“We want our money back”: illicit financial outflows and political fragility as failures of global governance

The overthrow of dictators in Arab countries has lifted the veil masking the massive and routine looting of their countries’ assets by these dictators and their associates. Also exposed has been the collusion of Western banks and other firms in moving monies offshore, and in channelling monies to secrecy jurisdictions offshore and in shaping rules in ways that make theft and tax evasion easy, invisible and even legal. These global rules seriously frustrate equitable development and peacebuilding. Where states continue to lose the means to invest in public goods and thus to shore up popular legitimacy, the risks of fragility and instability rise. Hence, today's dictator- and corporation-friendly governance of global financial flows poses major obstacles to state resilience and sustainable peace. This article looks at this legalised transnational larceny and what can be done to end it.