A generation of violations against children in conflict
by Save the Children International
Killed and Maimed: A generation of violations against children, report from Save the Children International
Today millions of children are on the frontlines of conflict. Despite progress in some areas, the trends over recent years are of increasing violations, increasing numbers of children affected by conflict and increasingly protracted crises.
Over the past decade we have witnessed the outbreak of conflict in Syria and Yemen, two waves of horrifying violence in Myanmar, and protracted conflicts in Afghanistan, Nigeria, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Iraq. The conflict in Ukraine has escalated, and the situation for children in the occupied Palestinian territory has continued to deteriorate. Despite a peace accord in 2016, violence in Colombia persists.
As we write, children are at the forefront of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and the Sahel. As this litany of conflict suggests, the overall trajectory of violations against children is cause for great alarm. The world must take notice – and act.
While 2020 has been dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, that should not be allowed to mask the red flags signalling the devastation conflict is having on children’s lives.
This report highlights some of the impacts of the war on children:
• Since 2005, more than 250,000 violations against children have been verified in the UN’s annual reports on the situation of children in armed conflict. Of these, 106,000 (42%) related to the killing and maiming of children.
• Since 2010, the equivalent of 25 children a day have been killed or maimed in conflict.
• The number of children living in high-intensity conflicts in 2019 rose by 2% from 2018 to stand at 160 million. A total of 426 million children were found to be living in conflict zones overall in 2019 – the second highest total ever recorded.
• The number of children living in close proximity to the most intense conflict zones rose significantly – up from 4 million to 9 million in 2018–19.
• Explosive weapons accounted for 37% of the 10,294 incidents of killing and maiming of children in 2019 – with the proportion much higher in Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen.
The world must act to stop the war on children. And there’s no excuse not to. In 2021 there will be critical opportunities for states and parties to conflict to take concrete actions to better protect and support children in conflict.
Governments will be able to lend their support to a declaration avoiding the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Donors can ensure that child protection work in conflict is funded in line with other life-saving interventions. UN Security Council members can use their power to hold perpetrators of grave violations to account.
Save the Children calls on states to:
• uphold standards and norms in the conduct of conflict – including protecting education from attack, avoiding the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and enabling unimpeded humanitarian access
• hold perpetrators of violations against children to account – including through resourcing international investigative mechanisms, supporting the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism for grave violations against children, and consistently applying political, legal and financial sanctions on perpetrators
• take practical action to protect children and support their recovery – including adequate funding for child protection work, ensuring children have access to quality mental health and psychosocial support and education, and embedding child rights expertise within peacekeeping and political missions: http://bit.ly/3fgz2Ay
* Note: As the World Food Programme and many other agencies underline, conflict directly impacts hunger, nutrition and the health and life chances of millions of children and people worldwide.
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$427 billion dollars lost to tax havens every year
by Tax Justice Network, agencies
Countries are losing a total of over $427 billion in tax each year to international corporate tax abuse and private tax evasion, costing countries altogether the equivalent of nearly 34 million nurses’ annual salaries every year – or one nurse’s annual salary every second.
As pandemic-fatigued countries around the world struggle to cope with second and third waves of coronavirus, a ground-breaking study published today reveals for the first time how much public funding each country loses to global tax abuse and identifies the countries most responsible for others’ losses.
In a series of joint national and regional launch events around the world, economists, unions and campaigners are urging governments to immediately enact long-delayed tax reform measures in order to clamp down on global tax abuse and reverse the inequalities and hardships exacerbated by tax losses.
The inaugural edition of the State of Tax Justice – an annual report by the Tax Justice Network on the state of global tax abuse and governments’ efforts to tackle it, published today together with global union federation Public Services International and the Global Alliance for Tax Justice – is the first study to measure thoroughly how much every country loses to both corporate tax abuse and private tax evasion, marking a giant leap forward in tax transparency.
While previous studies on the scale of global corporate tax abuse have had to contest with the fog of financial secrecy surrounding multinational corporations’ tax affairs, the State of Tax Justice analyses data that was self-reported by multinational corporations to tax authorities and recently published by the OECD, allowing the report authors to directly measure tax losses arising from observable corporate tax abuse.
The data, referred to as country by country reporting data, is a transparency measure first proposed by the Tax Justice Network in 2003. After nearly two decades of campaigning, the data was made available to the public by the OECD in July 2020 – although only after multinational corporations’ data was aggregated and anonymised.
Of the $427 billion in tax lost each year globally to tax havens, the State of Tax Justice 2020 reports that $245 billion is directly lost to corporate tax abuse by multinational corporations and $182 billion to private tax evasion.
Multinational corporations paid billions less in tax than they should have by shifting $1.38 trillion worth of profit out of the countries where they were generated and into tax havens, where corporate tax rates are extremely low or non-existent.
Private tax evaders paid less tax than they should have by storing a total of over $10 trillion in financial assets offshore.
Poorer countries are hit harder by global tax abuse
While higher income countries lose more tax to global tax abuse, the State of Tax Justice 2020 shows that tax losses bear much greater consequences in lower income countries.
Higher income countries altogether lose over $382 billion every year whereas lower income countries lose $45 billion.
However, lower income countries’ tax losses are equivalent to nearly 52 per cent of their combined public health budgets, whereas higher income countries’ tax losses are equivalent to 8 per cent of their combined public health budgets.
Similarly, lower income countries lose the equivalent of 5.8 per cent of the total tax revenue they typically collect a year to global tax abuse whereas higher income countries on average lose 2.5 per cent.
The same pattern of global inequality is also strongly visible when comparing regions in the global north and south. North America and Europe lose over $95 billion in tax and over $184 billion respectively, while Latin America and Africa lose over $43 billion and over $27 billion respectively.
However, North America and Europe’s tax losses are equivalent to 5.7 per cent and 12.6 per cent of the regions’ public health budgets respectively, while Latin America and Africa’s tax losses are equivalent to 20.4 per cent and 52.5 per cent of the regions’ public health budgets respectively.
Rich countries are responsible for almost all global tax losses
Assessing which countries are most responsible for global tax abuse, the State of Tax Justice 2020 provides the strongest evidence to date that the greatest enablers of global tax abuse are the rich countries at the heart of the global economy and their dependencies – not the countries that appear on the EU’s highly politicised tax haven blacklist or the small palm-fringed islands of popular belief.
Higher income countries are responsible for 98 per cent of countries’ tax losses, costing countries around the world over $419 billion in lost tax every year while lower income countries are responsible for just 2 per cent, costing countries over $8 billion in lost tax every year.
The five jurisdictions most responsible for countries’ tax losses are British Territory Cayman (responsible for 16.5 per cent of global tax losses, equal to over $70 billion), the UK (10 per cent; over $42 billion), the Netherlands (8.5 per cent; over $36 billion), Luxembourg (6.5 per cent; over $27 billion) and the US (5.53 per cent; over $23 billion).
G20 countries meeting tomorrow responsible for over a quarter or global tax losses
G20 member countries meeting this weekend for the Leaders’ Summit 2020 are collectively responsible for 26.7 per cent of global tax losses, costing countries over $114 billion in lost tax every year. The G20 countries themselves also lose over $290 billion each year.
In 2013, the G20 mandated the OECD to require collection of the country by country reporting data analysed by the State of Tax Justice 2020 – a measure the OECD had long resisted until then. In 2020, the OECD’s consultation on country by country reporting highlighted two major demands from investors, civil society and leading experts: that the technical standard be replaced with the far more robust Global Reporting Initiative standard, and – crucially – that the data be made public.
The Tax Justice Network is calling on the G20 heads of state summit this weekend to require the publication of individual multinationals’ country by country reporting, so that corporate tax abusers and the jurisdictions that facilitate them can be identified and held to account.
Alex Cobham, chief executive of the Tax Justice Network, said:
“A global tax system that loses over $427 billion a year is not a broken system, it’s a system programmed to fail. Under pressure from corporate giants and tax haven powers like the Netherlands and the UK’s network, our governments have programmed the global tax system to prioritise the desires of the wealthiest corporations and individuals over the needs of everybody else. The pandemic has exposed the grave cost of turning tax policy into a tool for indulging tax abusers instead of for protecting people’s wellbeing.
“Now more than ever we must reprogramme our global tax system to prioritise people’s health and livelihoods over the desires of those bent on not paying tax. We’re calling on governments to introduce an excess profit tax on large multinational corporations that have been short-changing countries for years, targeting those whose profits have soared during the pandemic while local businesses have been forced into lockdown.
For the digital tech giants who claim to have our best interests at heart while having abused their way out of billions in tax, this can be their redemption tax. A wealth tax alongside this would ensure that those with the broadest shoulders contribute as they should at this critical time.”
Rosa Pavanelli, general secretary at Public Services International, said:
“The reason frontline health workers face missing PPE and brutal understaffing is because our governments spent decades pursuing austerity and privatisation while enabling corporate tax abuse. For many workers, seeing these same politicians now “clapping” for them is an insult. Growing public anger must be channelled into real action: making corporations and the mega rich finally pay their fair share to build back better public services.
“When tax departments are downsized and wages cut, corporations and billionaires find it even easier to swindle money away from our public services and into their offshore bank accounts. This is of course no accident; many politicians have wilfully sent the guards home.
The only way to fund the long-term recovery is by making sure our tax authorities have the power and support they need to stop corporations and the mega rich from not paying their fair share. The wealth exists to keep our societies functioning, our vulnerable alive and our businesses afloat: we just need to stop it flowing offshore.
“Let’s be clear. The reason corporations and the mega rich abuse billions in taxes isn’t because they’re innovative. They do it because they know politicians will let them get away with it. Now that we’ve seen the brutal results, our leaders must stop the billions flowing out of public services and into offshore accounts, or risk fuelling cynicism and distrust in government.”
Dr Dereje Alemayehu, executive coordinator at the Global Alliance for Tax Justice, said:
“The State of Tax Justice 2020 captures global inequality in soberingly stark numbers. Lower income countries lose more than half what they spend on public health every year to tax havens – that’s enough to cover the annual salaries of nearly 18 million nurses every year. The OECD’s failure to deliver meaningful reforms8 to global tax rules in recent years, despite the repeated declaration of good will, makes it clear that the task was impossible for a club of rich countries.
With today’s data showing that OECD countries are collectively responsible for nearly half of all global tax losses, the task was also clearly an inappropriate one for a club heavily mixed up in global tax havenry.
“We must establish a UN tax convention to usher in global tax reforms. Only by moving the process for setting global tax standards to the UN can we make sure that international tax governance is transparent and democratic and our global tax system genuinely fair and equitable, respecting the taxing rights of developing countries.”
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