This joint policy brief by the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) and Christian Aid explores the role of fiscal policy in generating and allocating resources for sustainable development from a human rights perspective. It suggests using already existing human rights standards to provide a framework of binding principles which are of particular relevance to fiscal policy in the context of sustainable development.
As the era of MDGs is getting to its end, evaluation of what has (not) been achieved is in process and negotiations about post-2015 agenda are in full swing. As the report states, the MDGs were under-resourced globally by at least $120 billion per year — which was identified as a key reason many of these goals have ended up as broken promises. Thus it’s clear that a proper financing of the post-2015 agenda is crucial.
Fiscal policy is fundamental to sustainable development, as it supports the functioning of a capable and effective state and is a key instrument for transforming economic growth into improved living conditions for all. As higher order policy objectives, human rights standards can give much-needed normative direction to fiscal policy, especially in reinforcing the resourcing, redistribution and accountability functions of taxation. Thinking of progress in achieving sustainable development as a matter of human rights, rather than as a benefit dependent on a particular government’s discretion, also implies in practice that such gains are more durable and more accountable, improving the bargaining power of the most marginalized over development financing over time.
The report identifies three dimensions regarding public financing for the post-2015 era that must be supported both on national and international level:
- Additional public funding for sustainable development through global and domestic fiscal commitment to generate sufficient revenue for sustainable development (Sufficiency)
- Fair distribution of public funds to ensure equality in the burdens and benefits of sustainable development financing (Equality)
- Enhanced transparency, participation and public oversight to foster accountable fiscal governance for sustainable development (Accountability)
These dimensions should be founded on existing human rights standards and coupled with international cooperation to bring a fiscal revolution (transforming raising and spending of public recourses) – needed to meet the post-2015 goals. Also, private sector has an important role realizing the fiscal revolution – businesses should finance the infrastructure they use, pay to restore the forests and ocean stocks they deplete, contribute according to their carbon emission levels to the costs of climate change and transitioning to a low-carbon economy, it should be ensured that the 8% of the private capital held unrecorded in offshore financial centers is effectively taxed and invested in sustainable development priorities.
According to the report, the post-2015 agenda is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to incentivize governments to take bold steps individually and in concert towards a fiscal revolution. CESR and Christian aid therefore propose the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that would ensure proper financing of the post-2015 agenda:
- Raise sufficient public resources to finance high quality essential services for all.
- End cross-border tax evasion, return stolen assets, forgive odious debt and progressively combat tax abuses.
- Reduce economic inequality within countries through enhanced use of progressive taxation on income and wealth.
- Improve redistributive capacities to progressively reduce disparities in the enjoyment of human rights by all socio-economic groups, and between women and men, in all regions.
- Ensure the rights to information and participation of all people, without exclusion or discrimination, in the design, implementation, financing and monitoring of public policies.
- Guarantee public and judicial oversight of the generation and use of public resources.
Read the whole report to learn more details: Fiscal Revolution Human Rights Poloicy Brief