The Paradise Papers shed light on a highly complex system of global inequity and depriving the poorest of their rights. At the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute we believe that by failing to collect the revenue that is being lost through offshore tax avoidance schemes, states are failing in their obligation to mobilise all available resources towards the promotion of human rights and poverty reduction. As stated by the former UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty, Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona: “Tax abuse is thus not a victimless practice; it limits resources that could be spent on reducing poverty and realising human rights, and perpetuates vast income inequality … A State that does not take strong measures to tackle tax abuse cannot be said to be devoting the maximum available resources to the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights.”
As noted in the institute’s report Tax Abuses, Poverty and Human Rights, the effects of tax evasion on a global scale are being seen most acutely in developing countries, where a huge outflow of money is seeing governments starved of the wealth that they need to invest in health, education and infrastructure. Equally though, its effects are seen here in the UK and other developed countries, where austerity measures are plunging people into poverty and depriving the poorest in society of their economic, social and cultural rights.
States have a responsibility to protect human rights, and therefore if the realisation of human rights is affected by a state’s inability to collect tax revenue, then it is the responsibility of all states to ensure that they secure their due taxes. It is essential that the international community works together to create both national and international legal frameworks which minimise these abuses and maximise the resources available for realisation of human rights for all.
Helena Kennedy QC Co-chair (Labour, House of Lords)
Hans Corell Co-chair (former UN legal counsel)
International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute