The Future of the Financial Action Task Force: Improving the Least Bad Option?

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The FATF Secretariat's home in the OECD headquarters. Courtesy of Hervé Cortinat / OECD / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Discussions explored the Financial Action Task Force's legitimacy deficit. Marginal, regular and consistently enacted reforms that address legitimacy concerns, enhance transparency and take steps towards effectiveness were seen as the best way forward for the organisation.

On 24 November 2023, the Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies (CFCS) at RUSI hosted a roundtable on the future of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). This roundtable brought together experts from across the world with a wealth of experience of the FATF and its processes. They discussed some of the current challenges to the FATF’s legitimacy and how the FATF could seek to address those challenges.

Arguably one of the most important global organisations, the FATF has, until recently, enjoyed the benefits of relative obscurity. It has attracted comparatively little scrutiny as it sets and evaluates compliance with international standards on anti-money laundering (AML), counterterrorism financing (CTF) and counterproliferation financing (CPF).

The FATF was established as a temporary task force in 1989. Thirty-five years later, the scope of its work and its level of global influence has increased significantly. The geopolitical context in which it operates has also markedly changed. There have been concerns raised publicly that the FATF’s role in recent years has gone beyond the technical and its decisions have become increasing politicised.1 The roundtable discussion was predicated on the principle that the FATF is, ultimately, a force for good and that long-term engagement in the organisation’s processes by all members of the international community is desirable. Therefore, it sought to identify how the FATF could evolve to maintain its legitimacy. The outcomes of the discussion broadly fell into one of two categories: the FATF’s processes and mechanics; and the FATF’s engagement with the outside world.


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