Combatting Illicit Money in Politics

27 Sep 2015
Mark Shaw Illicit Global Money in Politics Conference International IDEA and TEPJF Mexico 3-5 Sep 2015
Global Money in Politics Conference, Mexico City, September 2015
27 Sep 2015
Criminology's Prof Mark Shaw presents at the first Global Money in Politics Conference, Mexico City, 3-5 September 2015

The question of how illegal money filters into and influences politics is now on the agenda in several places. In India, Brazil and Indonesia for example recent elections have been marred by accusations of corruption, fraud and the influence of dirty money. More specifically, it poses the question of how money generated as a result of illicit trafficking may influence political processes. In West Africa, for example, an increase in drug trafficking through the suspected channels within the region has intensified in tandem with the perceived wave of democratisation.

The Centre of Criminology’s Prof. Mark Shaw presented at the First Global Conference on Money in Politicshosted in Mexico City, on addressing the specific issue of how illicit profits from organised crime may subvert political processes. World leaders, experts, journalists and civil society organisations were invited to contribute to the creation of a unified, holistic and multi-lateral response to the effects of Money in Politics. Global political finance systems, in need of reform, will be discussed from through varying lenses with the intention of developing an understanding of what a sound political finance system entails.

The International IDEA and TEPJF, hosts of the conference, identified four areas of focus in which new research and policy reforms 

should be developed. With the hopes of designing a best practises policy and future coordinated structures for its implementation, the conference saw contributions to themes of levelled playing fields for political competition, increased financial accountability of political actors to citizens, the protection of democratic politics from money-based influence and the effective enforcement of political finance regulations. Comprised of over fifteen panel sessions, discussants shed light on the gamut of issues hindering both economic and political development on local, regional and international scales.     

"Democracy is ultimately about popular control over decision-making and should, at least in theory, allow for a
system in which citizens and electoral candidates participate in politics on fair and equal terms. As money gains influence in politics in both young and old democracies alike, it is becoming increasingly clear that it is one of the main factors influencing both policymaking and election outcomes. Media reports are full of scandals about corrupt politicians, abuse of state funds, the nefarious influence of drug money in politics, and questionable alliances between wealthy donors and politicians, all of which undermines the equality of political competition. Indeed, the role of money in politics is a matter of national debate in many countries".                       Read more on the International IDEA's discussion here.

Campaign funding and anonymous donations, uneven distributions of wealth, the gap in gender funding, dirty money - the list goes on - were highlighted as pressing issues, with sanctions, transparent funding and spending limits, and the incorporation of civil society and law enforcement stakeholders in the development of regulation strategies being listed as possible solutions. "We need to invite not just politicians and academics, but representatives of the consumers and users of our knowledge: the corporate sector" said Mr, Yves Leterme, International IDEA Secretary-General, "Even the private sector should be concerned with this issue."

In concluding the conference, Senior Advisor with Africa Economic Development Policy Initiative, Obiageli Ezekwesili eloquently reiterated the importance of political and economic reform progressing simultaneously and in tandem in order to face the issue; "I believe we also need to see a global study on the effect of money in politics on global financial inequality".

Videos from all the work sessions and panel discussions will be available soon at

Download IDEA's Policy Brief on Global Money in Politics 2015 HERE