Report from the World Social Forum: With people power, we can achieve change
Report from the workshop on Tax Justice and Financing for Development
25th March 2015
Activists from trade unions, the climate movement, Action 2015 and the campaign for a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) took part in the Tax Justice and Financing for Development workshop, the first of the four events co-organised by the Global Alliance for Tax Justice at the World Social Forum 2015 in Tunis.
In a packed room, a panel of experts, including politicians and tax activists from civil society, presented the issues that have led to large-scale tax avoidance and evasion, and debated the solutions and opportunities for change.
There was strong agreement amongst the speakers that the current system is broken. Luckystar Miyandazi, of the East Africa Tax and Governance Network, laid bare the scale of the problem when she described how $50 billion lost by Africa, mainly through illicit financial flows, could have wiped out hunger twice over. Others from the Global North spoke about how tax dodging is fuelling the widening gap between rich and poor.
On the solutions, there was also consensus that the answer to these problems lie in greater transparency around the operations of multinational corporations, and a more global and inclusive tax system. To achieve this, the UN, as the only democratic institution at the global level, must take a strong role in any reform process.
The establishment of an inclusive intergovernmental body on tax matters under the auspices of the UN is one of the Global Alliance for Tax Justice’s key demands of the 3rd Conference on Financing for Development to be held in Addis Ababa in July.
Johnlyn Tromp, of Oxfam South Africa said “It is a global problem so it needs a global solution. We are saying that the current tax regime is perpetuating inequality and we are worried that the system will be decided for us.”
Tove Maria Ryding, Head of Tax Justice at Eurodad and coordinator of Tax Justice Europe, signalled the readiness of civil society to campaign for this change and urged others to join in.
She said: “It is not a question of waking people up, they are already 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. Come to us - we are very happy to work with you on this.”
MEP Norbert Neusser from the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, also called for campaigners and advocates from all global regions to put pressure on their governments to push for strong tax solutions at the UN Financing for Development summit in Addis.
The workshop concluded that it is only ‘people power’ and campaigning across different movements that will force through the change. Luckystar said “We are calling for organisations and individuals to get concerned, get informed, get organised and get campaigning. Believe that there is power in the people.”
Luckystar Miyandazi, of the East Africa Tax and Governance Network, and Johnlyn Tromp, of Oxfam South Africa