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UN debt expert calls for UN convention to fight global tax avoidance and evasion

25 October 2022

New York (25 October 20022) – An international, democratic fiscal architecture is essential to address losses through illicit financial flows that reduce resources essential for social policies and public services, the UN’s independent debt expert said today, urging the world to begin negotiations on a UN convention to combat tax evasion.

In a report presented to the General Assembly, Attiya Waris, the UN independent expert on the effects of foreign debt, said it was estimated that hundreds of billions in revenues a year were lost due to cross-border corporate tax abuse and offshore tax abuse by wealthy individuals. The practice disproportionately affected developing countries, Waris said.

Waris’ report said States were facing high debt related distress, socioeconomic effects of the pandemic, inflation and climate change related emergencies among other crises. They need all available resources to address these crises and ensure the realisation of all human rights and particularly economic, social and cultural rights of those in situations of vulnerability, it said.

“States should promote a human rights-based economy, one that enhances the well-being and dignity of people, particularly those most marginalised. They should ensure that human rights obligations are at the centre of financial and fiscal decision making; and that principles of transparency, accountability, participation, social justice and fairness should guide the development of such a system,” Waris said. 

“The shortcomings of the international and national tax systems require international cooperation and assistance. They cannot be addressed unilaterally. Thus, the creation of a multilateral, inclusive and democratic fiscal architecture is a crucial instrument for States to fight the challenges of global tax avoidance and evasion,” the expert said.

Waris called for the creation of an international authority, global tax body or world tax organisation with the objective of expanding its mandate to that of an international fiscal authority. The expert also urged the international community to launch negotiations for a United Nations led global tax convention.ENDS
Ms Attiya Waris (Kenya) took up the function of Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights on 1 August 2021. She holds a PhD in Law and is a specialist in Fiscal Law, Policy and Development. Ms Waris teaches at the Law School, University of Nairobi, Kenya and has previously taught in South Africa, Rwanda, Malaysia and the United Kingdom. Ms Waris has researched and published on global and regional issues. She published 'Tax and Development’ (2013) offering links between tax and human rights and her more recent publication ‘Financing Africa’ is the first publication globally to map out African fiscal systems.  

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The Independent Experts and Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Comprising the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, Special Procedures is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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