United Nations renews its push for global tax

by Onize Ohikere
Posted 4/20/16, 03:05 pm

A candidate vying for the position of the next United Nations secretary-general has said he supports the establishment of a global tax system, a change long sought by the UN but feared by some countries.

Those countries and some nonprofits are concerned the UN will more strongly impose its social agenda over members’ moral objections, and a global tax would weaken countries’ ability to protest. The UN’s funding primarily comes from donations from member countries. That system allows countries the liberty to withdraw their funds from programs they don’t support such as expanding abortion access and promoting LGBT causes.

In February, the UN’s Free and Equal campaign released six postage stamps that celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people despite criticism and efforts to block it by its member governments.

“We wish to remind the UN to limit itself strictly to activities mandated by member states and especially to promote issues that are beneficial to mankind, rather than lend itself as a tool to promote aberrant behavior under the guise of promoting human rights,” said Usman Sarki, a Nigerian ambassador to the UN.

This month, the UN for the first time publicly interviewed nine candidates competing for the secretary-general position. During his interview, Antonio Guterres, who has served as the prime minister of Portugal and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said a global tax system would be a good way for the organization to raise money.

This “will be one of my key concerns of advocacy, and this is something I have been working very strongly on in the recent past,” Guterres said.

The possibility of establishing a global tax system has been on the UN’s radar for many years. But Guterres’ statement has sparked renewed concern among some groups because of the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit. The summit, which will be May 23 and 24 in Istanbul will be the first of it’s kind and will address member countries’ financial commitments, among other topics.

“It’s just going to be countries talking for two days and the secretary-general, who really wants the tax, is going to report on it,” said Susan Yoshihara, senior vice president for research at the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM). “We need to get the word out to nations that this will be promoted so that people will go to the summit or stop it before it gets to the summit.”

But the UN has pushed for the global tax as a way to raise more money. In 2012, the UN World Economic and Social Survey said it was failing to meet the needs of developing countries and its millennium development goals. A global tax system would help bridge the financial gap.

“It would introduce billions of independent dollars into the UN system, a system that is already radical and corrupt,” said C-FAM’s president Austin Ruse. “An independent revenue stream would mean the bureaucracy would never have to be responsive to the member states.”

As a financial backup, the UN has also asked its member countries to consider adopting a solidarity levy, which it will try to get more countries to sign onto at the summit. The UN said the levy, a voluntary tax system countries can apply to airline tickets and other transactions, could help it finance a $15 billion annual shortfall for global relief. But the citizens of countries who adopt this levy would not know where the money is taken from.

“As an American, I’m concerned because if my country signs up for the solidarity levy, I’ll never know where it is,” Yoshihara said. “It could be in plane tickets, it could be in things I do everyday at the marketplace.”

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD's Africa reporter. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria. Follow her on Twitter @onize_ohiks.

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