Fariya Mohiuddin ■ Social protection rights for women vs fear of alienating private interests at the UN

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Last week marked the end of the 63rd Meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW 63, March 11th-22nd 2019).  More information and analysis is available here from the Global Alliance for Tax Justice, well worth a read.

This series of events, meetings and deliberations is the key moment in the global advocacy calendar for the gender movement to coalesce around a priority theme. This year’s priority theme was “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.”

The ability to fund social protection systems, public services and gender-sensitive infrastructure is a key concern of the Tax Justice Network’s tax and gender work. Loss of revenue through tax evasion, avoidance and illicit financial flows disproportionately impact women because governments often choose to cut social protections, public services and  infrastructure funding when faced with a revenue gap. Women rely more heavily on all of these state-funded provisions from childcare subsidies to healthcare to access to clean water.

This year, through our steering role in the Global Alliance for Tax Justice’s Tax and Gender Working Group, the Tax Justice Network co-sponsored two events that delved into the role to tax and tax justice in securing public funding for social protection systems, universal access to quality public services and quality infrastructure for women. The first event, titled “Shifting the Narrative: Financing Women’s Rights” was held on March 13th, with the objective of reasserting the importance for governments to explore financing models that are truly transformative, address inequalities and advance gender and economic justice.

The second event was titled “Taxing for Gender Equality : Evaluating gender and intersectional effects of tax laws” was held on March 15 and explored national case studies illustrating the impact ‘gender neutral’ tax laws have on women and the realisation of their rights. The coordinated effort of the working group also informed the oral interventions made by working group partners Kate Donald of the Centre for Economic and Social Rights and Caroline Othim of the Global Alliance for Tax Justice to underline to the Commission the importance of global tax justice in realising women’s rights especially with respect to provision of services, infrastructure, and protections.

In our view, although the ‘Agreed Conclusions‘ from this 63rd Meeting of the United Nations on Commission on the Status of Women include the need to strengthen tax language in the sense of referencing the combating of illicit financial flows and the importance of efficient and progressive domestic tax systems, the text shies away from addressing the issue of privatisation and the detrimental impact privatisation can have on women’s access to quality public services. There is also no mention of the role of the global financial secrecy architecture and unequal power dynamics combine to make it difficult for developing countries to tackle illicit financial flows and build progressive tax systems in order to achieve these goals. However, some progress is better than no progress at all.

As this press release on the Agreed Conclusions states,

Governments, for the first time, recognised the right to social security—including universal access to social protection—and that women’s access to social protection is often restricted when tied to formal employment. The Agreed Conclusions acknowledged that budget cuts and austerity measures undermine women’s access to social protection, public services, and sustainable infrastructure, particularly in the areas of health and education. They also recognised the link between gender-responsive social protection and the prevention of gender-based violence. And, crucially, committed to providing public sector workers with living wages.”

More information and analysis on the 63rd Meeting of the United Nations on Commission on the Status of Women is available here from the Global Alliance for Tax Justice,

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