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Financial markets and human rights: The cases of tax evasion and food speculation

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Various human rights are constantly being undermined by global financial markets -notably the right to development and the right to food.

It is now generally acknowledged that a necessary precondition for development is a certain ability of the state to finance public infrastructure and services. However, the global financial system and the international banking industry offer ample opportunities to avoid and evade taxes. The sheer existence of tax havens is an invitation for capital flight as well as for tax planning by multinational companies. As a result, developing countries lose more in potential tax revenue than they receive in development aid. Estimates of illicit financial flows from developing countries range from $641-941 billion every year.

Even more important for people is food and the right to food. Soaring food prices can cause hunger for millions of people and consequently enormous political repercussions. In 2007/2008, a price explosion in the markets for grain and other commodities caused malnutrition among an estimated 115 million people and triggered hunger revolts in various nations. The prices subsequently dropped, only to soar again three years later, surpassing previous highs by the end of 2010. A growing number of scientific studies come to the conclusion that financial speculation has contributed to the price spikes and thus to hunger.

This panel will examine the negative impacts of financial markets on human rights, focusing on the possibilities of domestic resource mobilization that would help the poorer countries to raise bitterly needed revenues and at the same time gain more fiscal independence. In addition, the group will discuss how to prevent food from becoming a financial asset, serving investors’ rather than people’s interests.

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