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Unity in diversity: the G20 under the Brazilian presidency and the opportunity to join forces to reshape the global economy

At the heart of the recent Civil 20 (C20) inception meeting in Recife, Brazil, lies an unprecedented opportunity to champion a rights-based approach to economic policy. CESR views this moment as crucial for promoting multilateral reforms and advancing economic justice through the lens of human rights. 

By María Emilia Mamberti, CESR’s Co-Director of Program.

Last week we traveled to Recife, Brazil, to attend the inception meeting of the “Civil 20” (C20), one of the engagement groups of the G20 which gathers civil society organizations to come together and engage with the forum. This year, with the G20 being hosted by Brazil, the C20 is presided by ABONG (Brazilian Association of NGOs), with the organization Gestos acting as the C20’s Sherpa. Ten working groups, which gather thousands of organizations from Brazil and abroad, have been put in place to come up with recommendations for G20 governments in different policy areas. The inception meeting provided opportunities to connect with local and international organizations, liaise with government and other engagement groups’ representatives, and strategize around the priorities to bring forward to government leaders in the coming months. 

At CESR, we believe that the Brazilian Presidency of G20 presents a unique opportunity to advance a rights-based approach to economic policy, in a context in which multilateralism is in need of urgent reforms. Brazil has made the fight against inequality one of its key priorities. If we are to take the realization of human rights for all seriously, tackling inequality cannot wait any longer. We live in a moment of unbearable inequality. According to Oxfam, the wealth of the five richest men has doubled since 2020, while five billion people were made poorer during the same period. Economic inequality intersects with other forms of inequality, such as those related to gender and race, further impairing the full exercise of human rights for a big part of the world’s population.

Fortunately, the status quo is not a law of nature, and much can be done about it. Deliberately using tax to tackle inequality is a key measure to change the current system. In fact, the Brazilian presidency of the G20 has opened up concrete and crucial agendas in the realm of taxation, long demanded by CESR and its allies. First, Brazil is discussing the possibility to advance in a coordinated, international approach to tax wealth. Supporting this initiative is key to redistributing wealth and reducing socioeconomic inequality sustainably, while preventing corrosive tax competition. The proposal similarly has a huge potential to promote gender equality and combat other expressions of intersectional discrimination.

Civil society organizations should further demand all G20 countries, many of which have been blockers in negotiations towards a United Nations’ Convention on Tax (UNTC), to work towards the drafting of the Convention in good faith, in line with their duty to cooperate internationally (see our analysis of why such a Convention is necessary here and here). It is essential for the G20, which has given the OECD its current mandate in the international tax agenda, to recognize the limitations of the work done under the Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS), in particular for developing countries. The inclusion of the African Union to the G20 this year gives an additional reason and opportunity for G20 members to explicitly and soundly support the UNTC, given the leadership that African countries, in coordination with one another, have had in demanding that the UN becomes the leading body on international taxation. 

Finally, the Brazilian Presidency has pledged to increase public participation in the G20's financial track. While the bloc is still far from being universal and fully legitimate, Brazil's pledges and priorities can certainly help align the demands of those most affected by the decisions made by G20 members with the group's actual work.

The momentum for a coordinated approach to taxing wealth and to support the ongoing negotiations for a Framework Convention on Tax expand to many other international fora in which civil society organizations can play a leading role. For example, the recently launched Latin American Platform on Tax has made tax progressivity one of its key priorities. Its upcoming meeting in May in Chile will provide a huge opportunity to align demands and efforts done at the G20 and in the Platform. 

Similarly, next week, the second meeting of Ministers of Finance and Central Bank governors of the G20 will take place in Washington DC, in the context of the Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group. Given that many organizations from different sectors, including the gender and climate justice movements, there is a relevant opportunity to address G20 members other than Brazil to demand they support longstanding claims of the global civil society to recognize the UN as the most legitimate and inclusive forum for tax cooperation, and to fight the inequality crisis through taxation decisively.