Global Engagement in the Time of COVID-19
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Last week was meant to be the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Integrity Week. Over 2,000 representatives from over 100 countries from the public sector, private sector, academia and civil society were to gather in Paris for Integrity Week and its central event, the Global Anti-Corruption & Integrity Forum.
The Global Anti-Corruption Forum was first made virtual. As the situation regarding the pandemic became more acute, hosting a virtual event of this size became out of the question. The Virtual Global Anti-Corruption Forum was cancelled, as was the adjacent Business 20 (B20) Integrity & Compliance Taskforce meeting. A number of other events associated with OECD Integrity Week, like the Meeting of the Auditors Alliance and the Coalition of Influencers, have been, if somewhat optimistically, postponed until third quarter 2020.
The list of global engagements cancelled, postponed or made virtual stretches across the second quarter of 2020. The disruption to IFAC’s global engagement agenda is just one example of the impact of the pandemic—in addition to its immense human and economic costs.
However, pandemic aside, the underlying reasons for IFAC’s global engagement remain. Corruption is still a huge problem. Money laundering is still a huge problem. Climate change is still a huge problem. Supporting an international rules-based order is still critical to supporting global prosperity. The list goes on and on.
As the global voice of the accountancy profession, our global engagement is driven by advancing the public interest, as is consistent with the accountancy profession’s mandate. In 2020, the public interest is largely captured by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). Issues like corruption, climate change, gender equality, access to education and meaningful work, are front of mind for IFAC and the global accountancy profession. And that is exactly why we at IFAC continue to engage with our global partners on these issues.
This article discusses a number of global touchpoints where IFAC was meant to be engaged during these first months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Where possible, we have continued with our engagement virtually.
Anti-Corruption & Integrity
IFAC, in our role as voice of the global profession, has made our stance on corruption clear. In our Point of View on Fighting Corruption and Money Laundering, we highlight our strongly held belief that serving the public interest by fighting corruption is central to the accountancy profession’s activities.
IFAC is contributing to the fight against corruption through our participation in the Business Twenty (B20), the official business community engagement forum for the Group of Twenty (G20). IFAC Board Member Sheila Fraser represents IFAC on the B20’s Integrity & Compliance Task Force Task Force, where we bring the expertise and perspectives of the global accountancy profession to bear to help ensure that the fight against corruption remains a priority for global policy makers.
The Task Force is currently developing its policy recommendations to deliver to the G20 in advance of the annual Leaders’ Summit in November. The Task Force’s policy recommendations and attendant actions will revolve around three key themes:
- The application of new technologies to managing corruption and fraud, including potential links to beneficial ownership transparency;
- Opportunities to enhance integrity and transparency in public procurement processes; and,
- The implementation of high standards of ethics and integrity in private and public sectors, including enhancing coordination for enforcement of extra-territorial anti-bribery laws.
Given IFAC’s strong support for the International Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants, as well as the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS), IFAC is actively participating in the sub-group for theme 3 on ethics and integrity standards.
The Taskforce meetings scheduled in Washington DC for April have now gone virtual. Nevertheless, we look forward to doing our part on behalf of the global accountancy profession to advance the fight against corruption and engaging in this new format.
In our Point of View on Fighting Corruption and Money Laundering, we also take strong position against money laundering and highlight the accountancy profession’s positive contributions to the fight.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is the global standard setter for anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism finance. Every year, the FATF brings together over 300 private sector representatives, including from the financial sector, civil society, and FATF members and observers, to participate in the FATF Private Sector Consultative Forum.
The Forum is an opportunity for the FATF and its members to engage directly with the private sector on anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) issues. It provides a regular platform for the FATF to learn more about the private sector’s views and concerns on these issues.
IFAC looks to participate in the FATF Private Sector Forum to bring the perspective and expertise of the global accountancy profession to bear in the fight against money laundering. Whether the 2020 Forum is rescheduled for later in the year, or ultimately cancelled until next, IFAC will be there as the voice of the profession in furtherance of its public interest mandate.
Sustainability & Climate Change
Pandemic aside, we face another existential issue in the form of climate change. IFAC has made our position on climate change clear: it is an urgent, global, and systemic issue that can threaten the sustainability of organizations, markets, and economies, and transition to a low-carbon society cannot be achieved by business as usual.
IFAC, as the voice of the global accountancy profession, was recently taken on as a stakeholder organization of the Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS). The NGFS, which released its 2019 Annual Report earlier today, is a voluntary grouping of over 50 central banks and supervisors, looking to integrate climate risk management into the financial sector and mobilize mainstream finance to support the transition to a sustainable economy.
We believe that it is critical that the perspective of the global accountancy profession be part of these conversations. Professional accountants are an integral part of the fight against climate change—accountants are influential in governments, not-for-profits, and businesses large and small, with a responsibility to act in the public interest. Accountants are uniquely positioned to enhance meaningful action on climate change by providing relevant insights and analysis, reporting, and assurance to help organizations create and protect long-term value.
We look forward to continued engagement with the NGFS and other leaders in the fight against climate change to ensure that the full potential of the global accountancy profession’s contribution to the public interest is realized.
Engaging in the Public Interest
During these difficult times, the IFAC continues to engage with our global partners on important issues such as corruption, money laundering and climate change. We are committed to being the global voice of the profession in the public interest—virtually for now, and in whatever form the ‘new normal’ looks like in the future.