Nowhere to hide: Realising the potential of beneficial ownership reform

2022: A year of action

The Summit for Democracy 2022 year of action is an opportunity to springboard global progress on reform. Coinciding with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) review of its beneficial ownership requirements (Recommendation 24) and the 10th Open Government Partnership Summit (through which over 30 commitments to beneficial ownership reform have been made), there is a unique opportunity to drive global progress.

The revisions to FATF’s Recommendation 24 on beneficial ownership are expected to be finalised in early 2022, and hold the potential to significantly increase the de facto global minimum standard. Other global fora, including the United Nations Convention against Corruption and the G20, will remain vital to progress.

These developments will come in a time of continued economic and social uncertainty. Countries around the world are facing new and ongoing threats to democracy, citizen participation, and press freedom, as well as the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Advances in big data collection and analysis mean that the issue of effective data governance will become ever more important.

Concerted action during 2022, across three core themes, can drive substantive progress towards our shared goal:

1. Effective implementation. To deliver policy impacts at scale, we first need to deliver accessible, linkable, high-quality data in a critical mass of countries. The year of action should act as a ‘sprint’ to advance the implementation of existing beneficial ownership commitments.

World map of beneficial ownership transparency commitments and where Open Ownership is engaged

2. Robust new evidence is required, detailing how to implement beneficial ownership transparency effectively and why doing so can help deliver real world impact. The policy and technology contexts are fast evolving, so the evidence needed for effective advocacy over the coming years is also changing. New evidence is needed to advance existing debates, such as the importance of public access to beneficial ownership information and how data is verified. Frontier issues, such as the ownership of listed companies and state-owned enterprises, require analysis and evidence to guide good policy making. Above all, a shift is needed towards analysing and evaluating the usefulness of beneficial ownership data to deliver real world impact. This is becoming ever more possible as more data becomes available.

3. Scaling the use of beneficial ownership data by people across government, business, and civil society is needed to deliver and accelerate real world impact. Reformers can capitalise on the increasing demand for beneficial ownership information from investors, companies, and procurement authorities, which are all seeking to effectively manage risk. The ongoing demand from civil society and journalists can also be used to drive reform.

Next page: Recommendations