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UN seeks end to $2trillion illicit trade, mulls new strategies


Described as a threat to the actualisation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), United Nations (UN), yesterday, reiterated the need to end illicit trade across the world, stressing that the global economy is losing more than $2 trillion yearly.

To this end, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), plans to hold the first-ever, Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (TRACIT) forum, stressing that a better, more synchronised efforts were needed to combat the menace.

The Guardian had earlier reported that Illicit trade, described as the production and distribution of consumer goods that fail to comply with governing rules, laws and regulations in the relevant industry, remain a serious threat to the Nigerian economy, and should no longer be allowed to thrive.

As noted by UNCTAD, activities such as smuggling, counterfeiting, trafficking of humans and wildlife and other forms of illicit trade hold back progress on the global development agenda.

According to the UN agency, Illicit trade drains nearly three per cent of the world’s economy, adding that if it were a country, its dark economy would be larger than Brazil, Italy, and Canada, or as large as Mexico and Indonesia combined.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.Weighing the implications further, UNCTAD said illicit trade 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.“Further, it threatens the rule of law, owing to its links with organised crime – from human trafficking networks and tobacco smuggling to the involvement of organized criminal groups in fuel theft and the trade of counterfeit goods. Even more frightening are the links to terrorist financing that heighten threats to national and global security,” it said in a report.

With the new plan by the stakeholders, there would be 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.

“Illicit trade endangers all aspects of development and all 17 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It creates a triple threat to the financing of development; crowding out legitimate economic activities, depriving governments of revenues for investment in vital public services, and increasing the costs of achieving the SDGs by eroding the progress already made,” UNCTAD Secretary-General, Mukhisa Kituyi said.

TRACIT Director-General, Jeffrey Hardy, added: “Given the scale and damaging effects of illicit trade, a coordinated and sustained global response by governments and companies is urgently needed.”

UNCTAD also noted that international response to illicit trade was largely fragmented among many sectors vulnerable to illicit trade, making a joint approach that considers the interconnected nature of the problem necessary.

It also expects the new approach to factor commonalities and points of convergence among 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.

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