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In wake of Paradise Papers leak, UN experts urge States to take action against corporate tax fraud

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Ratings agencies must downgrade businesses responsible for unethical practices such as tax evasion carried out through off-shore-registered companies, two United Nations human rights experts warned, while urging countries to cooperate to counter this global tax abuse problem.

“States must stop harmful tax competition amongst each other and work together to stop unethical tax avoidance schemes for wealthy individuals and international corporations,” said Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, the UN Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and human rights, who also monitors the impact of illicit financial flows.

Mr. Bohoslavsky made the comment as information from the leak of the so-named ‘Paradise Papers’ continues to be exposed, following series of tax abuse scandals.

The Paradise Papers presented systematic tax avoidance by well-known international corporations, making use of tax havens in places such as Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and the Isle of Man.

“Wealthy individuals and international corporations are continuing to engage in unethical practices, reducing their tax burdens to minimal levels by using tax havens, which undermines the realisation of human rights,” Mr. Bohoslavsky warned Thursday.

In this connection, Surya Deva, chairperson of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, called on businesses to assume their corporate responsibility, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

“All business enterprises have a responsibility to avoid adverse human rights impacts caused or contributed by their tax evasion practices,” said Mr. Deva.

Noting that many countries are struggling with increased debt levels as tax revenues do not match public expenditure, the experts urged Governments to make greater efforts to ensure tax justice rather than reducing spending on infrastructure.

They also warned law firms that facilitate tax avoidance schemes to assume their responsibility.

“The UN Guiding Principles apply to law firms too – they should consider human rights implications of their legal advice given to businesses,” said Mr. Deva.

The experts further underscored that corporations should extend their commitments for respecting human rights to taxation, to be considered ethical.

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European Commission and IMF strengthen cooperation to support sustainable development

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European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, on behalf of the European Union, and International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva concluded a new Financial Framework Partnership Agreement that will boost their cooperation to tackle key challenges including climate change, and help countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The European Union is the IMF’s main partner in capacity development since 2016.

To mark the signature of the new Agreement, President von der Leyen said: “The European Union and IMF are strong partners. We jointly want to find solutions to global issues, notably in Africa. Today’s new Agreement will allow us to focus better on climate change and digital challenges. I am particularly grateful to Kristalina Georgieva for her leadership. Together we are going to further strengthen our cooperation and partnership.”

IMF Managing Director, Kristalina Georgieva, added: “We appreciate the EU’s leadership on sustainable development for all. We have a history of working together in building strong economic institutions to improve economic performance and the livelihoods of people in our partner countries. This Agreement will deepen our collaboration and help us do more together, especially where it matters the most — in low-income countries and fragile states.”

The International Monetary Fund and the European Commission are longstanding partners, inside and outside the European Union. This new Agreement will strengthen, simplify and accelerate the conclusion of contractual arrangements for the numerous joint activities undertaken to support good economic governance, public finance management and domestic revenue mobilisation, institution building, as well as the wider 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Background

Supporting macroeconomic and public finance institutions and policies in the EU partner countries has long been a common objective of the EU and IMF. Financial Framework Partnership Agreements facilitate this cooperation and stabilize the contractual terms of a long-term cooperation between the Commission and its key partners. The new Agreement will replace the one from 2017 and will allow both the Commission and the IMF to take full advantage of the novelties introduced in the 2018 EU Financial Regulation, such as increased simplification and bigger focus on results.

The EU–IMF partnership has intensified over the years with the organizations supporting each other’s work, through regular consultations at staff and management level, and complementarities of EU budget support and IMF programmes, as well as through developing capacity-building instruments. These include EU support for the Tax Administration Diagnostic Assessment Tool, the PIMA tool on public investment management, the management of natural wealth resources, and the strengthening of domestic revenue mobilisation.

The EU is now the largest external contributor to IMF capacity development, including the IMF’s network of ten regional technical assistance centres, particularly in Africa, and support to almost all of the IMF’s thematic and country trust funds, as well as to a range of bilateral projects.

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Taking next steps to end child labour in global supply chains

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ILO Director-General Guy Ryder has called for a whole-of-supply-chain approach to address child labour in global supply chains during his opening statement to the conference . He said that efforts against child labour in global supply chains will be inadequate if they do not extend beyond immediate suppliers and include those involved in the extraction and production of raw materials.

He also urged governments to address the root causes of child labour in global supply chains, such as poverty, informality and insufficient access to education.

“Today, 152 million children are still in child labour. The need to accelerate progress is obvious,” said Ryder. “The UN resolution  declaring 2021 as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour is a tremendous opportunity to keep the momentum, and to accelerate action towards the achievement of zero child labour, in all its forms, by 2025.”

Sigrid Kaag, the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, announced that the Netherlands will become a pathfinder country of Alliance 8.7 – the first EU Member State to do do.

The Alliance 8.7  partnership brings together 225 partner organizations which are committed to collaborate to achieve Target 8.7 of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals , which calls on governments around the world to end child labour by 2025 and to put in place effective measures to end forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking by 2030. Pathfinder countries commit to go further and faster to achieve Target 8.7. They implement new actions, try new approaches and share their knowledge. With this announcement by the Netherlands, 20 countries have so far committed to accelerate their efforts as Alliance 8.7 pathfinder countries.

A recent report compiled by the ILO, OECD, IOM and UNICEF, Ending child labour, forced labour and human trafficking in global supply chains , provides the first-ever estimates of child labour in global supply chains. The study indicates that the link between child labour and global supply chains is often indirect. A significant share of child labour in global supply chains occurs in their lower tiers, in activities such as raw material extraction and agriculture, making due diligence, visibility and traceability challenging.

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Erasmus+ and its predecessors: A life-changing experience for 10 million young Europeans

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The 2018 annual report on Erasmus+, published today,  shows that over the last three decades, more than 10 million people have participated in what  turned out to be a life-changing experience for many of them.

Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said: “People across Europe engage, exchange and learn when they participate in education, youth and sporting activities across borders. Erasmus+ is a fantastic common success and we should aim for more. More participants, more mobility, more diversity, more opportunities.”

At the opening of a stakeholder event on the new Erasmus+ programme in Brussels today, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, said: “Erasmus+ has become for our younger generations a gateway to Europe and to the world. It is one of the EU’s most tangible achievements: uniting people across the continent, creating a sense of belonging and solidarity, raising qualifications, and improving the prospects of participants.

With a budget of €2.8 billion, a 10% funding increase compared to 2017, 2018 was yet another record year. Erasmus+ funded more than 23,500 projects and overall, it supported the mobility of over 850,000 students, apprentices, teachers, and youth workers in 2018. Nearly 10% of the 470,000 students, trainees, and staff in higher education who received a grant during the 2017/2018 academic year, travelled to and from partner countries across the world.

In addition to university students and staff, Erasmus+ supported 40,000 teachers and school staff, 148,000 vocational education and training learners, 8,400 adult education staff, and 155,000 young people and youth workers.

The programme also financed 199 sports projects, 118 of which were run by grassroots sport organisations. Erasmus+ supported the annual European Week of Sport, which saw unprecedented success with more than 50,000 events across Europe.

Building on synergies with the European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018, many actions supported by Erasmus+ addressed the importance of Europe’s cultural heritage.

Since 2018, Erasmus+ also supports the initiative to make the European Education Area a reality by 2025. The European Universities initiative helps higher education institutions to form strong new alliances.

Background

Erasmus+ and its predecessors are among the most successful EU programmes. Since 1987, they have been offering young people opportunities to gain new experiences by going abroad. The current Erasmus+ programme, running from 2014 to 2020, has a budget of €14.7 billion and will provide opportunities for 3.7% of young people in the EU to study, train, gain work experience, and volunteer abroad. The geographical scope of the programme has expanded from 11 countries in 1987 to 34 in 2020 (which includes all 28 EU Member States as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey). The programme is also open to partner countries across the world.

In May 2018, the Commission presented its proposal for an ambitious new Erasmus programme, seeking to double the budget to €30 billion in the EU’s next long-term budget for the period 2021-2027. The aim is to make the programme even more inclusive, more international and accessible to people from a diverse range of backgrounds.

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