Liz Nelson ■ Policies not pledges will protect women from the two-headed climate and care crisis
Now would be a good time to fundamentally shift the narrative in mainstream thinking on advancing women’s and girls’ rights; to drill down to the economic roots of human rights failures. Year-on-year hardwired economic policies harm women and girls in their failure to address inequalities. The scale of the challenges requires, and must be underpinned by, sustainable solutions – not pledges, philanthropy and donations.
Progressive tax and a seismic shift in the way sovereign taxing rights are allocated provide a sustainable means of halting and reversing over time harm to women’s well-being and development.
Our State of Tax Justice Report 2021 estimated annual tax losses of US $483 billion worldwide. The report reveals “multinational corporations are shifting US$1.19 trillion worth of profit into tax havens a year, causing governments around the world to lose US$312 billion a year in direct tax revenue.” At the same time US$171 billion a year is lost to offshore tax evasion related to financial wealth. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
International Women’s Day is a good time to demand rights for women and girls. For governments – the primary duty bearers for advancing human rights – and for international finance, it is time, again, to have a reckoning of national and global economic, social and cultural policies failing to advance the rights of women and girls or, that perpetuate the long established structural and systematic inequalities and discrimination.
This year the United Nations CSW (Commission on the Status of Women) has set its priority theme as:
“Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes.”
The Commission, scheduled for 14 –25 March, will also review an earlier focus on Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work.
The climate crisis presents a present day and existential risk for all people and our planet – women and girls experience keenly when homes, livelihoods, infrastructure are destroyed or damaged by either gradual attrition or by catastrophic events. Add to this the burden of care work which falls so often to women and girls, their rights become a zero-sum game – benefits for economies dramatic. In fact, worse than zero, in their subsidising of economies women and girls are ‘disadvantaged by loss to education and by loss of earning opportunities.
A 2018 report from the International Labor Organisation (ILO) states that women:
“Perform 76.2 per cent of the total amount of unpaid care work, 3.2 times more time than men…Estimates based on time-use survey data in 64 countries (representing 66.9 per cent of the world’s working-age population) show that 16.4 billion hours are spent in unpaid care work every day. This is equivalent to 2.0 billion people working 8 hours per day with no remuneration. Were such services to be valued on the basis of an hourly minimum wage, they would amount to 9 per cent of global GDP, which corresponds to US$11 trillion (purchasing power parity 2011)”.
At the same time the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change, points to approximately 3.3 to 3.6 billion people living “in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change.”
Recovering the lost tax revenue reported above would be transformative; not just because of the scale, but the opportunities for governments to address the impact of the climate crisis and the burden of care from women and girls.
Global feminists through the auspices of the Women and Gender Constituency and Women Rights Caucus ↪NOTEThe Women and Gender Constituency is one of the nine stakeholder groups of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), consisting currently of 33 women’s and environmental civil society organizations and a network of more than 600 individuals and feminist organizations or movements focusing on gender equality and women’s human rights to achieve climate justice., have linked the IPCC report with their demands for UN CSW. These demands highlight the need to address the failures of COP26 and importance of revenue for financing climate transition. The demands are powerful and emphatic and make clear the threat to women and girls is unfathomable.
The need for a just climate transition, and for women’s economic empowerment, must be driven by fair and inclusive rules on the redistribution of resources. Therefore, tax justice advocates add to their call for gender justice the creation of a UN tax convention and an intergovernmental tax body under the United Nations.