Posted on 25 Jan 2024
Despite being a significant regional and global challenge, illicit financial flows (IFFs) in the Western Balkans lack a legal definition and a comprehensive understanding among various stakeholders, including the public sector, civil society and the media. Although the negative impact of IFFs on the region is long-standing and well-documented, the extent to which these flows affect society and hinder development and growth is often overlooked.
Recent assessments of IFFs in the Western Balkans by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) confirm how widespread corruption, the rise of criminal organizations, trade-based money laundering and tax evasion continue to facilitate IFFs.
Although the phenomenon poses a threat to Western Balkan states and communities, civil society in the region has not been sufficiently engaged in developing sustainable and effective solutions. In fact, there is a perception that IFFs are not the domain of civil society work, or that civil society may not be able to play a productive role in addressing IFFs.
In an effort to address these shortcomings and to enhance awareness and knowledge of IFFs in the region, the GI-TOC will launch an online IFFs toolkit as part of the project ‘Countering Illicit Financial Flows in the Western Balkans’, funded by the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The interactive toolkit, structured around Financial Action Task Force (FATF) immediate outcomes, provides valuable information in an accessible and user-friendly format to empower civil society, media and academia in the fight against IFFs.
Detailed country profiles synthesize data from GI-TOC reports on IFFs in Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia. The country-specific findings are consistent with the reports of the FATF and the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures (MONEYVAL), as well as with national risk assessments.
Limited understanding of and fragmented responses to IFFs, coupled with poor data accessibility, hinder effective countermeasures and underscore the urgent need for such a toolkit. The toolkit is designed to strengthen collective efforts to combat organized crime while promoting transparency. Regular updates will ensure continued relevance and ongoing support for governments, law enforcement and civil society in monitoring and addressing IFFs in the Western Balkans.