Request for research proposals
Detecting and countering illicit financial flows

United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) together with Department of Economics at the University of Copenhagen invite proposals for papers examining the challenge of illicit financial flows. The successful proposals will become part of the body of evidence within the UNU-WIDER project Detecting and Countering Illicit Financial Flows. Submission deadline: 15 March 2021, 23:59 UTC+3

Illicit financial flows (IFFs) constitute a major development challenge for countries in the Global South. While tax revenue relative to GDP has increased, they remain low compared to high-income countries; see Addison, Niño-Zarazúa, and Pirttilä (2018); World Bank (2020). Without adequate revenue to spend, states are limited in providing crucial public services such as education, healthcare, and infrastructure. Second, IFFs are inherently associated with international transactions, potentially resulting in unfair competition for domestic firms and severe misallocation of resources. Third, hiding of wealth is foremost done by the richest households, thereby increasing inequality in society; see Alstadsæter, Johannesen, and Zucman (2019). Fourth, perceptions about other people evading (complying with) taxes may create a circle of reduced (increased) tax compliance; Alm, Bloomquist, and McKee (2017); Hallsworth et al. (2017).

United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics (UNU-WIDER) together with the Department of Economics at the University of Copenhagen, with the generous support of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), is pursuing a research project on Detecting and Countering Illicit Financial Flows. The project is led by Niels Johannesen and Finn Tarp of the University of Copenhagen supported by postdoc Kasper Brandt. It seeks to address the challenge of illicit financial flows by investigating the magnitude of these flows, the channels through which they flow, and the policy responses that may dampen the flows. The aim is to expand the research frontier and provide knowledge for the governments of developing countries in support of policies which will increase revenue collection.

Offer and expectations

UNU-WIDER invites proposals from qualified researchers for papers examining the challenge of illicit financial flows. The aim is that these papers will be published in high-quality journals after publication in the WIDER Working paper series. The papers need to be written in English, and should be limited to 10,000 words maximum inclusive of everything (text, tables, figures, footnotes, references).

Proposals from individuals (or groups of individuals) as well as non-profit organizations are welcome. Applications from suitably-qualified women and developing country researchers are particularly encouraged. Proposals may address one or more of the research questions.

All successful applicants are expected to attend a 1-2 day workshop in 2022 (date and venue TBD) where the results will be presented and discussed. Costs of attending this workshop will be borne by UNU-WIDER in accordance with United Nations University travel policy.

Read the full announcement for more information.

Dates (Eastern European Time – EET)
14 January 2021 Announcement published
1 March 2021 Final opportunity for questions on the request for research proposals
15 March 2021 Proposals due
31 March 2021 Target date for informing on funding decisions
30 April 2021 Target date for completion of necessary administrative procedures
30 July 2021 Target date for submission of first drafts of papers
15 November 2021 Target date for submission of final papers.
Proposal submission details

Submission of proposals is done electronically by using a form on the RFRP announcement page. There are three forms to select from: one for individuals, another for groups of individuals, and a third for non-profit organizations. Details (such as address, gender, nationality, date of birth) of all researchers involved is to be entered onto the form and the cover page, the proposal, and short CVs (five pages or less) of researcher/s uploaded. Please familiarize yourself with the form in advance.

Any questions on the proposal process should be sent to by 15 March 2021. All queries and responses will be published on the RFRP announcement page. Selected answers will be updated on a rolling basis.

See full request for research proposals