Wednesday, April 4, 2018

International Maritime Organization Under Fire from Anti-Corruption Group

Flags of Convenience Exert Undue Influence is the Claim
Shipping News Feature
WORLDWIDE – The non-government organisation, Transparency International, has heavily criticised the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and its governance, expressing concerns that private shipping-industry stakeholders could have undue influence over the policymaking process at the London headquartered specialised agency of the United Nations.

A study conducted by the anti-corruption organisation, which will be released in full in May, found that the risk of unresolved conflicts of interest due to shortcomings in the governance of the IMO could undermine the shipping association's ability to effectively regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from maritime trade. According to a report by the European Parliament, the shipping industry could contribute up to 17% of global CO2 emissions by 2050 if left unregulated.

Transparency International’s study assesses three dimensions of the IMO’s governance structure, transparency, accountability and integrity. A summary report by the NGO raises serious concerns:

  • Journalists indicate that they are unable to report freely on IMO meetings. Non-profit organisations with consultative membership of the IMO can face expulsion if they criticise the agency or report on country views, for example.
  • The majority of the world’s commercial fleet (52%) is registered in only five states - Panama, Liberia, the Marshall Islands, Malta and the Bahamas – flag of convenience countries. Together, these five states contribute 43.5% of the total funding from the IMO’s 170 member states. These countries potentially have exaggerated weight in the IMO policymaking processes, particularly when no mechanism exists to protect against undue influence.
  • Governments are able to appoint employees of corporations, including shipping companies, to their delegations, and they have dominated some delegations. These private-sector delegates can determine their government’s position on IMO policy and are not subject to conflict of interest rules nor to a code of conduct.

The report however notes that even in the absence of a comprehensive access to information policy, transparency about the IMO’s administration is high, and that information about the remit, powers and rules of procedure of its assembly, council and committees is easily accessible. The IMO itself is not responsible for who member states appoint to their delegations. Brice Böhmer, Coordinator of the Climate Governance Integrity Program at Transparency International, commented:

“The IMO was assigned the task of limiting and reducing emissions from shipping under the Kyoto Protocol back in 1997. 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 organisation’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.”

Transparency International urges the IMO to establish a stronger governance framework. The agency should engage in a transparent process of open dialogue with its external stakeholders (including civil society and industry), to improve transparency, ensure decision-making processes reflect the public interest, and apply robust integrity rules and measures.

The NGO says there should be no delay on action to combat climate change and the Intersessional Working Group on GHG Emissions from Ships meeting in London today should set ambitious targets for reducing emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, and begin taking measurable action now. Rueben Lifuka, Vice Chair of Transparency International and an Environmental Consultant, said:

“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. 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.”

The criticism comes at a time when the efficacy of the IMO in the future has recently been questioned with the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) saying just a week or so ago that governments must compromise to help the IMO achieve its climate goals or face the possibility that the London headquartered organisation will lose all credibility, passing resolutions which governments' refuse to acknowledge.