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call for input | Special Procedures

Call for inputs: “Fiscal legitimacy trough human rights”, thematic report to the Human Rights Council

Issued by

Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt

Deadline

30 October 2023

Purpose: To inform the Independent Expert’s thematic report to the 55th session of the UN Human Rights Council (March 2024)

Background

Fiscal legitimacy is one of the key priority areas of work identified by the Independent Expert on Foreign Debt and Human Rights, Ms. Attiya Waris, in her thematic report on ‘Taking stock and identifying priority areas: a vision for the future work of the mandate holder’ (A/HRC/49/47). As seen through a human rights-based approach, fiscal legitimacy rests on the social contract between the state and society: state authorities are entrusted with collecting revenue, distributing resources and defining fiscal policy to realise its functions, including the realisation of human rights. Society, on its part, accepts to contribute resources, on the agreement that they will be used to implement those functions. Fiscal legitimacy is ensured when society is confident that the institution(s) governing the fiscal resources placed in its trust will do so in the interest of society and of human rights. However, the relationship that seems to have developed between the population at large and the state, through state mechanisms and institutions, has not always been successful in improving the lives of the population, including minorities, refugees, migrants, undocumented migrants, stateless persons and, more generally, the most vulnerable in society.

The Independent Expert argues that the use of a human rights lens, including the principle of progressive realization and the duty to provide international cooperation and assistance, would assist with efforts to increase available resources, and that fiscal legitimacy is ensured when a fiscal system operates according to the following seven principles:

  1. Accountability (fiscal systems should not be arbitrary but based on predetermined, clear and stable criteria, and equipped with accountability mechanisms);
  2. Transparency (fiscal decision-making should be a transparent, participatory process);
  3. Responsibility (states are responsible for creating the preconditions for fiscal legitimacy, which include the education and information of taxpayers);
  4. Efficiency (the cost of a fiscal system should be the minimum possible for both the government and the taxpayer);
  5. Effectiveness (fiscal systems should be devised in the most effective way to ensure the realisation of the social contract, including human rights);
  6. Fairness (all stakeholders in fiscal decision-making should participate on an equal basis, and the fiscal system should be based on ability to contribute);
  7. Justice (fiscal systems should be the least onerous possible, and be guided by more general principles of social, and not only economic, justice).

The Independent Expert invites all stakeholders to provide views, documentation, analysis and relevant information for her thematic report on ‘Fiscal legitimacy and human rights’, in particular, academics/academic institutions, independent researchers, think tanks, international organizations, UN entities, international financial institutions, fiscal bodies, national human rights institutions, businesses and business associations, non-governmental organizations and networks, as well as individuals and other stakeholders. The report will be presented at the 55th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Key questions

To facilitate the reception of inputs, the Independent Expert prepared the following list of key information which she considers essential for the report. The list could be answered entirely or partially according to the expertise and experience of those actors willing to contribute to this report (please refer to the number of the question in your response).

General

  1. To what extent do existing fiscal and tax systems at the subnational, national, regional and international levels ensure fiscal legitimacy?
  2. What type of fiscal (e.g. taxation) measures/policies can hinder, or on the contrary strengthen fiscal legitimacy at the subnational, national, regional and international levels?
  3. What are the main – economic or other, including cultural – challenges to fiscal legitimacy systems at the subnational, national, regional and international levels?
  4. What types of existing taxation systems seem to hinder or strengthen fiscal legitimacy? How do they privilege some or disproportionally affect others?

Fiscal legitimacy principles

  1. To what extent do existing fiscal systems at the subnational, national, regional and international levels incorporate and realise any of the seven fiscal legitimacy principles outlined above (accountability, transparency, responsibility, efficiency, effectiveness, fairness, and justice)?
  2. Can you provide any examples of how states, international organization or other relevant stakeholders have already implemented (any of) these principles? (For instance, measures/policies to ensure the accountability, or transparency, or justice of their fiscal systems).
  3. What potential – not only legal but also economic, social, cultural or other – challenges exist that hinder the implementation of these principles? What types of measures/policies can be recommended to implement and/or strengthen (each one of) these principles at the subnational, national, regional or international levels?
  4. More generally, how can these fiscal legitimacy principles be further useful for all relevant stakeholders?

Other

  1. Please provide any other information, documents or background materials that may be relevant for the report.

Treatment of responses

All submissions will be posted on the official webpage of the Independent Expert. Civil society organisations or individuals can request their submissions to remain confidential.

Next Steps

Please send your contributions in English, French or Spanish in Word format to [email protected].

Please indicate “Fiscal legitimacy report” in the email subject line.

Please limit your contributions to a maximum of 2,500 words and, if necessary, provide links to relevant documents or attach annexes.

Your contribution should be sent by 30 October 2023.

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