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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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IEA and African Union sign strategic partnership on sustainable energy for all goals

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Dr Abou Zeid and Dr Birol signing the MoU between the African Union and the IEA in Paris, with H. E. Mr Ali Suleyman Mohammed, Ethiopian Ambassador to France (background, left), and H.E. Noé van Hulst, Ambassador of The Netherlands at the OECD and Chairman of the IEA Governing Board (Photograph: Michael Dean/IEA).

The International Energy Agency and the African Union have agreed to have a strategic partnership toward a more secure, sustainable and clean energy future for countries across the African continent.

The joint commitment was formalised through a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed today in Paris by Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director, and H.E. Dr Amani Abou-Zeid, the African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure, Energy, ICT and Tourism.

Before the official signature, Dr Abou-Zeid participated in Big Ideas, the IEA’s high-level distinguished speaker series. Marking World Africa Day, the annual commemoration of the foundation of the African Union, Dr Abou-Zeid addressed the challenges of energy poverty and improving energy access in Africa.

The hour-long session, which was broadcast live on the IEA website, was attended by more than 140 people, including a large number of Ambassadors, senior delegates and representatives from member countries of both the IEA Family and the African Union. The event was followed by a lunch hosted by Ambassador Alessandro Busacca, the Permanent Representative of Italy to the International Organizations in Paris, and Ambassador Massimo Gaiani, the Director General for Global Issues and for Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

For more than two decades, the IEA has been at the forefront of international efforts to deliver universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy. Despite widespread global progress, efforts to expand access to electricity and clean cooking facilities do not always keep pace with population growth, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, the region of the world with the most entrenched energy access challenges.

“There is a saying in Africa – if you want to go fast, you go alone; if you want to go far, you go together,” said Dr Abou-Zeid. “It is the reason we decided to enter into a strategic partnership with the IEA. The signing of this MOU marks a milestone for the AUC and IEA. It will strengthen our ability to deliver on our respective mandates in a mutually enriching way.”

The MoU provides a general framework for cooperation on activities and projects that advance shared interests in areas of energy security, energy statistics, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainable economic development.

It reflects the IEA’s strong commitment to global engagement on energy access and sustainable development, and to working closely with emerging economies to find solutions to energy and environmental challenges.

“The agreement is a cornerstone of joint efforts to work toward a more secure, sustainable and clean energy future for Africa,” said Dr Birol. “The timing of our ceremony here today could not be more appropriate as across the world we celebrate this 55th anniversary of Africa Day.”

Eradicating energy poverty is a priority for the IEA and the agreement will play a vital role in stepping up efforts to achieve secure and sustainable energy for all. Find out more about the IEA’s work supporting the Sustainable Development Goal 7 on energy access here.

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IRENA and Mission Innovation to Work Together on Renewable Energy Innovation

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At the 3rd Mission Innovation Ministerial, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and Mission Innovation, an initiative of 22 countries and the European Commission working to reinvigorate and accelerate clean energy innovation, agreed to work together to scale-up the deployment of renewable energy technologies through knowledge sharing on innovation data, trends and priorities. Mr. Ibrahim Baylan, Minister for Policy Coordination and Energy in Sweden, on behalf of Mission Innovation, and Mr. Adnan Z. Amin, Director General of IRENA, signed today a letter of intent to that effect.

“Innovation is at the heart of the global energy transformation, not only in terms of technological advancements but also in policy, finance and business.” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin.

“By collaborating with Mission Innovation, we can bring together the knowledge, data, convening power and experiences of the two organisations to create innovative approaches to develop the energy system of the future,” he added.

Speaking on behalf of Mission Innovation, Mr. Ibrahim Baylan said: “There is an urgent need to accelerate clean energy innovation. The member nations can do this better and faster with the global collaboration of the Mission Innovation. Likewise, the Mission Innovation itself stands stronger when collaborating with other international organizations in the clean energy field.

“I am therefore very pleased to announce that we have signed letter of intent for collaboration between the Mission Innovation and the International Renewable Energy Agency,” continued Minister Baylan, “and I am confident that this cooperation will benefit both our organisations.”

IRENA’s analysis shows that energy efficiency and renewable energy can achieve 90 per cent of the emissions reductions needed by 2050 to decarbonise the energy sector in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement. However, to meet these goals the speed of renewable energy deployment must increase by at least a factor of six.

Fostering system wide innovation will be key to scaling up the share of renewables in the global energy system, based on IRENA’s analysis. While technology innovation is central to progress, identifying new policy, market and business approaches is equally necessary.

Key areas for collaboration include:

  • Tracking Innovation Progress:Working together in order to improve the quality of data and insights on progress in renewables and energy system technologies and better inform high-level decision-making processes related to clean-energy innovation.
  • Strengthening cross-border collaboration on innovation: Identifying research priorities to support RD&D in key technology areas, monitoring technological evolution, and identifying relevant innovation gaps.
  • Sharing insights and knowledge on innovation policy priorities and strategies: Leveraging IRENA’s data, tools and reports to inform Mission Innovation activities and priority areas.

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An economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific

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On the 23 May, in the run-up to SPIEF, a roundtable held jointly between the Roscongress Foundation and St. Petersburg State University of Economics took place, entitled ‘Building a Common Economic Space from the Atlantic to the Pacific: Current Issues and Ways to Overcome Them’.

The experts discussed opportunities related to integration, investment, infrastructure, and innovation, alongside new forms of collaboration for those shaping the economic region of Greater Eurasia. In addition, they brainstormed a joint vision as to how the shared economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific will develop in the future.

The welcome address was given by Igor Maksimtsev, rector of St. Petersburg State University of Economics. Moderating the session was Sofia Rekord, head of the world economy and international economic relations department of the same institution.

The participants observed that the geo-economic potential of Greater Eurasia – stretching from one ocean to another – is enormous, and needs to be unlocked to a greater extent, regardless of the unpredictability of the global economic environment and political climate. They also laid out the main aim behind the formation of a shared economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific: to facilitate comprehensive interaction and cooperation between countries across the Eurasian continent through stepping up dialogue between all stakeholders. These include government representatives, business figures, the expert community, and research organizations tackling a wide range of issues related to economics, politics, and culture. This should result in continuous development for all parties, and prudent solutions to new challenges.

Other areas of focus included promising forms of economic collaboration in Greater Eurasia: opportunities for dialogue between the EAEU, SCO, ASEAN, and EU; the implementation of the EAEU’s shared digital agenda; prospects for transport, logistics and energy projects; bolstering regional development institutions when unlocking the investment potential of the EAEU; and opportunities to foster greater foresight with regards the future development of a shared economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Participants from the expert community included Mikhail Voronin, associate professor of the world economy and international economic relations department of the St. Petersburg State University of Economics; Sergei Dyatlov, professor of the department of general economic theory and the history of economic thought of the St. Petersburg State University of Economics; Sergei Karaganov, dean of the world economy and international politics faculty of the Higher School of Economics National Research University and honorary chair of the presidium of the International and Defence Policy Council; Dmitry Miropolsky, head of department of general economic theory and the history of economic thought of the St. Petersburg State University of Economics; Vadim Panin, associate professor of the world economy and international economic relations department of the St. Petersburg State University of Economics; Vladimir Salamatov, director general of the International Trade and Integration Research Centre; Tatyana Urzhumtseva, director of the China and Asia-Pacific Studies Centre of the St. Petersburg State University of Economics; Alexander Khodachek, president of the Higher School of Economics National Research University in St. Petersburg; and Slava Khodko, general director of the North-West Development and Investment Promotion Agency.

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