Convention: Human rights experts support call for UN tax treaty

Geneva, 29 November, 2022.- UN experts* today welcomed the adoption of a resolution presented by the African group, calling on Member states to lay the groundwork for a new UN convention on tax that would give low-and middle-income countries decision-making power over global tax affairs.

The resolution adopted at the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly last week, called for more inclusive and effective international tax cooperation and urges Member States to commence negotiations on a global tax treaty led by the UN.

The resolution reiterates the call by the Group of 77 and other States on the need to strengthen international cooperation on global tax matters and noted with concern that there was no single global inclusive forum for international tax cooperation at the intergovernmental level.

The resolution gives the UN a mandate to monitor, evaluate and determine global tax rules and support the establishment of a global tax body.

The experts said an international tax convention would put global South countries on an equal footing to navigate and negotiate global tax rules.

“The resolution gives the UN General Assembly a mandate to hold intergovernmental talks on global tax reforms for all countries on an equal footing, and the potential to establish an international tax cooperation framework or instrument,” the UN experts said.

“The international taxation system is in urgent need of reform to combat illicit financial flows in line with human rights law and standards, including extraterritorial obligations,” the experts said.

They noted that tax-related illicit financial flows involving cross-border tax evasion and avoidance divert crucial resources necessary for States to fulfil their human rights commitments and undermine their ability to mitigate global shocks.

“Current international tax-architecture rules, frameworks and decision-making spaces are geared towards the interests of the wealthy and global North countries,” the experts said. “Low-income countries who are underrepresented in these discussions are already battling unsurmountable levels of debt distress and are in urgent need of solutions as debt distress levels, socio-economic inequalities and climate crises worsen.”

In her report to the 77th General Assembly, the UN’s independent expert on the effects of foreign debt, Attiya Waris addressed the issue of international tax governance through the creation and development of a global UN-led tax convention and global tax body grounded in human rights.

“International tax reforms, like a global tax body under the auspices of the UN, should promote a rights-based economy, to ensure human rights obligations are at the centre of financial and fiscal decision-making,” the experts said.

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