Monday, September 17, 2007

Another World IS Possible!

Ahmed Hassan Odhowa

"Another world is possible." This must have been the most written phrase in the World Social Forum (WSF2007). One of the participants in the forum asked a group of young guys who were having a drink in a restaurant in Kasarani (the venue of the forum) what the phrase meant. The answers started flowing: a world without corruption, wars, poverty, HIV/AIDS, diseases, refugees, inequality, crime, insecurity, discrimination, etc – the answers were never-ending.

Having fully participated in the launch of Tax Justice Network for Africa, I listened to every answer keenly, but none of the respondents mentioned anything to do with taxation.

Fortunately my newfound colleagues at the Forum were busy arranging for the launch of the Youth Tax Justice Network, and I sighed with relief because the birth of the Youth Tax Justice Network will for sure encourage young people, both students and out-of-class youths, to engage in issues of justice in taxation. This engagement will open up the minds of the youth all over the world to take their leaders to task on poor tax policies, tax evasion, corruption and other related financial malpractices. I saw the reawakening of youth on issues that they never care to discuss.

The Youth Tax Justice Network could not come at a better time than today. As corruption eats up our societies and economies ail because of tax evasion, governments cannot deliver the services to its citizens because the tax collected from the poor fellow is not reaching the treasury. Meanwhile, multinationals exploit tax loopholes to reduce their tax obligation to the state. In this situation, the Youth Tax Justice Network can be the only saviour of future generations.

For me as an individual it has been an opening of a chapter that I never cared to develop interest in. After the Forum I decided to do some homework on the issues. I decided to talk to a few businessmen on their tax obligation to the state. Mr. Patel* who owns a textile shop in downtown Nairobi, showed me two receipt books which he keeps for his daily sales. The major sales in a day are entered into a fake receipt book that is never shown to the tax officers, but the minor sales are entered into the genuine receipt book which is given to the tax officers at the taxation period when they come calling.

I asked him why he has to do that. His answer was quick and to the point. “Why should I pay tax to enrich another person?” he asked, “while I get nothing in return for my hard work?” he continued. Then he willingly advised me to learn the trick of avoiding tax if I ever wanted to be a successful businessman in Nairobi.

Curious about what Mr. Patel had told me, I decided to visit the offices of the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) located a kilometer away from Mr. Patel’s shop. I went straight to the domestic taxation department on the 21st Floor of the Kenya’s tallest building.

I sat on an empty seat at the pavement and pretended to be confused and needing help. After a short while a neatly dressed gentleman approached me, but before I could say anything, a lady wielding a VAT book interrupted him. The gentleman called the lady to his office and stamped the book before she parted with something small. He sheepishly told me to have a word with her. So off I went with her. The story she told me reminded me what Mr. Patel had told me some hours before.

With such tricks of tax avoidance and corruption in the taxation system, it is extremely hard for any justice in taxation to be found unless we all join hands and build a vibrant network. The scale and magnitude of such corruption is higher in the more established corporations and multinationals.

While we must advocate for tax remittance we must equally lobby for the enactment of legislation to seal the loopholes which allow for the misuse of taxes paid by the honest citizens of our nations. We should, as the network, be able to disseminate information about tax justice.

Let us promise to inform and recruit more members to the network. Before this year ends I promise to influence at least 50 youths in Kenya to register as members. Hold me on this one?

Let’s build YTJN!!!!!

Note: These are true incidents and for privacy Mr. Patel is not the real name of the businessman I talked to.

Ahmed Hassan Odhowa will graduate in December 2007 from Kenyatta University with a BA in Environmental & Community Development. He currently works with the Kenya Red Cross Society as a Field Food Monitor.

The STOP Firestone Coalition

By Tim Newman

In response to the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company’s abuses in Liberia, an international coalition of human rights, labor rights, environmental and African solidarity organizations have formed the Stop Firestone Coalition. The coalition is composed of both US and Liberian-based organizations that are in constant contact with each other to develop strategies to hold Firestone accountable.

In the US, we have focused on using the media to increase awareness about Firestone’s use of child labor, abuse of worker’s rights, environmental destruction and unfair tax policies. Since consumers in the US have enormous potential power over corporations based in this country, we have been working to encourage them to show solidarity with communities in Liberia by putting pressure on Firestone to behave ethically.

On July 26, 2006, Liberia’s Independence Day, the Stop Firestone Coalition organized a national day of action where people across the country delivered protest letters to their local Firestone Autocare Centers. This year on July 26th, we sponsored a national call-in day to Firestone headquarters. We are also working on a Stop Firestone Picture Protest where supporters take photos of themselves holding a “Stop Firestone” sign and post them online. The photos will then be delivered to Firestone headquarters (more info is available at

In between these days of action, we have organized a number of e-mail actions and used online technologies to do outreach to new supporters. Additionally, we have also been increasing our outreach to organizations in Japan, where Firestone’s parent company, Bridgestone, is based.
Firestone wins Public Eye Award

In January of 2007, based on the nomination by the International Labor Rights Forum and Friends of the Earth-US, Firestone was awarded the Public Eye Award for Worst Global Corporation. This annual award presented by Swiss NGOs opposite the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland helped to boost the international awareness of the campaign. Alfred Brownell of the Liberian environmental law group, Green Advocates, was there to accept the award on behalf of the coalition.

Union Elections and Court Case Success

Two big victories in the campaign came recently when a new democratic, independent leadership of the union representing Firestone rubber tappers (the first in Firestone’s 81 year history in Liberia) was voted in on July 8, 2007. Additionally, the judge in a lawsuit filed by the International Labor Rights Forum against Firestone in US courts rejected Firestone’s motion to dismiss the case and gave an order for the case to move forward on child labor claims.

A Role for Young People

Young people around the world play a particularly important role in this campaign. Since Firestone is directly exploiting youth and denying young people of their right to education, students in other countries can remind the company and their own communities how important educational opportunities are for the future. Getting involved in an intergenerational corporate campaign can also be a crucial entry point for young people into the global justice movement. By collaborating with a broad range of organizations and networks on a campaign like the Stop Firestone campaign, young people can learn valuable organizing skills and provide new and creative ideas for more seasoned campaigners.

While important gains have been made, there is still much work to be done in the campaign. It is our belief that by coordinating closely with our partners in Liberia and bringing together groups from a wide range of issue areas that we can increase the pressure on Firestone and institute real change for workers.

Visit the campaign at and take action! If you're a student and want to get involved, check out the student action kit. Also feel free to e-mail us at

Tim Newman is Campaigns Assistant at the International Labor Rights Forum.

News from the UK: War on Want's Youth Tax Justice Focus

By Anna Morser

War on Want kicked off its campaign to Stop Corporate Tax Dodging in May with the production of a leaflet outlining the problems caused by corporate tax dodging that contains an action card for supporters to send to Prime Minister Brown.

This summer, War on Want has taken the fight for tax justice to Britain’s music festivals, including Glastonbury, Rise, and Wychwood. Despite inclement weather and knee-deep mud, hundreds of festival-goers signed the “Who pays?” action card calling on PM Gordon Brown to stop corporate tax dodging.

War on Want is also reaching new audiences for its tax campaign through websites such as MySpace ( and Facebook (search groups for War on Want or click here). Young campaigners can also join our Youth Activist Network and request action cards and materials so they can campaign locally, and the tax campaign will be highlighted in the next YAN newsletter.

Anna Morser works for War on Want, a UK-based organisation fighting poverty in developing countries in partnership and solidarity with people affected by globalisation. War on Want campaigns for workers' rights and against the root causes of global poverty, inequality and injustice. They are also a member of the Tax Justice Network; for more info on their campaign to stop the global tax dodge, see

Partnership with the Tax Justice Network for Africa

The world will be an ideal place to live if and only if everyone has access to the innumerable resources it possesses. To build such an equitable world founded on principles of social justice, concerted action is necessary on all sides. It is thus in this spirit that YTJN has strengthened its partnership with the Tax Justice Network for Africa. By Smalto Kabuya.

The Youth Tax Justice Network (YTJN), recently launched in January at the World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, has just taken an important step forward in its work for a more just and equitable world by forming a partnership with the Tax Justice Network for Africa (TJNA).

TJNA is a civil society organisation, part of the international Tax Justice Network whose scope of activities includes a range of subjects relating to tax justice. Like the Youth Tax Justice Network, TJNA was also launched at the beginning of 2007. Indeed, the launch was considered one of the most important events of the World Social Forum in Nairobi. TJNA just held the very first meeting of its Steering Committee on June 21st-23rd in Cape Town, South Africa – testimony to its reassuring beginnings.

Wanting to consolidate its efforts and connect them with those of TJNA, YTJN decided it would be useful to submit a memorandum to TJNA’s Steering Committee outlining how the two networks might build a strong partnership. The report, which anticipated significant and diverse collaboration between the two organisations, had four principal sections – a brief overview of YTJN, potential areas of collaboration between the two organizations, support that TJNA could provide for the youth network, and suggestions of priorities for the African research agenda

Why does YTJN want to build a partnership with TJNA?

The Youth Tax Justice Network is a movement uniting students and young people concerned about issues of tax justice. In its general philosophy, YTJN considers young people as more than recipients of information: they are also valuable spokespeople, able to engage positively and effectively in processes of change at national and international levels. As a result, YTJN believes civil society networks must involve young people in the diverse activities that they undertake, allowing them to share their ideas and relevant campaign experience and in return obtain pertinent advice and necessary expertise.

YTJN is still in its initial stages, and thus has concentrated first on establishing channels of communication amongst its members, which currently come from over a dozen countries across the world, including Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Switzerland, Cameroon, the UK, the US, and Austria. Apart from building a website at, YTJN decided to launch a newsletter (pdf) in August 2007 with articles written by its members.

Hoping to increase its membership in the near future, YTJN aims not only to organise larger campaigns dealing with issues of tax justice but also at a later date to establish an organizational structure on continental and national levels. Crucially, since youth form the largest group of the population, actions supported and carried out by informed young people cannot but have a considerable impact. Combined with the hope of receiving important support from TJNA for achieving its objectives, that is why YTJN decided it was important to add its efforts to those of TJNA. The two organizations can support and consolidate the others’ work on tax justice – their common denominator and uniting purpose.

Working Together for Tax Justice

The principle driving both organizations, tax justice, revolves around good fiscal management and is based on the idea that the efficacy of fiscal systems is determined by how and to whom they channel states’ financial resources. The development so wished for by people around the world will not happen except to the degree that first, resource mobilization at the level of the state is subjected to good fiscal policies and second, better fiscal regulation is applied at the international level. As a result, tax justice lies at the centre of all activity aimed towards achieving sustainable, just, and equitable development. It is in this spirit that YTJN is entering into a partnership with TJNA.

In terms of specific areas of collaboration, cooperation between the two organizations will focus on information dissemination and planning joint events as well as consultations on which subjects should be the priorities for debates, research, campaigns, and actions to be taken jointly in Africa. The dissemination of information is important because until now the majority of people in Africa have remained relatively uninformed about issues related to tax justice. At the same time, collaboration on research will be essential and can be enabled through an exchange between the two organizations – YTJN can identify among its members students who are undertaking research on themes important to TJNA, and in return, TJNA can connect YTJN with available expertise.

As a start to the collaboration and to define its research priorities, YTJN created a detailed list of subjects its members judged as priorities for debates, campaigns, and research in the African network. The most important themes that emerged from this list are:

1. Taxation, Representation, and the Rule of Law
2. Governance and International Resource Flows
3. Operation of Corporate Entities in Africa
4. Tax Justice, Debt, and Africa’s Resources
5. Popular knowledge
6. Taxation structures

The memorandum discussed here was well received by the Steering Committee of the Tax Justice Network for Africa who, in its deliberations, took note of YTJN’s pertinent suggestions. YTJN is happy to be working in partnership with TJNA and encourages all young people and students interested in discussing tax justice issues, writing an article, or making suggestions to the networks to write to

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Launch of a Youth Tax Justice Network

At the 2007 World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, students announced plans to build a Youth Tax Justice Network. The network will be a platform for students and other young people to share research and advocacy experiences, helping them to support local campaigns and link in with the wider international network.

Students meeting at the forum – from three different continents – discussed the relative absence of tax justice issues from both their curricula and their activist networks. At the same time, they saw tax injustice in their own communities – under-funded public services, corruption linked to the use of secret bank accounts, and offshore trusts enabling multinationals to hide their profits from revenue authorities.

The Youth Tax Justice Network invites any interested students and youth to join with them, especially in this early stage of building the network. If you would like to get involved or simply learn more, please contact the network at

Overview Resources

* Tax Justice Network's free publication tax us if you can provides a clear overview to tax justice issues. This book offers a guide to the language of international tax policy and shows how professionals profit from abusive tax practices. It also outlines the numerous policy failures that have encouraged the creation of the shadow economy of tax havens and proposes a range of practical solutions to this global crisis.

* Closing the Floodgates provides a follow-on that explains in more detail how capital flight and tax evasion impact development; the mechanisms used to shift capital out of developing countries to tax havens; and the role of the financial professionals and tax havens who profit from such activities. It identifies a range of solutions which countries can adopt to protect themselves from these predatory tax practices.

* TJN's March 2005 report The Price of Offshore estimates that the amount of funds held by individuals in offshore tax havens, to be about US$11.5 trillion. Using this estimate TJN calculated the worldwide tax revenue lost on the income from these assets at 255 billion dollars. Every year. This amount would more than plug the financing gap to achieve the United Nation's Millenium Development Goal of halving world poverty by 2015.

* In 2005, Christian Aid published a report called The Shirts Off Their Backs in which the authors warned that unless the massive gaps in poorer countries' revenues are plugged by responsible tax policies and international action to curb tax havens, the UN's poverty reduction targets will be missed. The Shirts Off Their Backs shows how poorer countries are losing $500 billion a year in revenues to prosperous international tax dodgers.

* Oxfam's 2000 briefing Tax Havens: Releasing the Hidden Billions for Poverty Eradication, which drew attention to the harmful impacts of tax havens on developing countries and identified why their negative impacts are felt more forcefully in the South.