Christian Aid have put together an excellent programme for an international conference in Dublin on 12 February which looks at the human rights implications of tax and fiscal policy. The conference will bring together “speakers from the global south, tax justice activists, Irish government officials, the OECD, journalists and the private sector”. Tax justice is something that Christian Aid have long campaigned on, and this particular event ties in with Department of Finance research on the impact of Ireland’s tax and fiscal policy on developing countries. The results of this so-called spillover analysis have not yet been released.
The keynote will be given by Professor Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights and one of the world’s foremost authorities on human rights. His predecessor in the role of Special Rapporteur, Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, observed in her final annual report that “Although taxation policy may seem far removed from the daily problems of the poor, it in fact plays a major role in determining and adjusting levels of inequality in a society and in funding essential services, social protection and poverty reduction measures; it is therefore central to realizing the rights and defining the opportunities of people living in poverty”. This is highly relevant here, given Ireland’s low corporation tax rate and this country’s well-known contribution to global tax avoidance. Following her 2011 visit to Ireland, the then Independent Expert reported that:
Low levels of domestic taxation revenue can be a major obstacle to a State’s ability to meet obligations to realize economic, social and cultural rights. […] seeking to achieve adjustments primarily through expenditure cuts rather than tax increases might have a major impact on the most vulnerable segments of society. Reductions in public expenditure affect the poorest and most vulnerable with the most severity, whereas some increase in taxation rates could place the burden on those who are better equipped to cope. […] By increasing its tax take, Ireland would decrease the need for cuts to public services and social protection, and thereby help to protect the most vulnerable from further damage.
The forthcoming conference looks at the role of both states and multinational companies, and I have been asked to speak on taxation within the business and human rights agenda. Although the human rights implications of tax policy are increasingly recognised, it is relatively unexplored from a business and human rights perspective. The UN Guiding Principles and accompanying commentary do not refer to the issue of corporation tax at all, although arguably the paying by companies of their fair share of tax falls within the corporate responsibility to respect human rights.
Registration: According to the organisers, places are limited and registration is essential. This can be done online on the Eventbrite page or by contacting Sorley McCaughey by email email@example.com or phone on +353 (01) 496 7040.