Campaigns

ActionAid’s Tax Justice Campaign has taken off in over 20 countries around the world. Take a look at some of the highlights and progress made in recent months.

Hundreds march as ActionAid Uganda launches its Tax Justice Campaign, September 2013
Hundreds march as ActionAid Uganda launches its Tax Justice Campaign, September 2013
Photo: ActionAid

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed at times by the scale of the challenge of fighting for something like a fairer tax system. Let’s remind ourselves then of two things. Firstly, that we’re not alone in this.

From Bangladesh to Nigeria, ActionAid campaigners from 20 federation partners across the globe have been joining the fight for tax justice, as part of ActionAid’s global Tax Power Campaign.

Secondly, that progress is being made all the time towards a time when multinationals will pay their fair share like everyone else. As my good friend, Kenyan campaigner Joy Maghoi once told me, every journey of a thousand miles starts with one step.

May

After we exposed Zambia Sugar (owned by Associated British Foods) for paying ‘virtually no’ corporation tax in Zambia despite making US$123m in profits, the Netherlands government commits to review tax treaties with 23 developing countries and issues a clear warning to ‘shell’ companies that they must prove their Dutch operations are legitimate, or leave.

September

Hundreds of teachers, nurses, police, farmers and MPs march together with ActionAid staff from across the country to launch the campaign in Kampala, Uganda. The protest is followed by a public debate. The government agrees to put all tax treaty negotiations on hold until a framework for fairer treaties is agreed.

October

The Rwandan government announces a reduction in tax breaks for multinationals after a report by ActionAid on the impact of tax incentives in East Africa estimates that Rwanda loses out on at least 25 per cent of potential revenues in incentives and exemptions to businesses

Financial consultancy firm KPMG issue a report, Tax and Morality, acknowledging the reputational risk for companies involved in tax avoidance and the public momentum behind changing the rules. Campaigners are credited with helping

November

A leaked Deloitte paper, Investing in Africa through Mauritius, helps lift the lid on the tax avoidance techniques being used to deprive poor countries of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax through the tax haven island.

ActionAid Zambia staff meet with Vice President Guy Scott, who agrees that Zambia Sugar should not be paying as little as 10% in business taxes while some farmers pay 35%. He proposes a working group to look at tax avoidance, specifically at the examples brought to his attention - a huge step in the start of serious engagement with the government.

December

ActionAid Nigeria and ActionAid Ghana submit evidence to the African Union High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows in Accra as part of investigations into the funds Africa loses through illicit channels. Evidence includes ActionAid’s Barclays and Deloitte reports, ensuring a strong civil society input.

ActionAid Malawi launch their campaign with a protest march of over 300 people and a report on how Malawi’s tax system affects people living in poverty. The Director of Revenue in the Ministry of Finance announces a number of commitments, including a review of tax laws related to harmful tax breaks given to multinational companies.

March

Campaigners in Nigeria hold a silent protest at a meeting of the African Union Finance Ministers, getting the attention of ministers with placards urging action on tax dodging. The Nigerian Finance Minister draws on ActionAid research and analysis to encourage his colleagues to take action.

April

ActionAid Demark begins its month-long Tour the Future cycle tour, cycling the length and breadth of Denmark accompanied by ActionAid Zambia Activista campaigners. Working with local volunteers in each town campaigners build mock tax havens and hold events to raise awareness of multinational tax avoidance and its consequences for developing countries.

After campaigning and advocacy by ActionAid Tanzania, the Tanzanian government cancels the licences of 174 mining companies, citing failure to pay their taxes on time.

May

Hundreds of Zambian campaigners and their partners march against UK listed company KCM, subsidiary of Vedanta after questions are raised about how much tax they pay. The Zambian Revenue Authority responds with a forensic audit of the company’s accounts.

June

The Irish Government begins an analysis of how their tax system affects developing countries, as exposed by ActionAid’s Sweet Nothings report, following the Netherlands’ example.

You can help ensure whoever wins the next election commits to action on corporate tax dodging.

Stand in solidarity with us - Towns Against Tax Dodging

Tilvas Ngosa's picture
Tilvas Ngosa ActionAid Activista campaigner (Zambia)

My name is Tilvas Ngosa. I am ActionAid Activista campaigner based in Lusaka, Zambia. I am proud of being Zambian, especially that it is one of the most peaceful nations on the globe. However I am not proud that despite being the second largest copper producer in the world, two out of three people still live below the poverty line. On the 24th October my country celebrates 50 years of independence, yet there is still a shortage of medicine and poor health service delivery - two hospitals in the capital Lusaka cater for over 13 million people. Truly, poverty is the worst form of human rights violation.

Tilvas marches to the HQ of Vedanta’s Zambian subsidiary KCM as part of a demonstration by ActionAid Zambia and civil society partners.
Tilvas marches to the HQ of Vedanta’s Zambian subsidiary KCM as part of a demonstration by ActionAid Zambia and civil society partners.
Photo: Godfrey Ochieng/ActionAid

Stand in solidarity with Zambia

It doesn’t have to be this way. Developing countries loose three times more tax than they receive in aid each year. My country would be less dependent on donor aid to sustain national development if it received its fair share of taxation from extractive mining companies and from other multinational companies. Increased tax revenues would help fund the much needed health service, education, water and sanitation, and reduce poverty.

This is why I’m asking you to stand in solidarity with campaigners in Zambia and join the Towns Against Tax Dodging campaign. By signing up your local council and making the campaign more visible in your area, you will be building grassroots pressure on your leaders in the lead up to UK elections next year. Your call for tax justice will have a huge impact on Zambia and countries across the globe.

A growing global movement

There is a growing campaign movement in Zambia against tax dodging, led by ActionAid Zambia, supported by the church and civil society. Our most recent protest was against Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), owned by UK mining giant Vedanta. We marched with over 200 concerned citizens to KCM headquarters to present a petition for the mining giant to come clean about its profits and pay its fair share of tax so that we Zambians also benefit from our mineral. Because of our action, the President warned KCM over its dishonesty and the government has begun a forensic audit of KCM’s finances.

Ask your council to support Towns Against Tax Dodging

Dedicated supporters, we know that if we take individual actions, we can make change happen. I am fighting against tax dodging in my community - will you join me and bring your community on board Towns Against Tax Dodging?

Our Mayfair Tax Tour in pictures and film

Natasha Adams's picture
Natasha Adams Tax Campaign Manager

Several months in, our tax tour is gathering steam. This is a walking tour with a difference - we explore the mechanics of global tax dodging by touring Mayfair businesses. If you're confused about how the tax dodgers dodge AND get away with it, Show me the Money is the tour for you.

Most walking tours focus on buildings and history. Show me the Money uses place and story-telling to bring tax dodging to life. We look at the companies ActionAid has exposed, the loopholes they use, and how tax dodging affects people in some of the poorest countries.

Mayfair makes a striking backdrop. As we discuss how tax dodging is driving global inequality, and with it relative and extreme poverty, we're passed by people clad in designer suits driving Bentleys. The routes takes us past landmarks like the Ritz, De Beers diamond emporium and several yacht shops.

The tour has gone down really well so far, with excellent feedback from attendees. Russell Whiting wrote a lovely blog to give his thoughts on the tour. If you use twitter, you can take a look at #taxtour to see what people are saying. The film trailer and gallery above should also give a good idea of what the tour is like.

We've been touring Mayfair since May this year, and we're going to continue to run the monthly tours as long as people want to come. The August tour is full, but tickets are available on Tuesday 9th October and 14th October 6 - 8pm.

Why we're calling for an end to the violence in Gaza

Richard Miller's picture
Richard Miller Humanitarian Director

We’ve all been watching the news about what’s been happening in Gaza with growing dismay over the last few weeks. It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of this ongoing crisis, but we can make a difference by campaigning and calling for action.

Palestinians inspect destroyed houses in the Shejaia neighbourhood, which witnesses said was heavily hit by Israeli shelling and air strikes during an Israeli offensive, in Gaza City July 26, 2014.
Palestinians inspect destroyed houses in the Shejaia neighbourhood, which witnesses said was heavily hit by Israeli shelling and air strikes, in Gaza City July 26, 2014.
Photo: © Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto/Corbis

Since 2007, ActionAid has been working to support marginalised communities in the wider occupied Palestinian territory.

In this current escalation of violence ActionAid believes that the killing, destruction and displacement must end. Israel must stop all attacks on Palestinians. Armed groups in Gaza must stop launching rockets into Israel.

Everyday we are seeing the human cost of the violence that is unfolding. Grace Nicolas, a colleague from ActionAid Australia who recently visited the region wrote:

“The carnage in Gaza is destroying the lives of women like my friends, and their families. Hospitals are running on reserve fuel supplies and people are without access to clean drinking water. It is unthinkable that it is necessary to remind the world that they are people. Is it because we can’t hear the bombs from our homes?”

Not only is the current violence terrible, indiscriminate targeting of civilians is also illegal under international law.

International action can help. We know that the recent public outcry has been making a difference. We have to keep up the pressure.

Tags: Gaza

Breaking into politics: the real challenges for women

Daphne Jayasinghe's picture
Daphne Jayasinghe Women’s Rights Policy Adviser

Following the cabinet reshuffle in the UK this week and the promotion of 10 women the UK media has been awash with stories of the ‘male, pale, stale’ backlash of disgruntled ousted male ministers and (depressingly) the fashion sense of newly appointed women ministers.

What was, as always, underreported was a meaningful analysis of the barriers to women’s political participation that prevent them from rising to political leadership positions.

Kusum Kumari Tharu, 30 attending a REFLECT meeting in Nepal. Kusum was a founding member of a local womens group, Sarashwati Batchat Samuha, supported by ActionAid
Kusum Kumari Tharu, 30 attending a REFLECT meeting in Nepal. Kusum was a founding member of a local womens group, Sarashwati Batchat Samuha, supported by ActionAid.
Photo: Nayantara Gurung Kakshapati/ActionAid

Women hold only a fifth of the world’s parliamentary seats and they are underrepresented as voters. It goes without saying that this is a reflection of gender inequality and must be addressed in the name of upholding women’s rights. However, it is also a barrier to the effective functioning of democracy.

Out of sight out of mind - political decision making processes are not gender blind

When women are underrepresented in politics, their interests are underrepresented in public life. The way in which government revenue is spent, services delivered and laws are made is never ‘gender blind’. The economist Janet Stotsky points to several studies that show that women economists and voters prioritise government policy which addresses inequality and supports vulnerable people who are poor, unemployed or in ill health.

These are issues that affect women personally. They are disproportionately represented amongst the poor and in the role as carers of children, the elderly and the sick. When the public services they rely on are absent, deprioritised or cut by the male dominated state, women have little or no time available to participate in political life and demand or deliver better government policy.

And so the cycle of women’s political inequality continues

As well as time constraints, the barriers to women’s political participation are also social. Political decision making happens in ‘smoke filled rooms’, pubs and bars, men only teahouses and often late into the night. These are often male spaces where women’s participation is prevented, discouraged or socially frowned upon.

The schmoozing, networking and literal one-upMANship of politics isn’t always an option for women. As deputy leader of the Labour party Harriet Harman put it earlier this month:

"I couldn't hang out drinking in the bar when I was feeling sick from pregnancy or rushing back home to put the babies to bed. Because I didn't conform, the punishment for being different was often nasty."

Threats against women in the public eye

For women in the countries where we work, the consequences of breaking from social norms and into public life can indeed be nasty – life threatening in fact, women human rights defenders globally increasingly face threats and acts of violence.

ActionAid works with women to achieve political empowerment and challenge social barriers through collective action. By creating spaces where women can safely come together and discuss their needs and daily challenges, they often identify solutions. By taking these solutions to local decision makers and demanding change, they enter public life and advocate for change.

What can be done to support women to fight inequality?

In a community we work with in Nepal, this collective action has led to the establishment of a local government supported community childcare centre. This facility supports women in their childcare work, thereby freeing up their time to participate more actively in politics if they choose to. Thereby breaking (or at least cracking) the cycle of women’s political inequality.

If political leaders really want to end stale, male and pale politics, it is the barriers to women’s equal participation in democracy which need to be addressed. Decision making processes must be more inclusive and women’s multiple roles must be supported and recognised so that they are safe and free to challenge political inequality.

Ideally without having to spend ages thinking about what to wear.

On Wednesday a court in Uganda ruled that UK-listed oil giant Tullow Oil must now pay the country $407 million, after declaring that tax incentives the company had benefitted from were illegal. But this great news is only part of the story of a country starting to stand up for a fairer tax system.

ActionAid Uganda march for tax justice
ActionAid campaigners in Uganda march for tax justice
Photo: ActionAid Uganda

Ugandan revenue authority wins $400m case against Tullow Oil

This week’s ruling is significant as it shows how the world’s poorer countries can take action to ensure they get a fair deal from the multinational corporations that operate there. In the case against Tullow Oil, the company had been granted a tax break as part of an investment agreement with the government – however the court ruled that this agreement with Tullow was illegal, because the individuals that had originally negotiated the agreement didn’t have the authority to do so.

ActionAid campaigners across Africa have been pushing governments to stop giving away harmful tax breaks in the mistaken belief that they encourage investment. ActionAid’s "Give us a break" report showed that developing countries lose out on $138 billion through these deals every year.

Responding to the judgement against Tullow, Arthur Larok, ActionAid Uganda’s Country Director said:
“The Ugandan Revenue Authority’s win over Tullow is evidence that big foreign companies’ self-benefitting accounting practices can be countered and combatted by tax authorities in developing countries. We need our taxes for our own development.”

ActionAid’s campaign pushing tax justice up the agenda in Uganda

This week’s news is just the latest development in a country increasingly moving against an unfair tax system that deprives the government of vital revenues.

In 2013 ActionAid’s international tax campaign launched in Uganda, raising issues of tax justice and how tax avoidance affects people living in poverty. Communities across the country took action and over 40,000 people joined the campaign against unfair tax treaties and multinational companies’ use of tax havens.

ActionAid Uganda research has found that many of the international tax treaties the Ugandan government has signed are leaving the country short-changed. Tax revenue that should finance development is being given away by allowing companies to move profits out of the country at low to zero rates.

Uganda has signed fifteen tax treaties, of which five are still waiting for final ratification, however, ActionAid Uganda’s analysis shows that there is no clear evidence that the country has benefited from the tax treaties already ratified.

Ugandan government rejects unfair tax deals

Responding to the campaign, the Ugandan government has listened to the huge wave of public pressure and announced it will stop negotiating and signing all tax treaties until it has a policy in place to make sure the country is getting a fair deal. This is a huge step forwards in a country where one in fifteen children die before their fifth birthday.

The international campaign against tax dodging is growing. Many of the world’s poorer countries are standing up to unfair tax rules and tax dodging companies to demand they get their fair share.

Join campaigners around the world demanding tax justice and add your voice: