Among suits and gowns - a voice from civil society at a governmental conference
By Hannah Brejnholt og Martin Brehm Christensen
Great news!!! ActionAid’s “Stemming the spills” report has just been shared at the European Commission’s knowledge sharing platform for development cooperation. But governments and state representatives (both North and South) easily neglect the importance of civil society. Therefore, it is important that CSOs like ActionAid sometimes dress up and join conferences dominated by state representatives.
This summer the 38 governments of the Addis Tax Initiative (ATI) met for the first time at a conference in Berlin. Martin Brehm Christensen was there to represent ActionAid and remind the governments of their ATI commitment to“…promote and ensure policy coherence for development”.
Governments have to analyse their non-aid policies
Even before conference the ATI secretariat said that a common understanding about policy coherence for development is lacking among the ATI governments in the area taxation and that there is a need to clarify what this means. It was therefore, somewhat disappointing when the conference’s session on policy coherence for development focussed only on the policy of exempting aid projects from tax. ActionAid agrees that it is a good idea to eliminate tax exemptions for aid projects, but policy coherence for development should not be limited only to a matter of development aid. Therefore, ActionAid is emphasising the need for rich country governments to also look at their non-aid policies and how these have spillover-effects and influence developing countries. The recent ActionAid report “Stemming the spills” provides recommendations for governments on how to analyse such spillover effects. At the conference in Berlin, some government representatives had very different perspectives, nevertheless ActionAid succeeded in getting the following message across to the official conference recommendations:
“Suggested indicators for measuring progress on policy coherence in the Monitoring Report: Did countries conduct spillover analyses that look into the spillover effects of their Double Taxation Agreement’s (DTAs) and their national legislation, including existing tax incentives and harmful tax practices?”
“The integration of all stakeholders….”
Even though there were only a few persons from civil society in Berlin they played an important role in emphasising that taxation is not only an economical matter about increasing the tax revenues. All people in society need to be involved so that tax revenues are both raised and spent in a progressive way. Also on this point the few voices from civil society succeeded in influencing the official recommendations from the conference:
“The integration of all stakeholders – political decision-makers, tax administration and civil society organisations – under the Addis Tax Initiative harbours great potential for further progress in domestic revenue mobilisation.”
 page 4 and page 11 in Documentation of the First ITC/ATI Tax and Development Conference