Streamlining the Architecture of International Tax through a UN Framework Convention on Tax Cooperation
By Abdul Muheet Chowdhary and Sol Picciotto
The architecture of international taxation at present is fragmented among multiple institutions. The UN Tax Committee, the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) and the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes are some of the key institutions which set multiple and overlapping international tax standards. The lack of a genuinely global international tax body has long been a lacunae in the international economic system and a disadvantage for developing countries, who are unable to participate in international tax standard setting as full and equal participants. This has been borne out most recently by the Two Pillar Solution for taxing the digital economy that has come from the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework. The G-77’s renewed demand for a global tax body shows the issue continues to remain a priority for developing countries.
This Policy Brief provides a way for bringing the existing plethora of institutions under unified, universal and democratic control through a UN Framework Convention on Tax Cooperation (UN FCTC). This idea builds on the long-standing idea of a UN Tax Convention, which has also been recommended by the UN FACTI Panel. A UN FCTC would function similarly to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UN FCCC), through a Conference of Parties (COP) which would give the existing institutions such as the UN Tax Committee and Inclusive Framework mandates to work on. In this regard, it would replace the narrow mandates of the OECD and G20 with mandates coming from all the Parties to the UN FCTC, which could be all countries, both developed and developing. A UN FCTC thus provides a practical and realistic way forward for a genuinely universal, intergovernmental framework for international tax rule making under the auspices of the United Nations.
The UN General Assembly Resolutions on COVID-19: Solemn Assurances for Access to Health Technologies without an Action Plan
By Nirmalya Syam
The United Nations (UN) has the mandate under the Charter of the United Nations to promote solutions to international health problems, such as the global COVID-19 pandemic. While the UN secretariat, led by the Secretary-General, has undertaken a number of initiatives in response to COVID-19, member State initiatives in the UN has so far been limited to two resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly. Member States are currently negotiating an omnibus resolution of the General Assembly on COVID-19. This policy brief analyzes the extent to which the General Assembly addresses the issue of timely, equitable and affordable access to health technologies, particularly for developing countries who have greater vulnerability to COVID-19. The adopted resolutions make very broad pledges for global solidarity but lack specific commitments to guide actions by member States. The omnibus resolution currently under negotiation should provide specific guidance to member States on actions to be taken based on the principles of solidarity and multilateral cooperation in diverse aspects impacted by COVID-19.
The Importance of “Developing National Ecosystems for South-South and Triangular Cooperation to Achieve Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development” – on the occasion of launching the publication
By Yuefen LI
To maximize the benefits of South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTrC), it would be imperative to have an effective “national ecosystem” – an institutional framework at national level. Over the years, the pace of institutional improvements in conducting SSTrC by Southern countries has lagged far behind the fast expansion of SSTrC in size, making it a constraint for unleashing the full potential of SSTrC. On 26 September 2019, the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), the South Centre and the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) launched the joint publication entitled “Developing National Ecosystems for South-South and Triangular Cooperation to Achieve Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development” on the side lines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. It discusses how to strengthen national ecosystems to promote SSTrC. The concept of national ecosystem advocates a bottom-up and incremental approach. It emphasizes that the national ecosystem is not meant to be prescriptive or a one size fits all model. Developing an effective national ecosystem for SSTrC requires understanding of the national realities and objectives and takes time, effort, commitments and financing. (more…)
Last chance for the Global South? Pursuing the South’s interests in reforming the Investor-State Dispute Settlement system in the multilateral arena
By Jose Manuel Alvarez Zarate and Maciej Żenkiewicz
The current Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system is mainly criticized for its lack of transparency, unbalanced rights and obligations between State and investors, and the expansive interpretation of arbitrators of the investment protection treaties’ vague rules. Any reform of the ISDS should benefit developing countries that are facing most of the ISDS claims. The decisions taken at the thirty-seventh session of the United Nations Commission for International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Working Group III (WGIII) on ISDS Reform (New York, 1-5 April 2019) are likely to influence the way in which the discussions about the reform of ISDS at the multilateral level will go. The developing countries should shape their agenda in such a way to facilitate consensus in the context of advancing their collective interests and perspectives. (more…)
BAPA+40 is an Impetus to the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
By Yuefen LI
The United Nations Second High-level Conference on South-South Cooperation (BAPA+40) not only gave an impetus to the further expansion of South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTrC) but also to the attainment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Currently, the main task is how to implement the outcome document of BAPA+40. (more…)
UN tax committee gets a boost through new working methods
By Abdul Muheet Chowdhary
The UN in May published a document titled ‘Practices and Working Methods for the Committee Of Experts On International Cooperation In Tax Matters’. For those who believe that the UN should play a stronger role in the governance of international tax, this is a welcome development. The document further deepens the institutionalisation of the UN Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters (henceforth UN tax committee) by developing new working methods and making several clarifications. Some of these are welcome while others are problematic. Overall, it is clarified that the working methods must be read in conjunction with the rules of procedure of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and in the case of inconsistency, the ECOSOC rules are to prevail. (more…)
2030 Sustainable Development Agenda with Focus on Education Goal – SDG 4
By Kishore Singh
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development must be considered bearing in mind the right to education as an internationally recognized right as well as the right to development. Below is the keynote presentation by Kishore Singh, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, at the Asian High-level Forum on Human Rights on the occasion of the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (more…)
South Africa’s South-South cooperation 40 years after BAPA
By Neissan Alessandro Besharati
As member states and the United Nations (UN) prepare to come together for the 2nd High Level Conference on South-South cooperation (SSC) forty years after the adoption of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action (BAPA), this article reflects on the journey South Africa has made in implementing technical cooperation with developing countries (TCDC). Although the Apartheid government of Pretoria was excluded from the discussions in Buenos Aires, in the last two decades South Africa has played a major role in SSC, promoting capacity building, exchange of experiences, and TCDC in Africa and intra-regionally. The article will explore the degree of compliance by South Africa with the 38 recommendations (Recs. 1-38) set out in the BAPA, and the follow up work still required, both nationally and globally, to advance the SSC agenda. (more…)
24th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC: The US COP?
By Mariama Williams
Despite its stated intentions to leave the Paris Agreement, the United States negotiating team continued to dominate many of the negotiations of key areas of the twenty-fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 24) agenda of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The outcome of the meeting, branded the ‘Katowice Climate Package’, again showed developing countries sacrificing many redlines to save multilateralism. The Katowice Outcome reflects very little substantial advancement of the global climate protection agenda. However, the discussion and further refining of the rules will continue in the UNFCCC’s upcoming negotiating sessions in 2019 as well as COP 25. Hence, developing countries have a chance to regroup and push forward to ensure sustainable development objectives are ensured and protected.
Collaboration or Co-optation? A review of the Platform for Collaboration on Tax
By Manuel F. Montes and Pooja Rangaprasad
The Platform for Collaboration on Tax (PCT), launched in April 2016, is an effort to intensify cooperation on tax issues among the staff of the OECD, IMF, World Bank and the United Nations. The PCT’s stated objectives include the production of joint outputs, strengthening interactions between standard setting, capacity building and technical assistance and sharing information. PCT has since produced toolkits on issues such as tax incentives, transfer pricing, and taxation of offshore indirect transfers. The PCT also held its first global conference in February 2018 at the UN where a concluding ‘conference statement’, negotiated among the four secretariats, was produced.