Since its inception in 1945, the United Nations has attempted to serve as an organization that cohesively binds together diverse nations and values in an effort to create a more equitable and just world. But despite decades of intense activity and effort, inequality and poverty still run rampant.
So to combat these ills, on Jan. 31, a special committee of civil society leaders convened at the U.N. building in New York City for "The Civil Society Forum" -- a preparation conference for the U.N.'s 10-day Commission on Social Development (CDS) forum (which started Feb 1.). One of the potential solutions to global poverty that was discussed? A global tax that would help fund "social protection" and international services for those in need.
According to Deseret News' Susan Roylance, the forum's focus was on "universal access to basic social protection and social services." These basic elements include health care, primary education, housing, sanitation, water and other related elements that human beings require -- or crave -- for survival and social viability.
"This movement for a social protection floor [SPF] is becoming solidly entrenched in the United Nations' agencies and programs," Roylance writes. "Some U.N. leaders are calling for the SPF to become the new focus for the U.N., when the Millennium Development Goals are finished — after 2015."
During the meeting, Milos Koterec, the president of the U.N.'s Economic and Social Council, said that no individual should be living below the poverty level. He went on to dub the aforementioned services as "essential," and participants went on to say that these services were directly tied to the rights associated with "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Of course, no one would dispute that people should absolutely have access to basic services. But the main question remains -- with so much poverty and need, how would this massive undertaking be funded? Participants in the forum said that a small global tax would be a potential answer.
Jens Wandel, the Deputy Director of the United Nations Development Program, explained:
"We will need a modest but long-term way to finance this transformation. One idea which we could consider is a minimal financial transaction tax (of .005 percent). This will create $40 billion in revenue."
Fatima Rodrigo, one of the individuals who presented at the forum, echoed this sentiment, saying that a "very small tax of .005 percent" would be waged to help fund the healthcare, education, income and housing for those in need.
"There is plenty of money, we just need to stop spending it on militaries and wars," she said.
Wandel and Rodrigo weren't alone in heralding such a proposal. In fact, Ambassador Jorge Valero, the current Chairman of the Commission on Social Development, went on to say that it's "absolutely essential to establish controls on capital movements and financial speculation." To accomplish this, Valero called for "progressive policies of taxation." Translation: "Those who earn more [should] pay more taxes."
Valero, a prominent spokesperson for and advocate of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, unsurprisingly focused upon capitalism as the source of global financial problems.
Forum organizer and chairman of the NGO Committee on Social Development Winifred Doherty stood in agreement, saying that military spending is at the root of the problem.
"There is no scarcity of resources," Doherty said. "Where do we put our resources? Destroying people and the planet."
Regardless of whether these elements were anomalies, it does seem the U.N. is making a push in this direction. At the CDS forum the next day, similar words about inequality were uttered. The U.N. News Service has more:
"The Social Protection Floor is an important initiative. UN agencies and our partners are using this to integrate our strategies so that we can help protect people from falling or being trapped into poverty," Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro told the Commission.
“The poor want to lift themselves out of poverty. That is why we have to invest in social protection. That means food, education and basic services – especially for the poorest.” [...]
"This Commission knows that the future we want to chart...is people-centred, inclusive, equitable and sustainable. It is a future where a healthy, resilient environment can support present and future generations. These goals must be one and the same."
It's important to note that the tax was only a proposal. Enacting something this wide-reaching would be difficult and would likely have numerous barriers. But the fact that it's being discussed at all is certainly noteworthy.
(H/T: Deseret News)