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Statement by Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights at the Round Table 2: Ensuring policy coherence and an enabling environment at all levels of sustainable development

14 July 2015, 10:00-13:00, Conference Room 2

Let me introduce another perspective of policy coherence: human rights.

Earlier this year in a submission to the negotiation process of this Conference I underlined that human rights should be at the core of development financing. It is not just about more resources, it is also about who and how benefits from finance.

So I am very pleased that the draft outcome document includes upfront a commitment to human rights. Yet, this should not be lip service. One needs to see human rights incorporated into the substantive sections of the outcome document and more importantly, it is necessary to make human rights integral and coherent to development financing in practice. Our joint efforts should be informed by the obligations States have assumed under international human rights law.

There are many examples, such as the need for global and concrete debt restructuring principles, but let me take today the example of illicit financial outflows shrinking the fiscal space of many developing countries, a topic on which I have submitted recently a thematic study to the Human Rights Council.

Illicit financial flows are a human rights issue, affecting not only economic and social rights. They can undermine as well the rule of law and justice, in particular tax justice.

When multinational business corporations engage in tax evasion or in questionable tax avoidance schemes running against the spirit of law and fairness they need to know that they contribute as well to adverse human rights. The same applies to private financial institutions, that do not exercise sufficient due diligence with customers, including political exposed persons and have frequently facilitated hiding assets in foreign jurisdictions that have been stolen from States and their peoples.  

I am therefore happy to see the emphasis that has been given to combatting corruption and illicit financial flows and improving the fairness, transparency and efficiency of taxation systems.  But I regret that language on tackling the facilitating environment of illicit financial flows in recipient countries, on secrecy jurisdictions and safe havens is in my view rather weak. And with secrecy jurisdictions I do not only mean some few offshore tax paradise islands, there are many secrecy jurisdictions worldwide. I had also hoped for a clearer cut, time-bound and measurable commitment to reduce the size of illicit financial flows by 2030.

Thank you.