EU blocking UNCTAD work on ending tax avoidance, despite startling Pandora Papers leaks

As 195 countries meet to define the United Nations Conference on Trade Development's role in reshaping the rules of the global economy, PSI calls on wealthy states to support, not undermine, UNCTAD's mandate.

At the UNCTAD15 Conference- which determines the mandate of the organisation for the next four years - PSI has sent a strong message that the UN agency must become a key global forum for discussions on trade, tax, investment and development issues.

PSI highlighted the need for UNCTAD to extend its involvement in ending tax avoidance which decimates public services and has deprived the global south of trillions in potential revenue lost to tax havens.

PSI highlighted the need for UNCTAD to extend its involvement in ending tax avoidance which decimates public services.

The European Union in particular has been dogmatically blocking attempts to allow UNCTAD to work on ending the use of tax havens. As talks began, the explosive Pandora Papers leaks revealed how many of the EU's own member states, banks, billionaires and politicians have profited through swindling tax revenue away from frontline services and into offshore accounts.

Founded in 1964 as a forum for advancing a more equitable vision of development, UNCTAD has been consistently undermined in recent years by wealthier member states who have turned to other, less democratic, institutions such as the G20, the WTO and the OECD to write the rules of the global economy at the exclusion of much of the global south.

In a letter to all member-states and trade representatives, PSI called on governments to "strengthen UNCTAD’s work to equip the organization to best serve developing countries as the focal point in the UN system for trade and development, and the interrelated issues of finance, technology, investment, and sustainable development."

UNCTAD15 comes at a moment where many institutions are finally admitting the failures of the austerity agenda and dogmatic trade liberalisation; policies which UNCTAD has often played a key role in challenging. Yet the new global economic framework which is now required to pull countries out of the Covid-19 crisis and end spiralling inequality can not - yet again - be developed by and in the interests of wealthy states and multinational corporations

"UNCTAD’s mandate should include a call to strengthen international cooperation on tax matters, and on the negative impacts of Illicit Financial Flows, and to continue to promote the full and meaningful participation of developing countries in intergovernmental forums for international tax cooperation. Particularly given the lack of an international forum for addressing these matters, standards created by non-inclusive fora should not be imposed in a way that is prejudicial to developing countries."