"High-quality corporate reporting is essential for the efficient allocation and management of scarce resources. It contributes to financial stability, promotes corporate good governance and underpins a vibrant private sector. It is critical for realizing the ambitions of agenda 2030," declared Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD - the UN body that hosts ISAR.
The private sector is expected to play a large role in the implementation of the SDGs. Corporate reporting can provide a means to assess the economic, environmental and social impact of companies on sustainable development and encourage greater action in this area. At the meeting, high-level officials representing government bodies, standard-setters, the accounting profession and others presented recent trends in corporate reporting models, with a focus on enhancing the role of reporting for the implementation of the SDGs.
In his keynote speech Mr. Russell G. Golden, Chair of the Financial Accounting Standards Board (USA), broadened the focus beyond individual companies to capital markets and other financial market players, saying: "Accounting standards are an important element - but not the only element - required to promote high-quality financial reporting. We need honest companies, we need honest auditors - and we need watchful regulators—to make the system work. The standards themselves can only go so far. Every participant in the capital markets has a role".
Recognizing that accounting and auditing standards need to be harmonized, Professor Karel Van Hulle, Member of the Public Interest Oversight Board of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), stressed the importance of consistent implementation of internationally agreed standards as well as an enforcement mechanism.
During the three-day meeting, delegates also addressed issues on international audit and assurance requirements and good practices for their implementation. A further issue which will be key to the success of private sector participation in the SDGs is the robustness of monitoring, compliance and enforcement systems for an efficient application of accounting and audit requirements. Towards this end, participants reviewed feedback on UNCTAD's Accounting Development Tool (ADT) from Kazakhstan and Ukraine. The meeting also provided updates from international, regional and national bodies on their activities in the area of accounting and reporting.
More than 200 experts from about 70 countries and leading international organizations took part in the meeting. These included representatives from the European Commission, World Bank, Financial Accounting Standards Board, Public Interest Oversight Board, International Accounting Standards Board, International Federation of Accountants, International Federation of Independent Audit Regulators, Global Reporting Initiative, International Integrated Reporting Council, Group of Friends of Paragraph 47 as well as other international organizations, national policy makers, professional bodies, companies, academia and other stakeholders.
For more than 30 years, ISAR has been the focal point within the UN system for issues of corporate transparency and accounting. It addresses critical issues in the financial and non-financial reporting areas with a view to support developing countries and economies in transition in their efforts to improve their accounting infrastructures, comply with international requirements and thus improve transparency, promote financial stability and attract investment.
UNCTAD's ADT is a quantitative measurement tool that helps countries to assess the level of development of accounting infrastructure for high-quality and internationally comparable corporate reporting. It consists of a Capacity-Building Framework (CBF) and a set of indicators to identify gaps and priorities for further improvements and capacity-building. Its objective is to assist policymakers and other stakeholders in their efforts towards high-quality reporting meeting requirements of international standards and good practices.