Civil Society Organisations Initiative for Stolen Asset Recovery in Southern Africa (CSO-ISARSA) launched in Southern Africa

Recognizing the urgent need to recover stolen assets and bolster anti-corruption efforts in Southern Africa, the Civil Society Organisations Initiative for Stolen Asset Recovery in Southern Africa (CSO-ISARSA) was established in 2020. This civil society-led initiative serves as a vital support to government efforts in identifying, tracing, seizing, confiscating, and returning stolen assets to their rightful owners or communities.

CSO-ISARSA comprises a membership of 15 civil society organizations (CSOs) drawn from across 10 Southern African nations, bringing a diverse array of perspectives and expertise to the initiative’s shared goal of tackling the issue of stolen assets in the region. The following organizations serve as founding members of CSO-ISARSA:

  1. Botswana: Botswana Centre for Public Integrity, Botswana Watch
  2. Comoros: Maison des organisations de la societé civile (MOSC)
  3. DRC: Ligue Congolaise De Lutte Contre La Corruption (LICOCO)
  4. Malawi– Hope plus organisation,
  5. Namibia: Namibia Institute for Democracy
  6. South Africa: Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-SA), UMTAPO Centre, The Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance
  7. Mozambique: Centrol de Desenvolvimento para Jovens en Mozambique
  8. Tanzania: Tanzania Anti-Corruption Network (TACN)
  9. Zambia: Zambia Council for Social Development (ZCSD), Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP), Centre for Ethics and Public Integrity
  10. Zimbabwe: Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-SA)-Zimbabwe, Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice Trust

On the list of the CSO-ISARSA activities include the following:

  1. Raising awareness about and generating demand for asset recovery in Southern Africa;
  2. Analysing and making suggestions for improving the laws, policies and institutional arrangements for effective prosecution of entities and individuals involved, and return of stolen assets and distribution of recovered assets;
  3. Supporting relevant authorities by identifying, reporting and exposing stolen assets;
  4. Advocacy for asset recovery related investigations and prosecutions; and
  5. Strategic litigation in selected stolen asset cases that are of public interest.

Whilst States lead the process, CSOs play an important supporting role in the different stages of the asset recovery process. Asset recovery is often undermined by the simple reason that the stolen assets cannot be found because of lack of concerted efforts by all stakeholders in the asset recovery process, which explains the indispensable role that the CSO-ISARSA initiative plays.

The activities of the CSO-ISARSA are inspired by the UNCAC, which explicitly declares asset recovery as a fundamental principle of the Convention (Article 51, UNCAC). The UNCAC dedicates an entire chapter to asset recovery (Chapter V). This chapter outlines, inter alia, measures to be taken for the prevention and detection of transfers of proceeds of crime (Article 52); measures for direct recovery of property (Article 53); mechanisms for recovery of property through international cooperation in confiscation; international cooperation for purposes of confiscation (Articles 54 and 55); as well as measures for the return and disposal of assets (Article 57).

Several articles in other Chapters of the UNCAC also relate to asset recovery and the role of CSOs such as the members of the CSO-ISARSA. Relevant sections relate to the participation of society (Article 13), prevention and criminalization of money-laundering (Articles 14 and 23), protection of reporting persons or whistle-blowers (Article 33), compensation for damages (Article 35), cooperation between national authorities and the private sector (Article 39), bank secrecy (Article 40) and mutual legal assistance (Article 46).

The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) underscores the pivotal role of civil society in the fight against corruption. Therefore, it is critical for various civil society organizations (CSOs) to play their part in this collective effort.

To this end, the CSO-ISARSA initiative invites other CSOs to contribute to the fight against corruption in various ways, including:

1- Whistleblowing: CSOs can act as a crucial channel for reporting corrupt practices and exposing wrongdoing, thereby supporting transparency and accountability.

2- Contributing as Experts: When civil society organizations contribute as experts in the realm of stolen asset recovery, they offer a valuable pool of knowledge, skills, and expertise to aid in the identification, tracing, seizure, confiscation, and return of stolen assets

3- Acting as Applicants where strategic litigation is chosen as an option: Strategic litigation, in the context of asset recovery, refers to the use of legal proceedings and court cases to pursue the repatriation of stolen assets. In this process, civil society organizations (CSOs) can serve as applicants, which means that they can bring or support legal claims against corrupt individuals and entities. As applicants, civil society organizations can initiate or participate in legal proceedings aimed at recovering stolen assets. They may engage in pre-trial discovery, gather evidence, file lawsuits, or intervene in existing cases to ensure that corrupt individuals or entities are held accountable, and assets are returned to their rightful owners.

4- Raising awareness about and generating demand for asset recovery: This involves public education and media campaigns among others.

For more information about the initiative contact:

The Secretariat

The Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-SA), e-mail: or