As part of our work to support civil society, in collaboration with partners we are consulting on draft Civil Society Principles for Accountable Asset Return. These principles are designed to be common standards that civil society across the globe can use as a starting point for the development of more detailed principles relating to a specific return
These Principles are open until 30 July for comment. Civil society that wishes to comment on these principles or for further information can do so by sending an email to email@example.com with the headline ‘Civil Society Principles’.
Transparency and participation
- Asset recovery should be conducted transparently from start to end. Relevant authorities should publicly provide timely and accessible information on the progress of cases, amounts involved, process for return, amounts and timing of returns, and on the disposition and administration of returned assets. The same standards should be applied to both international and domestic asset recovery.
- Recovered funds should, in principle, be separated from the general state budget and placed in a special account or other mechanism pending their allocation. All returned funds must be traceable from arrival to disbursement.
- Civil society, non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations, should be able to and should be enabled to participate in the asset return process. This includes in helping to identify how harm can be remedied, contributing to decisions on return and disposition, and fostering transparency and accountability in the investigation, transfer, disposition, monitoring and administration of recovered assets.
- Multilateral, bilateral and case-specific agreements or arrangements should be made public in a timely fashion, including when returns are part of reconciliation arrangements. These agreements should be concluded to ensure the transparent and effective use, administration and monitoring of the returned proceeds of grand corruption in line with the principles set out here.
Victim restitution and other beneficiaries
- Victims of the abuse of power by public officials should receive restitution for the damage caused as part of an asset recovery process.
- Without prejudice to the restitution of identified victims, stolen assets recovered from corrupt officials should be used to benefit the people of the nations harmed by the underlying corrupt conduct. ‘Benefit the people’ in this context in principle means improving the living standards of populations and/or strengthening the rule of law and prevention of corruption in line with international human rights obligations in the country or countries where the underlying offences occurred, and thus contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
- A wide range of stakeholders, including CSOs, should be involved in determining how returned assets should be used to best repair the harm caused and to achieve the SDGs.
- The specific ways to allocate returned funds, (including inter alia the selection of beneficiary organisation(s) of the funds, choice of projects and programmes, method of transfer of funds) must be decided on a case by case basis having regard to the particular circumstances of the case and with the aim of ensuring strict compliance with the principles set out here.
- In no cases should the disposition of the confiscated proceeds of crime benefit directly or indirectly persons involved in the commission of the offence(s).
- Any suspicion of irregularities concerning the management of the funds should lead to the opening of an investigation by authorities in both the origin and returning jurisdictions and suspension of the transfer.
- When countries are not compliant with UNCAC Articles 9, 10 and 13 (transparency and accountability in public financial management; public reporting and participation of society), monitoring for irregularities should be particularly stringent.
- Assets should only be returned only if sufficient anti-corruption and accountability mechanisms and rule of law are in place in the receiving country. That should include, as a minimum:
- Transparent and accountable public procurement and tendering process that meet international standards;
- Transparent and available to the public register of companies, with information on their beneficial owners;
- Establishment of regulations on conflict of interest;
- Independence of the judiciary and access to a fair trial;
- Freedom of association and the press (without which any meaningful monitoring by the civil society would be impossible).
- When these are not in place, alternative arrangements should be considered in consultation with independent civil society from the country of origin, keeping in mind the principle that the confiscated assets remain the property of the people of the country of origin.
- As well as the jurisdiction of origin, the returning jurisdiction is also responsible for ensuring that returns are carried out in accordance with the principles listed here and to publicly report in a timely manner on the returned funds even after the return takes place.
- Fines, penalties and confiscations levied on entities for corruption committed overseas should also be used to compensate the victims of bribery, corruption and economic crime in line with these Principles.