While browsing the list of Wikipedia’s think tanks, I stumbled upon the Global Financial Integrity (GFI) organization based on Washington DC and thought it was particularly relevant to BGS. GFI is described as a “non-profit, research and advocacy organization” focusing its research on “national and multilateral policies, safeguards, and agreements aimed at curtailing illicit financial flows and enhancing global development and security”. It fits under the second category of think tanks as a privately funded organization, receiving funding from the Ford Foundation, the Task Force on Financial Integrity and Economic Development, and individual donors.

GFI focuses primarily on research that applies to stemming illicit financial flows, a term I was unfamiliar with. Basically, its an illegal form of capital flight (when assets/money rapidly flow out of a country due to some economic event and causes investors to lose confidence in its economic strength and/or lower their valuations of the country) and occurs when money is illegally earned or transferred. The money disappears from the struggling country of origin and earnings on the stock of illicit financial flows are rarely returned to that country. The idea is that large global companies will “misprice” (overprice) goods as a means to shift money out of developing countries. This video by the GFI director Raymond Baker does a pretty good job of explaining the concept and its effects (it’s pretty long, but the segment from about 4:40 – 6:00 sums it up):

GFI Director Explains Illicit FInancial Flows

After learning about the enormous degree of global corruption that exists behind closed doors, I think I’d definitely rather work for a privately or university funded think tank as opposed to government funded. I think, especially in some think tanks of other countries, the government sponsor could wield too much influence in what research can be conducted/published, which has the potential for obvious harmful consequences. Furthermore, privately funded think tanks are sponsored by donors who have a passion for the organization’s mission statement and could provide additional support. If I could create a think tank to investigate any particular issue I would have to go with America’s youth and education. There has been extensive research conducted on the importance of education and literacy, but little advocacy for a particular solution for increasing a. the quality of education received and b. the graduation rate of children today. Again, I would want my think tank to be privately sponsored so that the issue can be addressed without government intervention, and also because there are numerous organizations currently in existence that are dedicated to promoting education that could be beneficial to partner with.


6 responses »

  1. Mike says:

    The video didn’t work for me

  2. Jim says:

    I like your assessment of the advantages of having a think tank without government connection. I agree that I would choose either the private or university. Although in deciding, I was unsure which would lead to the least influence over my work. Specifically I wanted to have as much freedom as possible in pursuing what I found to be valuable paths and arguments. It sounds like you have similar thinking.
    I also wanted to look at education in my think tank, but I didn’t think to examine more quantitative data such as literacy rates and graduation rates. I would be particularly interested to see trends in those over time, both within the US and abroad.

  3. Mike M says:

    I agree that I would want to work for a privately funded think tank. It seems that privately funded think tanks have much more freedom to research what they want and advocate in whatever way they choose, so I think it would be more interesting to work for a privately-funded think tank. I also find it fascinating that the GFI is supported by the Ford foundation. I did some brief research on the Ford foundation and while it is not currently associated with the Ford Motor Company, it does obviously share the same name and both were started by the same people. Since the Ford Motor Company likely uses the practice of “mispricing” since it is a large multinational corporation, I would think that the Ford Motor Company would not like the GFI. While I realize that the Ford foundation is entirely seperate from the car company and thus free to support any organizations it chooses, I still find it interesting that the foundation supports an organization that probably is fighting against the car company with the same name.

  4. Jordi says:

    What is an illicit financial flow? Against that country’s laws or some sort of international treaty or more of a diffuse international consensus? Does the WTO define this?

  5. […] Head-Scratcher Award (IFF concept): Claire – GFI & Illicit Financial Flows […]

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