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Applying a Financial Crime Lens to Advance G7 Gender Initiatives

Denisse Rudich, Director, London office of the G7 and G20 Research Groups
September 21, 2019

For its G7 summit in Biarritz in August 2019, the French presidency adopted the principle of feminist diplomacy to focus on gender equality and make the G7 more inclusive. A key driver behind this initiative was the decision to work alongside the Gender Equality Advisory Council (GEAC), which was created by Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau during Canada's G7 presidency in 2018 in order to apply a gender lens to proposed initiatives.

On the eve of the Biarritz Summit, the GEAC issued 79 recommendations in the Biarritz Partnership for Gender Equality to the G7 leaders. French president Emmanuel Macron and other leaders agreed to implement these recommendations.

Among the key initiatives discussed were the following:

Although the links between financial crime and gender are not yet well known, at the Osaka Summit in June 2019, G20 leaders pledged to explore the connection between gender and corruption. Using a financial crime lens to these initiatives would allow for a different perspective to be adopted in addition to the innovative use of the traditional tools used to tackle money laundering and corruption.

Major progress could be made in the area of gender-based violence by overlaying financial crime data and then going after the drivers of profit. The International Labour Organization reported in 2014 that human trafficking yields profits of $150 billion, with $99 billion coming from commercial sexual exploitation. Approximately 40.3 million individuals are trafficked around the world. The Biarritz Partnership for Gender Equality highlighted that 71% of those individuals are women and girls, and nearly three in four are trafficked for sexual exploitation. Refinitiv showed the human trafficking corridors at the World Economic Forum earlier this year by identifying the number of human traffickers operating between source and destination countries between 2007 and 2017. Although the data show that this is a global phenomenon, the top three source countries were identified as Guatemala, Bangladesh and Romania and the top three destination countries were identified as the United States, China and Italy.

By gaining awareness of these illicit finance flows, governments around the world could work with money service businesses and the regulated financial sector to tackle the profit drivers of this crime. They could also use money laundering legislation to address certain types of gender violence. In some G7 members, such as the United Kingdom, this would allow for the use of civil powers to freeze and seize criminal assets linked to proceeds of crime as opposed to requiring the criminal burden of proof for sexual violence.

With regards to the other initiatives, it is currently estimated that between 2% and 5% of global gross domestic product, which amounts to between $800 trillion to $2 trillion, is currently laundered. The seizure of even a fraction of these funds could result in their redistribution to other areas such as providing education and health services or promoting inclusiveness. Funds could also be made available to promote economic empowerment and discrimination, creating a sustainable model for reinvestment into other gender equality initiatives.

The GEAC recommendations also highlighted how armed "conflicts disproportionately affect girls and women" by amplifying gender inequalities and exposing different forms of sexual and gender-based violence committed by both state and non-state actors. The GEAC states that it is essential to prosecute and convict those who commit these acts. However, the burden of proof is very high. There are unique initiatives by civil society organizations such as The Sentry that go after the illicit proceeds of violent actors that perpetuate conflict and these initiatives have seen some success. With the key objective of changing the incentive structure of those who commit atrocities, a number of financial tools and legal measures that would not traditionally be employed within this context can be used.

It remains to be seen how France and other countries around the world will work together to implement the ground-breaking Biarritz Partnership. By applying a financial crime lens to gender initiatives and vice versa, new approaches and tools can be explored to address the darker side of gender inequality.

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Denisse RudichDenisse Rudich is director of the G20 and G7 Research Groups (London) and a financial crime prevention specialist in policy development, strategic advisory and risk management. She has experience in setting up global frameworks in the investment and wholesale banking sectors, advising regulators, government and emerging fintech/regtech firms, and supporting forensic investigations in both the public and private sectors. Denisse is involved in several global initiatives aimed at building effectiveness and collaboration in the fight against financial crime, including as senior advisor to The Sentry.

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