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BERLIN: April 03, 2018. A report by corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) says the UN International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is risking unresolved conflicts of interest due to poor governance.

TI notes that 52 percent of the world’s commercial fleet is registered in five tax havens - Panama, Liberia, the Marshall Islands, Malta and the Bahamas – that contribute 43.5 percent of total IMO funding from 170 member states. As a result, suggests TI, these five countries could have undue influence over IMO policymaking processes.

At the same time these governments are able to appoint corporate employees, including shipping companies, to their delegations who can determine their position on IMO policy without being subject to conflict of interest rules or a code of conduct.

UN IMO kimAlthough the IMO is not responsible for delegate appointees, TI concludes that such private-sector participation could have undue influence over the IMO policymaking process and undermine its ability to effectively regulate greenhouse gas emissions from maritime trade.

According to a report by the European Parliament, the ocean shipping industry could contribute as much as 17 percent of global CO2 emissions by 2050 if left unregulated.

“A guiding principle of UN system is that member states must represent citizens’ interests. At the IMO this could end up being undermined by corporate participation in the place of nation states,” said Rueben Lifuka, vice chair of Transparency International and an environmental consultant.

TI also claims journalists are unable to report freely on IMO meetings while non-profit organizations with consultative membership can face expulsion if they criticize the agency.

“The IMO was assigned the task of limiting and reducing emissions from shipping under the Kyoto Protocol back in 1997,” explained Brice Böhmer, coordinator of TI’s Climate Governance Integrity Program. “However, it took until 2016 for the IMO to even agree on a roadmap towards an initial strategy, due in 2018, and a revised strategy, due only in 2023.

“A well-functioning organization’s governance structure should enable decisive action, but the governance flaws identified by our research suggests that this is not happening at the IMO because policy-making could be overly controlled by private companies.”

TI says the IMO should engage in a process of open dialogue with its external stakeholders - including civil society and industry - in order to improve transparency, apply “robust” integrity rules and measures, and ensure decision-making processes reflect the public interest.

“The IMO has an integral role in helping the shipping industry meet UN Sustainable Development Goal 13 on climate change, and Goal 14 on oceans. Ultimately, it must reform its governance structure to promote transparency and ensure the voices of citizens – alongside industry – are heard,” added Lifuka.

Click to download the TI proposal document: IMO reform

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