Trade Union Dialogue with the UN on Financing for Sustainable Development

Trade unions call for global rules on taxation in the dialogue with the FACTI Panel of the United Nations

On 22 May, Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC); Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union; and Rosa Pavanelli, General Secretary of Public Services International (PSI) participated in a virtual consultation with the United Nations “High-Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity for Achieving the 2030 Agenda” (FACTI Panel).

The FACTI Panel, convened by the President of the UN General Assembly and the President of the Economic and Social Council, is mandated to offer proposals and recommendations that both strengthen current efforts to combat illicit financial flows and close remaining gaps in the international system so as to improve the world’s chances of achieving sustainable development.

The consultation provided an opportunity to convey trade union priorities related to the work areas of the FACTI Panel, which included the following asks:

  1. Improve tax justice globally by adopting taxes on financial transactions, corporate profit and individual wealth. Sharan Burrow stressed the urgency to end tax havens and illicit financial flows by implementing stronger mechanisms for compliance. She stressed an even more crucial need for new digital tax measures, as well as for a financial transactions tax, as key elements to support the recovery from the pandemic while scaling back the power of financial markets. Rosa Pavanelli called for the adoption of a 25 per cent corporate tax rate, based on the global profits of corporations, as essential to tackling tax avoidance, tax competition and social dumping [1]. Christy Hoffman referred to a billionaire tax and a global digital tax: the fortunes of billionaires (including tech giants) keep increasing even during the pandemic while millions of people are excluded from basic services, such as access to healthcare and social protection.
  2. Improve global governance on taxation. In the context of existing challenges, the OECD work on domestic tax base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) remains fundamental to supporting efforts to increase international cooperation on taxation. Of course it would be desirable that the UN take an effective lead to ensure governance on taxation matters at global level, based on a renovated commitment to multilateralism. Pavanelli stressed the need of the centrality of the UN in order to ensure the participation of all countries in the design of tax standards.
  3. Strengthen governments’ accountability and transparency. Concerning fiscal transparency at the national level, the need to count on transparent and independent public institutions was highlighted with reference to both tax inspection and collection. Concerning anti-corruption, Burrow highlighted that this is a high priority in the trade union agenda, especially considering the current risks in spending the resources related to COVID-19 recovery. Trade unions called on the need to support tripartite structures (with ILO support) to accompany the management of funds. Pavanelli also called for an ILO standard for the protection of whistleblowers, who are essential in exposing tax evasion and corruption, but who are often at risk of losing their jobs, their freedoms, and even their lives.

In conclusion, ITUC, PSI and UNI leaders stressed the importance of the work led by the FACTI panel in generating political support to increase financial accountability, transparency and the integrity of the global economy. The FACTI panel interim report of findings is to be presented in July 2020. This will be followed up with a final report, including recommendations, in February 2021.

High-Level Event on Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond

On 28 May, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, along with the Prime Ministers of Canada and Jamaica, conveyed a High-Level Event on Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond to advance concrete solutions to the development emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Six key issues were on the agenda: (1) global liquidity and financial stability; (2) debt vulnerability; (3) private sector creditors; (4) external finance for inclusive growth; (5) illicit financial flows; and (6) recovering for better sustainability.
The event saw the participation of Sharan Burrow and many heads of states and multilateral institutions:

  • Overall, the debt moratorium and support package endorsed by the G20 were emphasized, although several developing countries pleaded for additional financial backing and a moratorium extension, given the lack of fiscal space to cope with crisis recovery aggravated by foreign capital flights. The Special Envoy of the African Union on COVID-19 stressed the need to conceive debt cancellations too and highlighted that debt relief should not be based on level of income only but should also be based on vulnerability (see Debt and COVID-19: A Global Response in Solidarity).
  • It was highlighted that debt relief mechanisms should be conditional to the implementation of the SDGs. The President of the European Commission has reiterated the universal relevance of the SDGs and stressed that investments should be aimed at fostering their achievement
  • Eliminating illicit financial flaws and enhancing tax cooperation was also underlined by many countries and multilateral institutions. The OECD Secretary-General referred to a plan including strengthening tax transparency standards and inspection, amongst others.

Sharan Burrow conveyed the following points (synthesis):

  • The promise of the SDGs and the Paris Agreement must remain at the centre of the recovery plans that are now imperative. This requires a new social contract between governments and their citizens with the backing of the international community: a contract that has the SDGs, the Paris Climate Agreement and the ILO Centenary Declaration in centre place, recognising employment, a labour protection floor, a social protection floor for all workers, and including a transformative agenda for women and just transition for climate and technology shifts.
  • Decent work and SDG 8 are central to driving a stable future. With 60 per cent of the global workforce working informally without these rights and protections, the majority is facing economic destitution. And with up to 300 million jobs at risk in the formal economy, a secure future can only be guaranteed with job creation and income security, health and safety, social protection, vital public services in health, education and care and responsible business conduct to end the dehumanising exploitation of workers in supply chains and in workplaces everywhere. Working people want change.
  • Global solidarity for financing is critical: a debt moratorium with any conditionality being SDG aligned; special drawing rights with liquidity debt swap mechanisms to support recovery everywhere; a global social protection fund to ensure income support – vital to immediate rescue efforts and resilience; a settlement on eliminating corporate tax fraud and new mechanisms to ensure contributions from sectors escaping domestic responsibility; a global reset on financing debt with plans to build recovery with jobs through investment in enabling green infrastructure; industry policy; and skills and care and the social and economic resilience funds to help us face the next crisis.
  • People-centred change requires an inclusive economic model with a social floor of rights and protections with global financing for development. It requires social dialogue and a combined determination to build a future people can trust.

Should you be interested, it is possible to watch some parts of the event through the UN web TV link.