Thursday, December 9

How Irish, Swiss and Dutch Tax Policy Hurts Children Abroad | View

Today is World children’s dayand the 32nd anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Despite the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children around the world, the overall well-being of children, especially girls, has dramatically improved over the past 32 years.

But we risk backing down if we don’t tackle head-on the thorny issue of tax evasion by wealthy individuals and corporations, enabled by weak corporate tax laws and financial transparency in states like Ireland, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Tax avoidance is, at its core, a child rights issue. This is because children, more than any other group of rights holders, depend on sufficient government tax revenue for the realization of their basic rights.

How does tax evasion harm children?

Human rights abuses against children are rarely motivated by anger or prejudice. In most cases, they are due to a lack of government resources.

In the Global South, governments lack the funds to fully protect children due to insufficient tax revenue.

Tax revenue is lacking in large part because taxable wealth has been diverted to tax havens. A estimated 10 percent of world GDP, and 30 per cent of the wealth of the African continent, it hides in tax havens.

Imagine what the world would be like for children if the governments of the countries where even a fraction of that wealth was generated could be taxed.

Even a small percentage increase in tax revenue can have a huge effect on children’s rights, as gradual improvements, such as an extra year of schooling for girls, have huge positive knock-on effects.

Fewer parents would be forced to choose which children to send to school and which ones to leave at home to work. Fewer families would suffer the heartbreak of losing a baby or young child to a preventable disease.

Fewer preteen girls would have to live in fear of being married when they were girls. Fewer teens would have to take life-threatening trips to find work or escape violence.

States with weak financial and fiscal transparency laws benefit by facilitating the concealment of money that would have been spent on schools, health clinics, roads, law enforcement, housing, electricity, high-speed Internet, and community development.

In other words, states with weak financial and fiscal transparency laws outsource the costs of their decisions to “other people’s children,” often children an ocean away that the citizens of these states cannot see or hear.

A potential solution

In 2020, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) set an important precedent when asked Ireland to describe the steps taken to “[e]Ensure that fiscal policies do not contribute to fiscal abuse by companies that operate in other countries, which generates a negative impact on the availability of resources for the realization of children’s rights in those countries ”.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) also set a bold precedent when it called on Switzerland to make public its regular, independent, impartial and participatory evaluations of the extraterritorial effects of its tax policies. corporate and financial secrecy on women’s rights.

This request came from a devastating report by a coalition of advocates documenting the ways in which Swiss politics it harms the rights of women abroad.

The Netherlands, like Ireland and Switzerland, perform very poorly in indices of tax haven and financial secrecy. Its review by the Committee on the Rights of the Child is scheduled for February 2022.

This upcoming review presents a valuable opportunity for the CRC to pressure the Netherlands to report publicly on the extraterritorial effects of its fiscal and financial transparency policies.

It also presents an opportunity to create a chain of precedents whereby all states that play a significant role in facilitating international tax avoidance can expect to be held publicly accountable for the effects of their decisions on children in the world. Foreign.

If the small minority of states that are the worst offenders in this regard are regularly asked to report publicly on the cost of their human rights decisions, policymakers and citizens will be better able to do so. responsible.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant, as noted by the famous US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. The most damning information about tax havens has emerged only as a result of data leaks, like the ones behind the Panama, Paradise and Pandora Papers scandals.

Financial secrecy makes it nearly impossible for legislators and citizens to appreciate the impact of their decisions in the real world.

On the contrary, if the citizens of Ireland, Switzerland, the Netherlands and similar states could see the true costs of their fiscal and financial transparency policies on the human rights of children abroad, they would demand reforms.

_Alexandra Dufresne is a law professor at Swiss higher education institutions and runs a human rights clinic serving NGOs in the United States, Switzerland, Europe and Africa. _

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