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call for input | Special Procedures

Call for input: “The fiscal social contract and the human rights economy” thematic report to the United Nations General Assembly

Issued by

Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt

Deadline

20 April 2024

Purpose: To gather inputs from States, civil society organisations and networks, NHRIs, academic institutions, think tanks, businesses, international organisations, individuals and other stakeholders to inform her thematic report on “The Fiscal social contract and the human rights economy”. The report will be presented at the 79th session of the United Nations General Assembly, in October 2024.
Background

The Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights, Attiya Waris wishes to thank States, civil society organisations and networks, NHRIs, academic institutions, think tanks, businesses, international organisations, individuals and other stakeholders for the continued engagement with this mandate. She launches the process of gathering inputs from States and other stakeholders to inform her thematic report on “The Fiscal social contract and the human rights economy”. The report will be presented at the 79th session of the United Nations General Assembly, in October 2024.

Introduction

In her annual thematic report to the UN General Assembly, 79th session, the Independent Expert on foreign debt, other international financial obligations and human rights, Ms. Attiya Waris, aims to emphasize ways to address a growing disconnect between citizens and the institutions that serve them, with many feeling left behind and no longer confident in the system, with a distrust increased by a loss of shared truth and understanding. The concept of the "Fiscal social contract" refers to the implicit agreement between a government and its population regarding the collection and allocation of public funds. It is a fundamental pillar of modern democratic societies, where citizens contribute taxes, and in return, the government provides public goods and services. The fiscal social contract is based on the principle of mutual responsibility and reciprocity. Citizens agree to pay taxes, which serve as a financial resource for the government to fulfil its obligations and responsibilities towards society. These obligations include providing essential services such as education, healthcare, housing, infrastructure, security, and social welfare programs. In return for their tax contributions, citizens expect the government to utilize these funds efficiently and effectively for the betterment of society. They anticipate that public funds will be allocated based on principles of fairness, equity, and transparency. This ensures that the fiscal social contract remains strong and citizens continue to trust the government with their tax contributions. Additionally, the fiscal social contract requires accountability from both the government and citizens. Governments must be accountable for their fiscal decisions and ensure that public funds are used in the best interest of society. This accountability can be facilitated through mechanisms such as budget transparency, audits, and citizen participation in decision-making processes. On the other hand, citizens have a responsibility to fulfil their tax obligations honestly and fully. Tax evasion or avoidance undermines the fiscal social contract, as it deprives the government of necessary resources to provide public goods and services. It is imperative that citizens recognize their role in upholding the fiscal social contract by paying their fair share of taxes. In conclusion, the concept of the fiscal social contract forms the basis of a functioning society. It establishes a relationship of trust and responsibility between the government and its citizens, ensuring the provision of essential public goods and services. Upholding this contract requires transparency, accountability, and mutual respect. By adhering to the fiscal social contract, governments and citizens can work together to build prosperous and equitable societies. As the world is facing a situation of multiple crises taking place across the globe, including socio-economic (unemployment, poverty, inequalities), health (COVID-19), and environmental degradation (climate change and food insecurity), applying a human rights-based approach to recovery plans and policies would imply protecting the environment as our common good while prioritizing the fulfilment of basic human rights of the population regarding health, food security, housing, social security, etc.

Questionnaire

The Independent Expert invites all stakeholders to provide views, documentation, analysis and relevant information for her thematic report on ‘The Fiscal social contract and the human rights economy’, 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 79th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Key information sought

To facilitate the reception of inputs, the Independent Expert prepared a 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 the Report. Please find the list of topics here (please refer to the number of the question in your response):

General
  1. Please explain what role taxation plays in the fiscal social contract.
  2. What is your understanding of a human rights economy?
  3. How does the tax system and policies impact the strength and effectiveness of the fiscal social contract? What are the potential consequences of tax evasion or avoidance on the fiscal social contract and society as a whole?
  4. What are the main factors that influence the population’s perceptions and expectations regarding their tax obligations and the government's role in providing public goods and services? How can governments effectively assess, communicate and engage with citizens on fiscal policies to strengthen the fiscal social contract?
  5. What mechanisms and practices exist to ensure transparency, accountability, and citizen participation in the collection and allocation of public funds? How can citizens hold the government accountable? Please provide examples of successful practices and identify areas for improvement.
  6. What are the economic and social outcomes associated with the fiscal social contract? How does a well-functioning fiscal social contract contribute to sustainable development, reducing inequalities, and promoting social cohesion?
  7. What challenges and opportunities exist for strengthening the fiscal social contract in the context of globalization and technological advancements? How can governments adapt their fiscal policies and practices to ensure the continued relevance and effectiveness of the fiscal social contract in a changing world?
  8. How does the fiscal social contract and a human rights economy intersect and how these concepts can complement and reinforce each other.
  9. From a policy and legal perspective, what are the financial responsibility of a state as regards human rights and tax allocation. In this context, how the state obligations to immediate and progressive realization of human rights can be assessed?
  10. According to you, how a human rights-based economy integrates environmental sustainability into economic activities?
  11. From your perspective, does debt and international financial obligations impede or support the realization of human rights?
  12. In the case of developing countries, where the challenge of climate change, poverty eradication, and basic services are at stake, how can green growth offer economic and investment opportunities and in the same time improve environmental and social quality? Do you know of examples in which green growth has improved the environment and social services quality in the same time?
Other
  1. Please provide any other information, documents or background materials that may be relevant for the concept of social fiscal contract and the questions above.
How inputs will be used

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 “Submission for GA 79 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 20 April 2024.

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