Following a joint report issued by the Global Justice Clinic at NYU School of Law (GJC), the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR), and the Tax Justice Network (TJN), the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has called on the single largest financial secrecy jurisdiction in the world—the United Kingdom and its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies—to account for the human rights impacts of its unjust tax policies, both at home and abroad. The Committee, which oversees compliance with the International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights, voiced concerns that the UK’s financial secrecy legislation and permissive rules on corporate tax are undermining the proper resourcing of human rights, thereby affecting the ability of other States to mobilize resources for the implementation of economic, social and cultural rights. In advance of the UK’s review at the Committee’s 58th Session in June, GJC, CESR and TJN co-authored a submission to the Committee concerning the UK’s responsibility for the impacts of cross-border tax abuse on economic, social and cultural rights.
The Committee’s message to the United Kingdom follows on the heels of another pioneering effort to hold tax havens to account. An earlier submission co-authored by GJC, CESR, TJN, and Berne Declaration asked the UN’s principal women’s rights body—the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)—to hold Switzerland to account for the impacts of its financial secrecy and corporate tax policies on women’s rights and gender equality, especially in low and middle-income countries. CEDAW did so, calling on Switzerland to “provide information on the measures taken to ensure that [its] tax and financial secrecy policy does not contribute to largescale tax abuse in foreign countries, thereby negatively impacting on resources available to realize women’s rights in those countries.” Together, these recent initiatives by UN treaty bodies to scrutinize the tax policies and practices of member States illustrate the important role of human rights norms, principles and institutions, in reshaping the international tax regime.
“By facilitating tax abuse, the UK—like other financial secrecy jurisdictions such as Switzerland—is shirking its legal obligations to respect and protect human rights,” said Nikki Reisch of the Global Justice Clinic. “As a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the UN Charter, and other international agreements, the UK has committed to cooperate internationally to create an enabling environment for the fulfillment of economic, social and cultural rights. Its current conduct flies in the face of those commitments.”
To read the Joint Communique, click here.