Athena Peralta, WCC programme executive for economic and ecological justice. Photo: UNCTAD

Athena Peralta, WCC programme executive for economic and ecological justice. Photo: UNCTAD

The World Council of Churches (WCC) participated in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Civil Society (UNCTAD) Forum held at the Palais de Nations in Geneva on 24 May ahead of the UNCTAD board meeting on 4-12 June.

The hearing discussed new ways to tackle the crisis in multilateralism as well as to plug financial leakages and mobilise domestic and international resources to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

We cannot eschew our global and national responsibility to finance the SDGs, said Mukhisa Kituyi, secretary-general of UNCTAD, at the opening of the hearing.

Yet the capacity of governments – especially developing country ones – to mobilise finance to meet the SDGs and to build resilience to climate change is undermined by systemic tax evasion and avoidance by large multinational corporations.

The UNCTAD estimates that governments are losing around USD 200 billion annually in tax evasion – a sum which would have been enough to cover the costs of meeting a range of SDGs related to health, water and nutrition, for instance.

“Churches in Zambia, Tanzania and other parts of Africa are lamenting the fact that large swathes of their populations are mired in poverty – confronted by the lack of clean drinking water, sanitation, public hospitals – even as multinational mining companies extract and ship out tonnes of precious metals and minerals from their resource-rich lands with scarcely any benefits accruing to local communities”, said Athena Peralta, WCC programme executive for economic and ecological justice, who represented the WCC at the hearing.

“Churches recognise that taxation continues to be the most sustainable way of raising finance for long-term development undertakings and therefore we continue to call for national and international systems of taxation that enable the sharing of wealth, guarantee social and economic rights and promote gender justice,” said Peralta.

As one of the civil society speakers at the hearing, Peralta reiterated calls for the elimination of tax havens; for country-by-country reporting of sales, profits and taxes by multinational corporations; and for innovative approaches to tackle tax competition.

Peralta also highlighted the importance of establishing a global tax body under the aegis of the United Nations with the mandate to coordinate and rationalise tax administrations as well as to oversee urgently need transformations in global tax rules.

“In summary we need an international framework of fair tax rules that serves people and planet,” she said.

Video of the UNCTAD hearing

Message of the WCC, WCRC, CWM and LWF on the 3rd UN Financing for Development Forum

Economy of Life for All Now: An Ecumenical Action Plan