Skip to Content

UN rights experts join calls for FTT as Global Week of Action gets underway


A group of United Nations independent human rights experts today joined the growing calls for a global financial transactions tax (FTT). “Where the world financial crisis has brought about the loss of millions of jobs, socialized private debt burdens and now risks causing significant human rights regressions through wide-ranging austerity packages, a financial transaction tax is a pragmatic tool for providing the means for governments to protect and fulfill the human rights of their people,” affirmed the UN Special Procedures on extreme poverty, food, business, foreign debt and international solidarity.

Partly inspired by the global civil society coalition “Righting Finance Regulation” and through close engagement with CESR, the expert statement comes at a critical moment, with European finance ministers due to meet in Brussels just as the latest summit of the Group of 8 industrialized nations takes place in Camp David. The statement by leading figures in the human rights community is a powerful boost to the global campaign for an FTT, making clear that the tax is a human rights imperative, as well as a priority for the development agenda.

May 15 also marks the beginning of a Global Week of Action for the FTT, during which time civil society from all corners of the globe will stage coordinated publicity events and lobbying efforts to build the momentum for the so-called “Robin Hood Tax” throughout the G-20.  As a first step, a coalition of EU countries led by France and Germany is taking the lead via a regional FTT, which is set to be determined decisively at the summit of European heads of state, set to take place on June 28 and 29.

While there is still significant resistance to the FTT from the financial sector in Europe and the US, the decision-makers meeting in both Brussels and the other international forums will be aware that social justice campaigners and UN human rights experts are not alone in calling for it. Nobel Prize-winning economists such as Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman have joined business leaders including Bill Gates and Warren Buffett and statesmen like Ban Ki-Moon, Kofi Annan and Al Gore in joining the growing chorus of support.

The idea of a global financial transactions tax was proposed decades ago, but has been largely dismissed in halls of power around the world up to now.  But the devastating social impacts of the enduring financial, food and economic crises have highlighted the need to protect human rights by curbing destabilizing currency speculation, especially in food and fuel. A modest tax on financial transactions could also generate significant new resources for fulfilling governments’ economic and social rights obligations in times of severe budget constrictions. This growing awareness has fuelled a growing momentum towards making a global FTT a reality.

“A global consensus on a financial transaction tax would represent an historic decision to prioritize the most disadvantaged and marginalized and be a valuable means of assisting developing countries to meet obligations to ensure the full realization of all economic, social and cultural rights,” concluded the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Ms. Magdalena Sepúlveda.

As part of its broader efforts to build support for human rights-centered responses to the ongoing global economic crisis, CESR will continue to interrogate governments’ budget and fiscal policy efforts, and to promote the types of alternatives to austerity which the FTT embodies. For more on the human rights case for a FTT, visit here. And learn more about CESR’s human rights analysis of austerity measures in Ireland and Spain.