2020 Amartya Sen Essay Prize - Illicit Financial Flows

Aug 31 2020 - 12:15pm

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Aug 31 2020 - 12:15pm

In August 2020, Global Financial Integrity and Academics Stand Against Poverty will be awarding the seventh annual Amartya Sen Prize to the two best original essays that examine one particular component of illicit financial flows, the resulting harms and possible avenues of reform. Entered essays should be about 7,000 to 9,000 words long. There is a first prize of $5,000 and a second prize of $3,000.

Illicit financial flows are generally defined as cross-border movements of funds that are illegally earned, transferred, or used. Examples are funds earned through illegal trafficking in persons, drugs or weapons; funds illegally transferred through mispriced exchanges (e.g., among affiliates of a multinational corporation seeking to shift profits to reduce taxes); funds moved to evade taxes; and funds used for corruption of, or by, public or corporate officials. Illicit financial flows are explicitly recognized as an obstacle to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and singled out as a separate target of SDG 16.

Components of illicit financial flows can be delimited by sector and geographically. Delimitation by sector might focus your essay on some specific activity, business or industry – such as art, real estate, health care, technology, entertainment, shipping, agriculture, sports, gaming, education, politics, tourism, natural resource extraction, banking and financial services – or on an even narrower sub-sector, such as the diamond trade, hunting, insurance or prostitution. Delimitation by geography might further narrow the essay’s focus to a particular country, province or region.

Your essay should describe the problematic activity and evaluate the adverse effects that make it problematic. Also, in quantitative terms insofar as this is possible, you should estimate the magnitude of the relevant outflows as well as the damage they render on institutions and the affected populations. This might include harm from abuse, exploitation and impoverishment of individuals, harm through subdued economic activity and reduced prosperity, and/or harm through diminished tax revenues that depress public spending.

The essay should also explain the persistence of the harmful activity in terms of relevant incentives and enabling conditions and, based on your explanation, propose plausible ways to curtail the problem. Such reform efforts might be proposed at diverse levels, including supranational rules, national rules, corporate policies, professional ethics, individual initiatives, or any combination thereof. The task is to identify who has the responsibility, the capacity and (potentially) the knowledge and motivation to change behavior toward effective curtailment.

We welcome authors from diverse academic disciplines and from outside the academy. Please send your entry by email attachment on, or before, 31 August 2020 to senprize@gfintegrity.org. Please identify yourself and your affiliation in your email, but please strip any self-identifying references from your essay in order to format it for blind review.

Image: Amartya Sen delivers the keynote speech at the Opening Plenary by International Transport Forum [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0], via Flickr.