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Global Tax Advocates Push for U.N. Tax Convention

QUEZON CITY–Tax justice advocates from Asia and other parts of the world gathered recently to discuss the ongoing negotiations at the United Nations for a Framework Convention on International Tax Cooperation (UN Tax Convention) that is envisaged to address the global problem of massive tax abuses by corporations and wealthy individuals which currently cost governments over $1 billion a day.

They listened to arguments and perspectives from diverse stakeholders, including tax experts, a Member of Parliament from Nepal, independent researchers, trade union and CSO leaders, and concluded that a “strong UN Tax Convention” is urgently needed to ‘rewrite’ global tax rules that have for so long worked against the interests of developing countries and marginalized sectors and communities.

The deliberations took place during the Multi-Stakeholders Forum and Asia Strategy Workshop organized the last 20-22 June, 2024 in Quezon City, Philippines by the Global Alliance for Tax Justice (GATJ) and the Tax and Fiscal Justice-Asia (TAFJA) in collaboration with the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) and Rural Reconstruction Nepal (RRN) under the theme, “UN Tax Convention Now! Rewriting Global Tax Rules to Work for People and the Planet.”

According to Lidy Nacpil, Coordinator of APMDD, “we have tax rules that favor MNCs [because] the situation we are in is the product of colonialism: profit repatriations, trade deficits. The majority of our economies are still producing for the Global North.”

“We are looking at this year as a very important year, because we will be negotiating the content of the UN Tax Convention. Ten years of work for tax justice has led to this important win,” she continued.

In a landmark decision at the UN in November 2023, a resolution was passed to initiate the negotiation process for a UN Tax Convention.

This marks a critical opportunity to reformulate the global tax rules to make them work for the needs and rights of people worldwide. The adoption of this resolution, despite opposition from the world’s most powerful economies, underscores the strong demand from the Global South for a meaningful role in shaping international tax policies—a role they have historically been excluded from.

“If the Global South is not at the table, then we are on the menu. GATJ has campaigned for years for a UN Tax Convention so that all states can participate in the writing of global tax rules – on equal footing,” added by Dr. Dereje Alemayehu, Executive Coordinator of the Global Alliance for Tax Justice.

 “Tax is interconnected with many social movements. That is why we need a broad-based alliance. All rights-based movements should be part of the alliance for tax justice because our struggle is part of a broader struggle. We can only achieve success when we unit our movements,” he continued.

In February of this year, the inaugural intergovernmental negotiations were held to establish the new UN Tax Convention Ad-Hoc Committee, representing a significant milestone in the journey toward fair and inclusive global tax governance.

The initial substantive negotiations occurred from April 26 to May 8, 2024, with the objective of drafting the Convention’s Terms of Reference (ToR) by the end of August 2024. In mid-June, the zero draft of the ToR was unveiled, providing a foundation that the tax justice movement will advocate for and strengthen during the upcoming second round of negotiations at the UN Headquarters, scheduled from July 29 to August 16, 2024.

Thus, the next months are critical in the fight for tax rules that deliver on the financing for human rights, quality public services, gender equality, and climate action that countries so urgently need.

Dr. Arjun Karki, TAFJA Co-Coordinator and President of RRN said that, “The tax rules favor those who are rich. Rich countries. Rich companies. Rich people. We need tax rules that support, protect, and promote the interest of people and the planet.”

He further discussed that “the ongoing negotiations is an opportunity for the civil society and grassroots movements across the world to influence the process.”

APMDD Development Finance Senior Program Manager and TAFJA Co-Coordinator Jeannie Manipon discussed how “our countries are not generating enough revenues to finance public services as tax policies continue to favor corporations, MNCs, and the wealthy few.”

She said, “let us call on our governments to support and participate in the negotiations to ensure a positive outcome, a Convention that is anchored on fundamental principles of tax justice.”

She emphasized the importance of civil society’s role in participating in the shaping of the substance and content of the Convention.

Meanwhile, in the context of the Philippines, progressive organizations such as Oriang Women’s Movement and SANLAKAS spoke about the relevance of tax justice principles to the issues faced by Filipinos.

The organizations were represented by Flora Assidao-Santos, President of Oriang and Atty. Aaron Pedrosa, Secretary-General of SANLAKAS. Santos said that “Ang mga kababaihan sa Pilipinas ay patuloy na dumadanas sa iba’t ibang krisis (Women in the Philippines are suffering from various crises).”

 She believed that a just, transparent, and equitable taxation system is the real solution to these issues.

“Pag-kolekta ng buwis at kung paano ang tamang paggastos nito ang paraan upang masolusyunan ang patuloy na lumalalang krisis na kinahahaharap ng mga mararalita’t kababaihan (Collection of taxes together with fair and correct expenditure are the solution to the crises plaguing women and the impoverished),” she added.

Atty. Aaron Pedrosa of SANLAKAS said that “A UN Tax Convention and the negotiations are not only timely, but necessary as well.”

He added, “Nakikiisa kami sa pagsulong ng isang kasunduan sa loob ng UN upang mahinto ang pagsasabwatan ng mga mayayamang bansa laban sa mga bansa ng Global South (We are in support of a treaty under the UN in order to stop the collusion of Global North countries working against the interests of the Global South).”

 The forum called on peoples’ movements and civil society members to demand national governments across the world to support a UN Tax Convention based on the tax justice principles of human rights, equity, fairness, and transparency discussed during the 3-day conference.

Through a Joint Communique, GATJ, TAFJA, and other participating organizations at the forum stated that “the upcoming UN process is a historic opportunity to transform the outmoded international tax architecture which features deep structural inequalities and is rooted in colonialism and imperialism,” adding that “a one-country-one-vote process at the UN allows member states a more open opportunity to address these issues.”

The organizations at the Forum also underscored the importance of the active participation of tax justice advocates and peoples movements from both the Global South and North in the UN Tax Convention negotiations process.

They called on civil society organizations to “demand that our national governments champion a UN Tax Convention based on… principles of human rights, equity, fairness, and transparency.”

Participants came from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines and were joined in the Philippines by allies from Canada, France, Kenya, and South Africa. Other speakers addressed the forum virtually from Australia, Belgium, India, and Peru. (APMDD/PR)

Photo by Elmer Valenzuela

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