UNCSW 2018: Speaking out for tax and gender justice
Global Alliance for Tax Justice (GATJ) members and partners spoke out strongly for tax justice to deliver women’s rights at the 62nd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, 13-23 March 2018 in New York. The priority theme of this year’s UNCSW was “challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls.”
More than 4,300 representatives from over 600 civil society organizations and 170 Member States attended this annual meeting.
The GATJ and partners’ joint statement, presented to the UNCSW by Verónica Montúfar, PSI representative to the GATJ Tax & Gender global working group, highlighted our key common messages on tax and gender and is available here in English and Spanish on our website, and here on the UNCSW’s website.
Key highlights of the GATJ and partners’ parallel events
The GATJ and partners co-hosted the parallel side event “Tax and Gender justice: Empowering rural women in mining-affected communities.”
Mae Buenaventura of GATJ regional network Tax and Fiscal Justice Asia contributed a case study on mining-affected communities and the impact on women and girls in the Philippines.
Crystal Simeoni, head of advocacy at FEMNET, the African Women's Development and Communication Network, highlighted the impact of illicit financial flows on women and girls living in rural areas.
Felogene Anumo, Economic Justice Program Officer, Association for Women in Development (AWID), shared a video about women human rights defenders confronting extractive industries. She gave an overview of risks and highlighted specific policy recommendations for achieving gender equality through economic justice, as well as ongoing advocacy for a legally binding instrument on business and human rights as an opportunity for accountability.
Sostine Namanye, Gender and Food Security Officer at National Association for Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), highlighted the need to finance public services from tax revenues, gender issues in extractives and use of state capture and IFFs. She also posed the question "how much do the global north countries owe Africa in ecological debt and climate change?". She spoke about feminist development alternatives, consciousness raising and participation in planning and budgeting, and how gender-sensitive legislation needs to be put in place to address gender inequality.
Juneia Batista, World Women’s Committee member of Public Services International, discussed how resources held by the wealthy can help end poverty seven times over, the problems of IFFs, ecological degradation and other issues. She spoke on the experience of Nankints and Mariana women in the mining sector and subsequent dispossession of land in Ecuador and Brazil and the impacts on these women and girls.
Comments and questions in the audience discussion included:
- Is there a study that quantifies the percentage of women working in the mines?
- What constitutes illicit financial flows?
- There is need for mobilization of women from the grassroots to have their voices heard in tax policy spaces as women are not heard being heard.
- More research, evidence, and capacity building is needed to influence the current narrative.
The session was chaired by Caroline Othim, GATJ Campaigns & Policy Officer-Africa and widely echoed on Twitter:
The video of the whole conference is available here, thanks to AWID's logistics!
Highlights of GATJ and Queens University parallel event
Caroline Othim, GATJ Campaigns & Policy-Africa Officer, facilitated the session “Taxing Rural Women In Developing Countries: Best and Worst Practices” and talked about the need to ensure that we lobby our country delegations and contacts to include the tax and gender justice language in the UNCSW outcome document. She highlighted the Bogota Declaration and called on participants to sign on.
Fariya Mohiuddin, Strategic Programmes Assistant, Tax Justice Network, talked about property tax, gender, and rurality with examples from Ghana. Property tax is an area of increasing interest for governments and international funders as part of two big trends: domestic resource mobilisation and decentralization, particularly in Africa. She raised issues of the gendered impacts of property tax administration reforms in rural areas in land titling, land use, and ownership.
Sophie Efange, Gender Policy Advisor, Christian Aid, discussed the specific benefits of progressive taxation and pointed out the regressive nature of VAT and other consumption taxes and their impact on women.
Kathleen Lahey, Professor and Queen's National Scholar, Faculty of Law, Queen's University, highlighted the gender impact of the VAT by gender and low incomes, using a new method that looks at individuals, not at households, and using neither income nor consumption as the welfare measure, but the average cost of the basic necessities of living as the welfare measure, based on her work in the Asia-Pacific context.
The Outcome: Agreed Conclusions
Following numerous drafts, the outcome document was approved by participating UNCSW governments. As a tax and gender justice community we made progress with the inclusion of the following references to tax and IFFs:
43. The Commission reaffirms the importance of significantly increased investments to close resource gaps for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, including rural women and girls, through, inter alia, the mobilization of financial resources from all sources, including domestic and international resource mobilization and allocation, the full implementation of official development assistance commitments and combating illicit financial flows, so as to build on progress achieved and strengthen international cooperation, including North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation, bearing in mind that South-South cooperation is not a substitute for, but rather a complement to, North-South cooperation.
(…) ggg. Take steps to significantly increase investment to close resource gaps, including through the mobilization of financial resources from all sources, including public, private, domestic and international resource mobilization and allocation, including by enhancing revenue administration through modernized, progressive tax systems, improved tax policy, more efficient tax collection, and increased priority on gender equality and the empowerment of women in official development assistance to build on progress achieved, and ensure that official development assistance is used effectively to accelerate the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls;
(…) j. Integrate a gender perspective into the design, implementation and evaluation of and follow-up to development policies, plans and programmes, including budget policies …
Other highlights of the Outcome document
The agreed conclusions focus on addressing the poverty of women and girls in rural areas.
Education received its pride of place, as both a right and a tool to enhance contribute towards achieving gender equality and women empowerment, including on addressing violence and harassment in schools, menstrual health, CSE, and support for pregnant and parenting girls.
Outcomes address the need for women’s domestic and unpaid work to be recognized in our economies. They address social protection policies, and access to affordable and quality social services, including child-care services.
There is explicit mention of women human rights defenders and the recognition of the diversity of women and girls.
New commitments on addressing reproductive health disparities, maternal mortality, health workforce, and reaffirmation of existing commitments on SRHR.
The need to address multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination is noted across the document, including up front with diversity, as well as in the context of health and on discrimination.
Key UNCSW process takeaways
- This is a structured policy influencing space with opportunities to contribute to the outcome document by direct lobbying of government delegations, written and oral statements, mark up of the draft text to include specific asks on issues of tax, advocacy activities etc.
- The CSW space provides an opportunity to broaden the focus of tax and gender to macroeconomic issues and gender. Macroeconomics was a key issue.
- Too many side and parallel events: there is need to prioritize the relevant ones for GATJ representatives that will contribute to achieving our strategic objectives.
- US visa denials for women and girls living in rural areas were a major concern leading to a petition. It is necessary to include the voices of this key population in the spirit of “leave no one behind.”
- There is need to link the CSW with other multiple spaces and processes like the HLPF, Financing for Development, climate change, the SDGs, population and development, safe cities etc. that impact on women´s human rights and gender equality outcomes.
- this editorial about UNCSW, by our regional network member Tax Justice Network - Africa - titled "At the table; not just on the menu".
- a wrapup by TJN’s Fariya Mohiuddin’s, titled “Empowering rural women through tax justice policies: 62nd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women”
- “How the UN women’s talks failed to call out corporate power – letting down our human rights defenders”, written by Rebecca Reeve and published on Open Democracy’s 50.50 page and AWID’s website.