The World Social Forum – Tunis 2015: Activists call for leaders to tackle inequality and deliver tax justice

Added 01 Apr 2015
The World Social Forum – Tunis 2015
Activists call for leaders to tackle inequality and deliver tax justice

Activists from across the world have published a declaration urging governments everywhere to reduce inequality and deliver global tax justice. The declaration, titled Tax justice to end inequality, was issued following the World Social Forum in Tunis, which concluded March 28, 2015.

The declaration calls for binding tax and transparency rules that ensure multinational corporations pay their fair share of taxes, and contends that global decision-making on tax should be taken out of the hands of the exclusive OECD and handed to a UN body that ensures developing countries have an equal seat at the table. It also calls for tax laws to incorporate the rights of women and redress the gender imbalances that run through many tax systems.

Activists at an assembly at the World Social Forum debate the declaration on tax justice.

The declaration followed several workshops co-organised by the Global Alliance for Tax Justice (GATJ), of which Eurodad is part:

Tax bias against women and girls 

One of the workshops discussed ‘How can there be tax justice without gender justice?’ Mariana Paoli, an International Advocacy Advisor at Christian Aid, described how women (who carry out sometimes 10 times more unpaid work in the home than men) are often hit not just by a lack of recognition for this work but also pay a disproportionally large part of indirect taxes.

These taxes include VAT on goods and services. Paoli said: “Women are the members of families who buy the food and household goods, yet they are not judged to be contributing through these purchases.”

Mae Buenaventura, from Jubilee South Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (JSAPMDD), described how VAT (and similar taxes) mean “A millionaire will pay the same rate as a vendor in the street.” She added that while women are paying more through these sort of regressive taxes, they are also excluded from financial decision-making in the Philippines (where Jubilee South is based) as this is often seen as the remit of men. For example, exemptions from income tax because of dependent children can only be applied for by men. If a couple separate (there is no procedure for divorce in the Philippines) it is left to the woman to ‘beg’ for this allowance. She said: “Gender analysis and human rights laws must be applied to tax laws before tax justice can possibly be delivered.”

No tax justice without good governance
Another workshop examined the effects of current global tax standards. Firas Jaber, Al Marsad Palestine, Arab NGO Network for Development, laid bare the situation in the most of the Arab world: the absence of taxes on wealth, stock markets and market economies; massive tax dodging by multinational corporations; and immense debts in the region – often owed to international and accompanied by conditions to implement austerity measures (for example, Lebanon owes more than 50 billion dollars).

Subsequent speakers pushed for global tax rules to be taken out of the hands of a few rich countries – under the current OECD system – calling for the creation of a new tax body operating under the UN, where all countries have a seat at the table.

The path towards the third Financing for Development summit in July 2015
Throughout the week, the debate repeatedly turned to actions needed to deliver tax justice at the crucial UN summit on development finance in July. The debate on gender included a call to ensure that any UN body be provided with gender expertise, and that all efforts to gather resources in countries take into consideration the current inequalities.

The workshop that focused specifically on FfD brought both EU politicians – including MEP Norbert Neusser from the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats - and CSOs and trade unions together, all calling on governments to deliver true tax justice at Addis. Tove Maria Ryding, head of Tax Justice at Eurodad and coordinator of Tax Justice Europe, the regional network of the Global Alliance for Tax Justice, called for broad civil engagement in the FfD process and said: “(People) are angry because journalists have told them what is going on. We also know when the key moments for global action are. We have the advocacy documents ready. Please join us.”

All eyes are now on New York, where negotiations are ongoing to produce a draft text that will be debated by Ministers in Addis Ababa in July. A position paper, initiated by Afrodad, Eurodad, Latindadd, JSAPMDD and Third World Network - and endorsed by more than 140 civil society organisations - sets out clear recommendations for concrete change. This paper can be read here.

The Global Alliance for Tax Justice has also issued an FfD policy paper that focuses specifically on tax recommendations.

The Global Alliance for Tax Justice launched a photo campaign at The World Social Forum 2015 

People joining the movement for tax justice

Declaration Tax justice to end inequality - PDF English version available here.
Declaration Tax justice to end inequality - Word English version available here.
Declaration Tax justice to end inequality - PDF French version available here.
Declaration Tax justice to end inequality - Word French version available here.
Declaration Tax justice to end inequality - PDF Spanish version available here.
Declaration Tax justice to end inequality - Word Spanish version available here.