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Last week the UN Committee of Experts on International Tax (UNTC) met at the United Nations HQ in New York, a few metres from the Security Council meetings on Syria, followed by a special session on tax of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The undercurrent of the detailed technical discussions during the week has been a crisis of global tax governance. While, for example, the grand-sounding Addis Tax Initiative included a commitment to double the aid for tax issues to developing countries, very little has come to the UNTC. Funds are needed especially to facilitate the work of subcommittees, which are essential to work through technical details. Lacking travel funds, it is difficult for developing country members to attend, and the shortage of staff makes it hard to provide secretarial support. At several points during the meeting of the Committee there was frustration that an issue was being raised which had received no or insufficient attention in a subcommittee, and some work was not completed as a result.

What’s the most precious thing in the world which unfortunately we take for granted and realise it true value when it is impaired? Good health, of course.

That’s something many people must have reminded themselves as they celebrated World Health Day on 7 April.

Attaining good health and well-being may be a top priority goal, but achieving it is elusive for almost everyone, and next to impossible for the poor.     
 
In the 1980s, the World Health Organization’s Director-General Halfdan Mahler steered through a declaration with the popular slogan ‘Health for All by the year 2000’.

We crossed into the 21st century without realising that noble goal. Although health has improved in most countries, due mainly to cleaner water and sanitation, but also due to better treatment, much remains to be done.

China, Brazil, India and South Africa urge rich nations to honour their commitments made in Paris in 2015 to provide finance, capacity building and transfer of technology  to developing countries to fight against climate change

 
Leaders gathered in Paris in December 2015. The historical Paris agreement, adopted by Parties at the Twenty-first meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC, reaffirmed the commitment of industrialized nations to fulfil their obligations on finance, capacity building and technology transfer to help developing countries fight climate change challenges.

This year’s spring meetings will take place in a context of global uncertainty generated by the election of president Trump in the US, the formalisation of Brexit in Europe, and the rise of anti-trade movements across the developed world which once championed it. Making the case for trade as essential to global economic health is likely to be front and centre at the meetings. Meanwhile, civil society will continue to bring to light the persistent disparity between the World Bank and Fund’s rhetoric and the realities of their policies on the ground. Issues such as the negative impact of the IMF’s fiscal policies on women and girls and the Bank’s continued push for privatisation, including the leveraging of private sector investments, will feature prominently at the meetings.

Read the Analysis

2017 could be the year that brings us a binding international treaty on the respect of human rights by transnational corporations and other business enterprises. It would, logically, take priority over other bilateral or multilateral trade agreements because it would set out the minimum conditions to be met.

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