Sustainable development requires a 'fiscal revolution'

May 5th, 2014

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Never before has the world enjoyed such abundant resources to realize just and sustainable development for all people everywhere. Yet, never before have these resources, and the decision-making power over them, been so unfairly distributed. As talks over the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be adopted next year move into their final phase, it is crucial that the generation and allocation of financial resources for this endeavor be tackled from a human rights perspective.

A new briefing from the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) and Christian Aid—released for the 11th session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals—sets out the commitments needed to deliver a ‘Post-2015 Fiscal Revolution’ by integrating human rights standards into the design of fiscal policy at both the national and international levels. In so doing, it offers a blueprint for ensuring sufficient, equitable and accountable financing for sustainable development in line with international human rights standards that the vast majority of states have committed to in principle, though rarely honored in practice.

First, ensuring sufficiency of resources requires a range of complementary domestic and global fiscal commitments that, taken together, can unleash at least US$1.5 trillion per year in additional public funding. Second, a fiscal revolution would boost socio-economic equality by more fairly distributing the burdens and benefits of sustainable development financing both within and between countries. Accountability, the third key dimension of this undertaking, requires enhanced transparency, meaningful participation and public oversight of domestic and global tax and fiscal decision-making.

As negotiations over the new sustainable development framework move towards fruition, a once-in-a-generation opportunity has emerged to incentivize governments to take bold steps, individually and in concert, towards a genuinely transformative agenda. The briefing sets out a series of fiscal commitments which CESR and Christian Aid believe should be on embedded in the SDG targets and metrics themselves, in the means of financing these goals, and in the monitoring and accountability architecture required. It proposes six targets, along with associated indicators, to:

  1. Raise sufficient public resources to finance high quality essential services for all.
  2. End cross-border tax evasion, return stolen assets, forgive odious debt and progressively combat tax abuses.
  3. Reduce economic inequality within countries through enhanced use of progressive taxation on income and wealth.
  4. 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.
  5. Ensure the rights to information and participation of all people, without exclusion or discrimination, in the design, implementation, financing and monitoring of public policies.
  6. Guarantee public and judicial oversight of the generation and use of public resources

In light of the information gaps which make fiscal processes opaque, the briefing includes recommendations on how the post-2015 “data revolution” can boost the availability, disaggregation and quality of domestic and cross-border fiscal data. In the lead-up to the third international conference on financing for development, the briefing also proposes several ways to reinvigorate democratic and effective multilateral co-operation to ensure sufficient, equitable and accountable financing of sustainable development.

  • This new briefing can de downloaded in pdf format here.
  • To learn more about CESR's work on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, click here.