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U.N. leaders consider world tax to fund social protection, services

The United Nations building in Manhattan is the official headquarters of the UN since 1952. June 17, 2010 in New York, NY.
The United Nations building in Manhattan is the official headquarters of the UN since 1952. June 17, 2010 in New York, NY.
Sean Pavone Photo,

NEW YORK — Outside the United Nations headquarters, hundreds of people were shouting and waving banners Tuesday that read "China and Russia – No Veto." These people wanted support from the Security Council of the U.N. to oust the President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.

Inside the U.N., another group of civil society leaders demanded a basic level of social security as they promoted a "social protection floor" at a preparatory forum for the Commission on Social Development, which began Feb. 1.

The focus of the forum was "universal access to basic social protection and social services."

"No one should live below a certain income level," stated Milos Koterec, President of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. "Everyone should be able to access at least basic health services, primary education, housing, water, sanitation and other essential services."

These services were presented at the forum as basic human rights equal to the rights of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

The money to fund these services may come from a new world tax.

"We will need a modest but long-term way to finance this transformation," stated Jens Wandel, Deputy Director of the United Nations Development Program. "One idea which we could consider is a minimal financial transaction tax (of .005 percent). This will create $40 billion in revenue."

"It is absolutely essential to establish controls on capital movements and financial speculation," said Ambassador Jorge Valero, the current Chairman of the Commission on Social Development. He called for "progressive policies of taxation" that would require "those who earn more to pay more taxes."

Valero's speech to the forum focused on capitalism as the source of the world financial problems.

When asked where she expected the money to provide all needy people with a basic income, healthcare, education and housing would come from, Fatima Rodrigo, one of the presenters at the forum, mentioned the "very small tax of .005 percent."

She added, "There is plenty of money, we just need to stop spending it on militaries and wars."

"Military spending is the problem," claimed Winifred Doherty, chairman of the NGO Committee on Social Development and organizer for the CSD Forum.

"There is no scarcity of resources. Where do we put our resources? Destroying people and the planet," said Doherty.

This movement for a social protection floor is becoming solidly entrenched in the United Nations' agencies and programs. Some U.N. leaders are calling for the SPF to become the new focus for the U.N., when the Millennium Development Goals are finished — after 2015.

"Despite the global exhortations of the United Nations, the most successful development efforts clearly arise from grass-roots initiatives, often at the individual or family level," claims Vincenzina Santoro, an international economist, in a new book on the family and the Millennium Development Goals.

A report by the secretary-general on poverty eradication includes other methods for helping rural farmers increase their profit margin and their ability to be more self-reliant. The report says, "key among these is improving yields by ensuring that farmers have better access to high-yielding crop varieties, fertilizers, credit, markets and rural infrastructure."

Susan Roylance is the International Policy and Social Development Coordinator for the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society.