Endorse the Lima Declaration on Tax Justice and Human Rights

After seven days of coordinated activities in some 43 countries, the Global Week of Action for #TaxJustice has culminated in the release of the Lima Declaration on Tax Justice and Human Rights.

The Lima Declaration, already endorsed by 157 organizations worldwide, calls for deep reforms to tax policies and practices to bring them in line with human rights standards and principles. It also sets the stage for concerted collaborative efforts in the years ahead across the tax justice, women's rights, trade union, development and human rights communities.

Add your organization's voice to this important collaborative initiative by adding your endorsement through this online form.

 

THE LIMA DECLARATION ON TAX JUSTICE AND HUMAN RIGHTS
download pdf here

We come together as a broad-based community of experienced advocates, practitioners, activists, scholars, jurists, litigators and others committed to advancing tax justice through human rights, and to realizing human rights through just tax policy.

Tax revenue is the most important, the most reliable and the most sustainable instrument to resource human rights in sufficient, equitable and accountable ways. The realization of all human rights, likewise, is a core raison d'être of government. It is through respecting, protecting and fulfilling civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental rights that the state earns its legitimacy to tax. Taxation also plays a fundamental role in redistributing resources in ways that can prevent and redress gender, economic and other inequalities and reduce the disparities in human rights enjoyment that flow from them. Moreover, a just system of taxation can cement the bonds of accountability between the state and its people, fostering governments to be more responsive to the rights and claims of those to whom they are answerable. Tax policies can likewise counteract glaring market failures and protect global common goods – not least a healthy environment within planetary boundaries.

Yet many countries struggle to collect sufficient tax revenue to adequately fund the realization of human rights, all of which come with some financial cost. In parallel, unjust tax systems at the national and global levels continue to fuel rising inequality and widening disparities in human rights enjoyment, shifting the burden of financing public services onto society´s least well-off, weakening the provision of existing services and concentrating wealth in the hands of a privileged few. Regressive fiscal policies being pursued in many countries across the globe from North to South are a serious threat to the economic and social rights of already disadvantaged groups. This basic injustice is fuelling deeper economic, gender, and political inequalities, eroding trust in government institutions, which are perceived as more accountable to transnational economic elites than to their own people.

Tax policy is public policy, and so can no longer be treated as a matter of mere technical engineering or be left entirely to the often unaccountable discretion of government. Instead, we call on governments to cultivate transformative social and fiscal compacts, and empower citizen watchdog institutions that have the purpose of subjecting tax policy to the most rigorous standards of transparency, public participation, and meaningful accountability in line with internationally-recognized human rights principles.

Existing human rights standards provide a normative justification for a capable and well-resourced state. In order to comply with their obligations to protect and progressively realise economic and social rights, states must use and generate the maximum available resources (especially through sufficient and sustainable taxation) in equitable, non-discriminatory ways.

Tax laws, policies and practices must work to end structural discrimination rather than entrench growing inequalities of all kinds, including gender, ethnic, and economic disparities. Indeed, taxation is a key instrument for addressing discrimination against women and ensuring their substantive equality.  Regressive revenue-raising measures (including those which effectively impose a disproportionate fiscal burden on the most disadvantaged within and between households and disregard individual ability to pay) as well as socially-useless tax incentives and relief for business and the wealthy that have the effect of shifting the tax burden to those less able to pay while relieving those more able to pay, are inconsistent with the human rights principles of non-discrimination and equality. We call on governments to conduct impact assessments of the human rights and equality implications of tax laws. Likewise, we urge governments and statistical agencies to collect individual, household, and corporate data that enables decision-makers to accurately evaluate the human rights and equality impacts of all fiscal policies.

Today’s international corporate tax system – put in place when the nature and composition of the global economy was fundamentally different – is thoroughly outdated, privileging the interests of multinational corporate groups, global financial interests and some advanced economies while preventing national governments from raising sufficient revenue in non-discriminatory and accountable ways.  Rigorous, evidence-based scrutiny of the impacts tax laws, policies and practices have on human rights and equality abroad should replace the all-too-often unsubstantiated assumptions about the economic benefits of maintaining the prevailing international tax system. Grounded on states’ existing legal duties to take steps individually and through international cooperation and assistance to achieve the full realization of human rights, we call for the rewriting of global tax rules under the auspices of a legitimate, fully inclusive and democratic United Nations global tax body.

A state implementing tax policies or practices that erode the capacity of other states to resource human rights (whether by means of preferential tax rulings, preferential corporate tax regimes for internationally mobile forms of capital, or any other means) may be in violation of this international legal duty to cooperate. Further, states which purposefully obstruct tax information exchange, as well as banks and law firms that exploit secrecy arrangements to the detriment of the public purse, are foreseeably depriving other states of the resources needed to meet their human rights obligations. We therefore call on states to conduct human rights impact assessments of the spill-over effects of their tax policies on other countries, to take immediate action to halt any harmful practices, and to provide effective remedy where harm is done.  Likewise, we call on states to enact legislation to regulate transfer pricing mis-practices, and to curtail financial and banking secrecy so as to enable governments to effectively combat tax abuse.

Business behaviour—and tax advice—that place tax revenues at risk may well deprive states of the resources they need to realise human rights. Therefore, the tax behaviour of business can no longer be treated outside the purview of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights.  In order to implement their obligations in accordance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, we call on governments to develop legal and regulatory frameworks which safeguard against the human rights risks of business tax behaviour. We also call on governments to provide effective remedy for any harmful conduct stemming from tax behaviour.  In parallel, we urge companies and corporate groups to assess and address corporate tax abuse, for example in their policy statements, due diligence and grievance processes. Starting from a clear recognition of the adverse human rights impacts of tax abuse, companies should then conduct their tax arrangements in transparent and accountable ways so as to not jeopardize government revenue collection, even when such arrangements are technically lawful yet contravene human rights principles. We especially call on suppliers of schemes which may put government revenues at risk (in particular tax lawyers, accountants and financial intermediaries) to avoid colluding in tax abuse, to recognize their particular human rights responsibilities, to conduct human right due diligence, and to redress any harmful activities. Further, we call on companies of all stripes to refrain from interfering in the public interest of tax policy-making, be that directly through special-interest lobbying or indirectly through provoking tax competition.

We call on international institutions to support the reform of the broken global tax system by, amongst other things, integrating human rights standards into how they address corporate tax avoidance and the adverse spill-over effects of certain governments’ tax policies. Likewise, international financial institutions which advise governments on their tax and fiscal policies should, above all, respect those governments’ human rights obligations.

Rather than be an obstacle, the law should be transformed into an instrument of tax and fiscal justice. We urge the legal profession (including human rights and tax lawyers, judges and the judiciary at large) to consider its particular responsibilities to oppose unjust tax policies that impede the realization of human rights.

 One of the human rights community’s most urgent challenges is to ensure states are accountable for equipping themselves with the material means for the fulfilment of human rights. We therefore call on the human rights community at large (e.g. advocates, lawyers, academia, women’s rights organizations, NGOs, trade unions, national human rights institutions, treaty bodies and regional commissions) to actively examine how tax practices affect their missions, and develop capacities and practices to advance human rights through closer monitoring and review of tax policy. Whistleblowers and other tax justice advocates who work in the public interest to expose blatant tax-related human rights abuses, meanwhile, should be considered human rights defenders, and protected accordingly.

Finally, we call on the tax justice and development communities at large to integrate human rights into their research and advocacy, so as to harness the power of invoking human rights discourse, norms and accountability mechanisms in the pursuit of just taxation and sustainable development.

The under-signed organizations endorse this Lima Declaration on Tax Justice and Human Rights, and pledge to continue collaborating to advance tax and fiscal justice through human rights.

A pdf version of the Lima Declaration can be downloaded here (español) (français)
For more information, contact: lholland@cesr.org or teresa@globaltaxjustice.org.
Add your organization as a signatory to the Lima Declaration through this form.

 

SIGNATORIES (as of 24 July 2015):

1.    11.11.11 - Koepel van de Vlaamse Noord Zuidbeweging, Belgium
2.    9 to 5, United States
3.    Academics Stand Against Poverty, Italy
4.    ActionAid, International
5.    Alianza Española contra la Pobreza, España
6.    All Together in Dignity, Ireland
7.    Alliance Sud, Switzerland
8.    Asia Development Alliance, Korea
9.    Asia Initiatives, USA
10.    Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development, Philippines
11.    Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia, Argentina
12.    Asociación Española para el Derecho Internacional de los Derechos Humanos, España
13.    Association For Women's Rights in Development (AWID), International
14.    Association of Canadian Financial Officers, Canada
15.    Attac-Ireland, Ireland
16.    Avocats Sans Frontières, Belgium
17.    Brazilian Society of Bioethics, Brazil
18.    British Columbia Government and Service Employees' Union, Canada
19.    Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, International
20.    CCFD-Terre Solidaire, France
21.    CEICOM, El Salvador
22.    CELS (Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales), Argentina
23.    Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR), International
24.    Center for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL) at Rutgers University, USA
25.    Centre for the Enforcement of Human Rights International, Austria
26.    Centre pour la Justice et la Réconciliation, République Démocratique du Congo
27.    Centro Bonó, República Dominicana
28.    Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos "Segundo Montes Mozo S.J." (CSMM), Ecuador
29.    Centro de Estudios de Derecho, Justicia y Sociedad -DeJuSticia, Colombia
30.    Centro de Estudios para el Desarrollo Laboral y Agrario (CEDLA), Bolivia
31.    Centro de los Derechos del Campesino, Nicaragua
32.    Christian Aid, UK
33.    Christian Aid Ireland, Ireland
34.    Citizens for Tax Justice, USA
35.    Citizens Watch It Uganda, UGANDA
36.    Civic Initiative for Environment and Sustainable Development, Burundi
37.    Comision Justicia y Paz Madrid, España
38.    Comisión Nacional de Enlace (CNE), Costa Rica
39.    Community Hope Project, USA
40.    Community Legal Aid Institute (LBH Masyarakat), Indonesia
41.    Compassionate Revolution, UK
42.    Comunidad Ecuménica Martin Luther King, Chile
43.    Concejo Ecuménico Cristiano de Guatemala, Guatemala
44.    Coordinadora de ONGs de Desarrollo de España, España
45.    Coordinadora por los Derechos de la Infancia y la Adolescencia de Paraguay, Paraguay
46.    Cristina Escarmis Homs, España
47.    Debt and Development Coalition Ireland, Ireland
48.    Department of Philosophy, Mindanao State University, Philippines
49.    Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), Global South
50.    Diverse Voices and Action for Equality, Fiji
51.    EcoProsperity, UK
52.    Ecumenical Association for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (ECASARD, Ghana
53.    Education International, International
54.    EDUCON, Czech Republic
55.    Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR), Egypt
56.    Egyptian Foundation for Health for All, Egypt
57.    El Colegio de México, Mexico
58.    Elizabeth Albuquerque Pelisson, Brazil/Italy
59.    Entreculturas, España
60.    EOS - Associação de estudos, desenvolvimento e cooperação, Portugal
61.    Ethical Consumer Research Association Ltd, UK
62.    European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU), Europe
63.    European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad), Belgium
64.    Federación Internacional de Fe y Alegría, Colombia
65.    Feminist Legal Studies Queen's, Canada
66.    FIAN Mexico, Mexico
67.    Forum Solidaridad Perú, Peru
68.    Fundación Para El Avance De Las Reformas Y Las Oportunidades - Grupo FARO, Ecuador
69.    Fundar, Centro de Análisis e Investigación, México
70.    Ghent University, Belgium
71.    Giving What We Can, UK
72.    Global Alliance for Tax Justice, International
73.    Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, USA
74.    Global Policy Forum, Germany/USA
75.    Grupo de Trabajo Contra la Corrupción, Perú
76.    Grupo Nacional de Presupuesto Público, Perú
77.    Hoover Chair of Economic and Social Ethics, Belgium
78.    IBIS, Denmark
79.    IndustriALL Global Union, Switzerland
80.    Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER), Uganda
81.    Institute for Economic Research on Innovation, South Africa
82.    Institute of Global Responsibility (IGO), Poland
83.    Instituto Centroamericano de Estudios Fiscales, International
84.    Instituto de Estudos Socioeconômicos - INESC, Brasil
85.    Instituto Justiça Fiscal, Brasil
86.    International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute, UK
87.    International Federation of Musicians, France
88.    International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development-INFID, Indonesia
89.    International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), International
90.    JONCTION, Senegal
91.    Kairos Europe, Belgium
92.    Kenya Human Rights Commission, Kenya
93.    Labour,Health and Human Rights Development Centre, Nigeria
94.    Law Clinic, University of East London, UK
95.    Lawyers for Better Business, UK
96.    McGill University, Canada
97.    Methodist Tax Justice Network, UK
98.    Movimento Infantojuvenil de Reivindicação, Brasil
99.    Movimiento Unificado Francisco Sánchez-1932, El Salvador
100.    Natural Resources Alliance of Kenya (KeNRA), Kenya
101.    New Rules for Global Finance, USA
102.    NGO Federation of Nepal, Nepal
103.    NRDS, Bangladesh
104.    Oxfam France, France
105.    Oxfam Brasil, Brasil
106.    Oxfam Guatemala, Guatemala
107.    Oxfam International, International
108.    Oxfam Novib, Netherlands
109.    Pacific Partnerships on Gender, Climate Change and Sustainable Development (PPGCCSD), International
110.    Participatory Research Action Network- PRAN, Bangladesh
111.    Personal, France
112.    Plataforma Global El Salvador, El Salvador
113.    Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (PIDHDD), Ecuador
114.    Plateforme Paradis Fiscaux et Judiciaires, France
115.    Private Citizen & Tax Payer, Canada
116.    Promocion de Derechos de adolescentes en riesgo social (FUNPRODE), Nicaragua
117.    Public Services International, International
118.    Red Activista El Salvador, El Salvador
119.    Red de Justicia Fiscal de América Latina y El Caribe, Latinoamerica y El Caribe
120.    Red de Organizaciones de Managua, Nicaragua
121.    Red Latinoamericana sobre Deuda, Desarrollo y Derechos - LATINDADD, International
122.    Red Mexicana de Acción frente al Libre Comercio (RMALC), México
123.    Red Nacional Género y Economía (REDGE), México
124.    Red por la Justicia Tribuaria en Colombia, Colombia
125.    Research and Support Center for Development Alternatives - Indian Ocean (RSCDA-IO / Centre de Recherches et d'Appui pour les Alternatives de Développement - Océan Indien (CRAAD-OI), Madagascar
126.    Réseau Foi & Justice Afrique Europe, France
127.    Right to Education Project, UK
128.    Sherpa, France
129.    Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute, Uganda
130.    Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute, South Africa
131.    SUPRO-Campaign for Good Governance, Bangladesh
132.    Sustainable Initiatives Aotearoa, New Zealand
133.    Tape'a, Paraguay
134.    Tax Justice Network, International
135.    Tax Justice Network, UK
136.    Tax Justice Network - Africa, Ethiopia
137.    Tax Justice Network - Norway, Norway
138.    Tax Justice Network - the Far East Chapter, South Korea
139.    Tax Research UK, UK
140.    The Engage Network, USA
141.    Transparency International France, France
142.    Trócaire, Ireland
143.    Tunisian Observatory of Economy, Tunisia
144.    UNI Global Union, Switzerland
145.    United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, USA
146.    Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, Australia
147.    Universal Rights Network, Australia
148.    Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo, Brasil
149.    Universidade Federal do Parana, Brasil
150.    University of Auckland, New Zealand
151.    University of Connecticut, USA
152.    University of Delhi, India
153.    University of Southampton, UK
154.    Water Governance Institute, Uganda
155.    WEED - World Economy, Ecology & Development, Germany
156.    Welfare Association of Legal Justice for Awareness of Human Rights, India
157.    Women for Tax Justice, International

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