Tax Justice is a Human Rights Issue

Oxfam and Tax Justice Network are today launching an essay competition on tax justice and human rights.

The competition invites both practitioners and students from around the world to explore ways in which governments of developing countries and/or civil society in any country can use existing laws to protect human rights in the face of tax injustice.

Tax evasion and avoidance within and across borders deprive governments of the revenue they need to fulfil their human rights commitments, and in particular their obligation to progressively realize economic and social rights such as the rights to health, education and housing.

Inequitable tax policies and practices have perpetuated inequalities of all kinds and place a disproportionate burden on women and others facing systemic discrimination.

Unaccountable tax regimes and secrecy jurisdictions protect the privileges of economic elites at the expense of the people’s right to information and participation in fiscal decision-making, while those who speak out against tax injustice and on occasion blow the whistle on the abusive tax practices of their employers are made targets of repression.

For all the above reasons, tax is beginning to be recognized as a critical human rights issue by many within the tax justice and human rights communities.

In April 2015 human rights and tax justice organizations, scholars and activists convened in Lima to explore new perspectives set out in the Lima Declaration. Addressing that meeting, Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, said:

“At present, the bottom line is that most human rights specialists don’t appreciate the centrality of tax and the vast majority of tax specialists have very little idea about how human rights are relevant.”

Tax justice and human rights communities are already collaborating to explore innovative ways of converging ideas and possibilities for using legal challenge to confront abusive practices. This competition will play an important part in shaping this work in the coming years.

Please read the details of the Tax Justice and Human Rights Essay Competition.

Deadline for submissions is 13th March 2016.

This entry posted by Liz Nelson (@zilhen) on 26 January 2016. Liz is a director at Tax Justice Network and is developing TJN’s program of work on tax justice and human rights.

Photo: Barbara Chinyeu (36), a widow in Zambia who risks her life every day to irrigate her crops and feed her two children. She lives in Chiawa, 105 miles south-east of Lusaka. It’s a rural area with few transport links, health centers, and employment opportunities. One of the reasons inequality in Zambia is so bad is because global tax rules allow multinational mining companies to generate vast profits from their operations in the country, while paying very little tax. Rural areas are extremely poor; there are very few jobs, inadequate health centers, schools, and roads. Lost revenue is desperately needed to improve infrastructure and invest in public services. Oxfam’s research has shown that this is one of the most effective ways of tackling extreme inequality. Credit: Abbie Trayler-Smith/Oxfam

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