important and in the process of establishing an architecture for improved detection of illicit financial flows and asset recovery. In the last two years of our previous strategy, however, we also became increasingly involved in African Union (AU) level reforms and on the Common African Position on Asset Recovery. Our planned work seeks to build on this global and regional work, while also extending our outreach to regional bodies in the Americas.

Sanctions has been a priority for CiFAR in its work since founding and in the intervening years the use of sanctions as an anti-corruption tool has much expanded. This has included the rapid expansion of country-regimes covering corrupt officials and businesspersons, as well as the roll out of anti-corruption sanctions across many countries. Our work has supported this expansion, providing evidence-based research on what works and what does not when it comes to sanctions as a tool for asset recovery, as well as assessing how sanctions have been or could be used in different national contexts. Our planned work, complementing our work in Area 1 on setting standards linking sanctions and investigations, seeks to build on this expansion and looks particularly into how sanctions are crafted and implemented. It also seeks to support our partners in priority countries to be more involved in sanctions work.

Results Area 3: Advancing transparency

This results area encompasses both CiFAR led investigations, data gathering and publishing, and support to investigative journalists and CSOs to undertake investigations and provide information on asset recovery.

Since 2017, CiFAR has been involved in investigations to identify challenges with asset recovery, to uncover corrupt schemes and to identify the vehicles used to hide money overseas. This has included investigations directly carried out by us, and the coordination of consortiums of journalists. We have also engaged in publishing information and data on asset recovery cases, as well as identifying and publishing new developments and best practice. This has seen us bring our specific expertise in asset recovery and civil society action together with journalists, strengthening both our work. Our planned work under this area seeks to build on this by both conducting further investigations ourselves, as well as publishing information and data relevant to asset recovery.

Our work to date has included support to investigative journalists from North Africa, West Africa, East Africa, the Western Balkans, Madagascar and Western Europe to understand and conduct investigations into corruption and other financial crime. We have also supported civil society organisations from priority countries and beyond to strengthen their national, regional and global engagement on asset recovery. This has included through trainings, direct support and experience sharing. In this, we cooperate with several other investigative journalism focused organisations, including OCCRP, CENOSO, and GIJN, bringing our specialisation on cross-border corruption and asset recovery to the field.

Our planned work in this area aims to continue to build a diverse cohort of investigative journalists across the world, as well as to support our partner CSOs to advocate for transparent, accountable and participatory asset recovery and develop their own investigative skills and networks of investigative journalists.

Results Area 4: Networks for change

This results area includes work with and support to thematic and case-based CSO networks, the holding of global meetings of CSOs and strengthening CiFAR as a hub for asset recovery.

A large part of our previous strategy concentrated on building networks of civil society to jointly work on thematic issues and specific asset recovery cases. Our work in this area included participation in several case-based networks, the development of a thematic and a regional network, and hosting of a global meeting of asset recovery focussed civil society.

Our planned work aims to continue to support these networks, identify opportunities for synergies and mutual learning, and advocate in common with other organisations for more accountable, transparent and participatory asset recovery.

Our work with investigative journalists in the past years has led to the development of informal networks centred around the different trainings programmes we have run. It has also helped us to identify gaps in support offered to journalists interested in financial crime at the sub-regional level and a need for more institutional support to develop a global network enabling cross-country and cross-regional cooperation.

Our planned activities in this area focus both on network development at the global level and the establishment of a hub for financial investigative journalists in East Africa. East Africa is a particular focus due to the lack of an existing hub for investigative journalism in East Africa, demand from our trainees for greater support and opportunities to build on our existing work in East Africa through closer work with journalists.

In 2022 we convened the first Global South Forum on asset recovery. Bringing together civil society working on asset recovery from across the world, it was an opportunity to identify common problems, update on cases, and select priority areas for common action in the coming years. Our planned activities in the coming years aim to build on this initial forum and institute recurring meetings to strengthen CSO cooperation on stolen asset recovery.

Under our previous strategy, CiFAR built itself into a global organisation supporting civil society across a range of areas. It has also seen us branch into leading on specific areas, establishing thematic groups, and developing research and policy. Our staffing and finances also increased, enabling us to strengthen our response and support more organisations. At the same time, it has seen us decide to strategically focus our work on priority countries to have more impact.  Our planned activities under the new strategy aim to continue this work, continuing to strengthen our structures and finances.

Our full 2024-2027 Strategy can be downloaded here

You can view our previous, 2020-2023 Strategy here and our 2016-2019 Strategy here.