How the task force will work
Consultations will be central to informing the Task Force, who will seek expert opinions and perspectives from a broad range of representatives. The Task Force will be assisted by a secretariat, comprising one rapporteur and a team of researchers.
Over 10 months the Task Force will meet twice in plenary (March and October). At the first meeting, the Task Force will discuss in plenary the scope of the project and research priorities. The Task Force will decide on the formation of the two working groups, respectively on global poverty and human rights, and the impact of tax evasion on poverty. The working groups will discuss a specific research plan, literature review, invitation for external submissions and will plan for consultation meetings.
In addition to consultation meetings and the expert research, the IBAHRI will issue a call for submissions and research papers. The IBAHRI will seek inputs from leading academics and practitioners on various topics.
Topics may include:
World poverty is a violation of human rights law?;
international institutions’ policies towards the eradication of poverty;
impact of corporate tax evasion on poverty and the realisation of economic and social rights in Latin America and the SADC region;
corruption and embezzlement of public funds in the SADC region;
legal remedies for the resource curse;
definitional legal dilemma: lawful, unlawful tax avoidance and fraud tax;
tax fraud as a criminal offence;
the economic impact of tax incentives in India;
prospective targets for foreign investments in Burma;
normative framework for the international tax system.
The report will be a paperback edition so that it may be used practically as reference material.
Context and Background
The IBAHRI considers it particularly important to engage in this research now, as the preceding months have seen the world financial system undergoing an unprecedented economic crisis. The global community is demanding greater transparency and accountability into the economic transactions of the financial elite and multi-national corporations.
Thomas Pogge, Professor of Political Science and expert on global poverty, estimates that one-third of all human deaths, 18 million per year or 50, 0000 each day, are a result of poverty related causes. The definition of poverty is multifaceted; while it is usually seen as a lack of economic resources, organisations like Christian Aid envision poverty as ‘a lack of opportunity, a lack of power over one’s own life and prospects, a lack of human dignity’. Strong links between poverty and human rights violations have been established over the preceding decades, the former being both a cause and a consequence of the latter. The deprivation of a decent standard of living, housing, schooling or health care opportunities may constitute, under international human rights law, a violation of human rights. Although it has been argued that economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) are not justiciable insofar as they are ‘programmatic rights’ as opposed to directly enforceable rights, a report issued by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), entitled Courts and the Legal Enforcement of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, demonstrates that ESCR can be, and in fact are, adjudicated in many jurisdictions throughout the world.
Over the past decade, a great deal of time has been spent looking at illicit financial flows, in particular the proceeds of commercial tax evasion, estimated to account for 60-65% of the global trade. The globalisation of financial flows has provided opportunities for large scale economic crimes and majestic corruption by fraudulent elites as well as unique avenues for profit driven multi-national corporations to minimise tax liability. As a result, where developing countries should be raising about 30% of their national income in taxes and subsequently alleviating poverty through the provision of public services, they face a loss of US$ 160 billion from corporate taxes each year. Multinational corporations are complex structures which allocate profit between subsidiaries located in secrecy jurisdictions applying zero or low tax rates to non-residents, in other words tax havens, through internal trading.
One of the cornerstones of a healthy democracy is an equitable taxing system the proceeds of which serve the general interest of the nation. This is recognised in the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Article 13 states: ‘a common contribution is essential for the maintenance of the public forces and for the cost of administration. This should be equitably distributed among all the citizens in proportion to their means’.
While substantial links have been established between human rights and poverty and between poverty and tax evasion, comparatively little time has been spent considering tax evasion as a violation of human rights. How do illicit financial flows, in particular the proceeds of tax evasion, impact on poverty and subsequently on the enforcement of the ESCR? What rights are violated as a consequence of tax evasion? What are corporate taxing rights for developing countries? Can a multi-national corporations be held liable for the activities of its subsidiaries? How can the international community ensure that double taxation agreements are equitable? What remedies are available to citizens to redress a violation of their right to an equitable taxation system? What is the role of lawyers in combatng poverty? What can lawyers do to ensure that an equitable global financial system is put in place?
This project follows the IBAHRI adoption of a resolution on Poverty, by the IBAHRI Council, the governing body of the IBAHRI, (May 2010) which recognises that poverty is ‘accompanied by violations of fundamental rights and is an affront to human dignity, and is a persistent danger to global peace, security and economic equity within and amongst nations, despite technological advances and economic growth in many countries created by expanding trade and production opportunities.’