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Strengthening the human rights dimension of the UNTC: CESR and allies weigh in on Terms of Reference Zero Draft

As the UN Framework Convention on International Tax Cooperation (UNTC) negotiations progress, civil society groups are pushing to ensure human rights are central to the reforms. Our second submission to the UNTC’s Terms of Reference Committee, with a diverse group of allies, emphasizes the need for human rights to be explicitly integrated into the UNTC framework. It also calls for stronger commitments to progressive and equitable taxation, climate justice, and gender equality.

Following the Ad Hoc Committee’s recent release of a ‘Zero Draft’ of the UNTC Terms of Reference, CESR, together with a coalition of global civil society organizations, has lodged a submission reiterating CESR’s previous call to ensure that global tax cooperation frameworks advance human rights and equitable development. The Zero Draft comes following the Ad Hoc Committee’s first round of negotiations to draft the UNTC Terms of Reference at the UN Headquarters in New York in May 2024.  

The submission commends the Zero Draft’s recognition of fair and effective taxation as crucial for sustainable development and its call for international cooperation to support this agenda. However, the submission argues that human rights and sustainable development must be explicitly enshrined as a core purpose of the UNTC. 

The submission also welcomes the Zero Draft’s acknowledgment of extraterritorial commitments and countries’ differentiated responsibilities and capabilities in the tax arena. It proposes this should be strengthened by clearly articulating states’ extraterritorial human rights obligations, including duties to cooperate globally, refrain from undermining other states’ taxing capacity, and create an enabling environment for rights.

On the nexus of tax policy, climate action, and human rights, the submission calls for firmer commitments to progressive and equitable taxation measures that align with climate justice imperatives. The submission critiques the Zero Draft’s silence on tax and gender equality proposing language to redress gender biases and ensure adequate resourcing of women’s rights. The submission also urges bolder measures to tackle corporate tax abuse and secrecy.

Underpinning these issues is the need for inclusive, participatory policy-making at the global level. The submission stresses the importance of ensuring meaningful civil society engagement and prioritizing the voices of historically disadvantaged groups and countries in the upcoming stages of the process.

The submission’s endorsement by a broad group of organizations demonstrates a united front advocating for a global tax system that upholds human rights, as also highlighted in previous submissions in the lead-up to the first substantial negotiations in May 2024. The group looks forward to the upcoming second session of the Ad Hoc Committee, to be held from 29 July to 16 August 2024 in New York City, where they will continue to champion their vision of an international taxation system capable of protecting human rights and promoting social equity. 

Download the full submission below.