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Liz Nelson ■ Call for papers: Human rights and the 4 “Rs” of tax justice – Tax Justice Network annual conference

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Each year, over $427 billion in tax is lost to the most egregious forms of international corporate and individual tax abuse. This costs countries around the world the equivalent of nearly 34 million nurses’ annual salaries every year – or one nurse’s annual salary every second. But while the expansion of research into credible measurement of these tax losses has helped to drive forward international policy responses, these responses are often disconnected from the human costs that result. This reflects a failure to properly consider “the 4 Rs of taxation”.

Without tax justice, states cannot raise the revenues to meet their obligations to provide the maximum available resources to promote human rights. Without effective taxation, states cannot deliver the level of redistribution necessary to combat gross inequalities. Without a functioning tax system, states cannot achieve the repricing of public “bads” such as carbon emissions, to ensure sustainable development. And last but far from least, without fair and transparent taxation, we do not see the development of effective political representation necessary to ensure accountable governments based on a healthy social contract.

In 2021, the UN’s High Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity (FACTI) has thrown down the gauntlet. The Panel’s final report calls for a fundamental overhaul of the global architecture around tax and financial transparency, in order to address global inequalities in taxing rights between countries. Such an overhaul is crucial to ensuring that all states can deliver the 4 Rs.

The tax justice movement has in recent years worked ever more closely with human rights organisations to confront tax injustices and the resulting human rights failures, including the critical failures of women’s rights. Existing international legal instruments such as the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights have been utilised to enforce accountability, while domestic mass mobilisation campaigns have sought to raise public awareness and demands for action.

Co-organised by the Association for Accountancy & Business Affairs (AABA),  City University of London (CityPERC), the Tax Justice Network and the Tax and Gender Working group of the Global Alliance for Tax Justice (GATJ),this virtual conference is the latest in an annual series dating back to 2003. The events bring together researchers, academics, journalists, civil society organisations, consultants and professionals, along with elected politicians and their researchers, and officials from national governments and international organisations. The purpose is to facilitate research, open-minded debate and discussion, and to generate ideas and proposals to inform and shape political initiatives and mobilisation.

Call for papers, and proposals for panels

The organisers wish to invite original, high quality papers for presentation, in the broad field of human rights and the 4 Rs of tax justice. We particularly welcome papers that focus on the following themes:

  • Global tax rules, global governance and human rights: Tracking, tracing and curtailing illicit finance flows is a modern phenomenon. The “footloose” nature of capital and profit shifting by multinational corporations is of a scale that, should it be decisively and systematically addressed, could have a dramatic and transformative impact on the realisation of economic and social rights. This theme aims to dissect the structures, systems, institutions and actors that militate against economic and social rights and human development for all. It will also ask how the tax justice community can and should contribute to transformative change and realisation of rights, bearing in mind long ingrained intersectional discrimination and inequalities.
  • Climate crisis, tax justice and human rights: Our conference in December 2020 began to explore how we pay for a just transition and examined how the cost should be redistributed. This theme will examine the multiple ways that tax justice can address and minimise the threat of climate change on our economic, social and cultural rights by repricing public “bads”. This is an opportunity to explore strategies and policy which meaningfully tackle the climate crisis. A gendered and intersectional approach is called for; one which adopts a broad and progressive design and which minimises the burden of discrimination and hardship on those most economically, socially and culturally disadvantaged.
  • Centring the economic, social and cultural rights of women and girls through tax justice: Women and girls are the mainstay of care. They provide paid and unpaid care in many different forms and settings.  They do this often without remuneration, without the support of adequate public services and without social protection. The theme will examine the impact of tax policies on fiscal space and the role of care – underlining the real value of care to our economic, social and cultural life. It will map and highlight, through an intersectional approach, the frequently unrecognised risks to human development and human rights faced by women and girls. This theme invites an examination of structural and systemic “deficits”’ for women’s rights in the design of existing tax policy and law, and in research and advocacy, elucidating the “false dawns” of ostensibly progressive and gender neutral progressive policies. The theme opens opportunities to explore how truly transformative domestic and international tax policies which recognise the gender impacts at every stage of design might deliver substantive gender equality.
  • Tax justice and economic and social rights – a project for translation, interpretation, communication: There are many lessons to be learned from the Covid-19 pandemic. Governments have been undone by the scale of the pandemic and the economic and social crisis that has followed. A lack of preparedness exposed pervasive failures in provisions for the rights to health and education –failures that if left unaddressed will continue and deepen malignant inequalities. This theme probes narratives that cling with false faith to political ideologies and policies that seem to have little concern for the common good. Moreover, it is an opportunity to explain how tax justice can restore faith in accountable governance, in the central place of human rights and the understanding of those who have obligations as duty bearers of human rights.
  • No room for rights – “hollowing out”, “sleazeports” and other discredited fiscal strategies: In the so-called race to the bottom governments have been persuaded that the answer to economic prosperity lies in special treatment of private interests, including the availability of special tax treatments and light regulation. But to what degree has this created an imbalance of influence and of monopolistic power that has eroded worker’s and communities of their economic, social and cultural rights? This theme will explore how tax justice is exposing both the existing and emerging threats to representative government and the foreshadowing of democratic accountability.

In addition, we welcome proposals for interactive panels, conversations or other sessions of a non-standard format, addressing an alternative particular theme. Please note that we will not consider men-only sessions, and that we are committed to broader diversity including with respect to race and class.

Please submit abstracts and/or panel proposals of up to 500 words, along with details of the authors and proposed speakers by 12 March 2021. The review panel will communicate decisions by 26 March 2021, and final papers will be required by 28 May 2021. Proposals should be submitted via the form below. For any queries, please contact Helena Rose at [email protected] or Liz Nelson at [email protected].

Financial support may be available for speakers where remote connectivity would otherwise present obstacles to participation. Please indicate with your submission if you would require support to be able to attend.

Registration

Registration will open when the preliminary programme is published, in April 2021. For more information contact: [email protected]

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