As you wind up your sessions at this historic 75th Anniversary of the United Nations, we want to convey some of our vital concerns with the expectation that moving forward the United Nations will hear and act on these concerns in the spirit of the UN Charter forged 75 years ago.

Urgent Letter from Asian Movements to UN GA and Member States


30 September 2020

Dear all Member-States and the UN General Assembly,

We are movements and communities from Asia, a region that is home to more than two-thirds of humanity that is now facing unprecedented suffering brought about by the multiple crises: the COVID19 global pandemic, the global economic recession, and the climate crisis.

As you wind up your sessions at this historic 75th Anniversary of the United Nations, we want to convey some of our vital concerns with the expectation that moving forward the United Nations will hear and act on these concerns in the spirit of the UN Charter forged 75 years ago – "to build a better world defined by peace and equality," and in keeping with the new UN declaration launched September 21, 2020 to build a post-pandemic world that is more equal and protects the planet.

We need decisive actions, not only by individual governments but by the whole international community, that rise to the gravity of the emergency situation people around the world are facing today.

Among several urgent issues that directly affect the ability of our peoples and communities not only to survive the multiple crises but also to overcome injustice and inequality, and ensure a safer planet, we present here the following urgent calls:

1. ON PUBLIC DEBT

The staggering problem of public debt – both external and domestic – has been a continuing problem even before Covid19 and this new round of economic crisis that the global health pandemic has generated. Countries were expectedly unprepared for this new virus, but the responses have been profoundly hobbled by highly inadequate and flawed public health care systems. The state of public health care systems in many countries, especially in the South, bear the marks of decades of inadequate financing as debt payments have taken a big chunk of national budgets, and the implementation of neoliberal economic development paradigms including debt-related austerity measures and fiscal policies, and privatization and commercialization of public service programs and institutions such as hospitals.

In the face of the multiple crises of COVID19, economic recession and worsening climate change, we reiterate our demands for unconditional cancellation of public debt, starting immediately with a cancellation of a minimum of four years of debt service – for all countries in need. We urge you to go beyond the narrow frameworks of "debt sustainability" and "debt distress" currently being applied.

We emphasise our calls for decisive steps to comprehensively address unsustainable and illegitimate debt nationally and internationally including a UN mechanism that is transparent, fair and not dominated by lenders. We also demand that international fiscal measures in response to the multiple crises are not extended in the form of loans. The "debt relief" being offered is dwarfed by the volume of COVID19 loans being extended and accessed and are gravely concerned that the pandemic is leading to a much greater debt burden than before.

2. ON CLIMATE FINANCE AND ENDING PUBLIC FINANCE FOR FOSSIL FUELS

It is horrendous that in the midst of great need, many governments and public financial institutions continue to subsidize or finance coal and fossil fuel industries. This is made even more dangerous and illogical given the already devastating impacts of the climate crises and the commitments governments made to meet the Paris Climate Agreement goal of keeping global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Climate action is extremely time-sensitive. We have a narrow window of time that is fast closing to prevent climate change from reaching catastrophic levels. Bolder, more ambitious, and equitably shared climate actions are imperative. People of Asia are on the frontlines of the struggle against what is already a climate emergency. We are under various conditions of vulnerability and face a wide range of climate hazards.

The expansion of coal and fossil fuels energy must stop and a swift and just transition to clean, renewable and democratic energy systems that give primacy to the needs of people and communities must be undertaken. Governments and public financial institutions must lead in this transition and an immediate step that must be taken is to halt the use of public funds that will extend the life of fossil fuel energy.

The delivery of adequate, additional, public and non-debt creating Climate Finance for mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage is as urgent as public financing of measures to fight COVID19, to provide economic assistance for those whose jobs, livelihoods and well being are most affected, and to programs aimed at building more just, equitable, resilient and sustainable economies that are the foundations towards solving the multiple crises.

3. ON TAX and FISCAL JUSTICE and DOMESTIC RESOURCE MOBILIZATION

The multiple crises also underscores the urgency of transforming tax systems with corresponding policies and mechanisms at the national and global level that corrects deep regressivity and gender bias, the preferential treatment for multinational corporations and elites, and structural flaws that enable tax avoidance and evasion and illicit financial flows. We demand more decisive action from governments at a national level and as an international community most especially at this time when we can ill-afford the continuation of undermining public revenues. Furthermore, tax justice and addressing illicit financial flows have positive impacts on governments' propensity for relying on heavy public borrowing.

At the same time, we emphasize that tax justice must be accompanied by government budgets and spending programs that give primacy to the immediate needs of people and communities in the face of the multiple crises, providing essential services, fulfilling human rights and social justice, and addressing inequality.

Public revenue generation and domestic resource mobilization will not succeed without measures to strengthen national and local economies and protect and provide sustainable jobs and livelihoods. There must be a halt to the unmitigated plunder of natural resources and the massive net outflow of wealth from the south to the north that has been taking place for many decades due to domination of our economies by multinational corporations, unfair trade relations, the exploitation of our workers as cheap labor domestically and overseas, the payment of interests on unsustainable and illegitimate debt, among others.

 

In addition, we call for the urgent cessation of all kinds of violent state repression. These constitute direct violations of human rights and have grave implications for public revenues and spending, the environment and climate change, and the abilities of people to leave in peace and dignity.

Signed:

Asian Peoples' Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD)
and the following member organizations:

  • Adivasi Mulvasi Astitva Raksha Manch, INDIA
  • AKSI!, INDONESIA
  • All-India Women Hawkers Federation (AIWHF), INDIA
  • All Nepal Peasants’ Federation (ANPFa), NEPAL
  • All Nepal Women’s Association (ANWA), NEPAL
  • Bangladesh Jatiyo Sramik Jote, BANGLADESH
  • Bangladesh Krishok Federation, BANGLADESH
  • Bulig Pilipinas, PHILIPPINES
  • Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ), SRI LANKA
  • CLEAN (Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Network), BANGLADESH
  • Climate Watch Thailand (CWT), THAILAND
  • Community Development Library, BANGLADESH
  • Debt Watch, INDONESIA
  • DIGNIDAD Coalition, PHILIPPINES
  • Digo Bikas Institute (DBI), NEPAL
  • Environics Trust, INDIA
  • Equity and Justice Working Group Bangladesh (EquityBd), BANGLADESH
  • Focus on the Global South, REGIONAL
  • Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), PHILIPPINES
  • GEFONT Trade Union Federation, NEPAL
  • GITIB, PHILIPPINES
  • Himalaya Niti Abhiyan (HNA), INDIA
  • Human Rights Alliance, NEPAL
  • Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), INDIA
  • Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR), INDONESIA
  • Jagaran Nepal, NEPAL
  • KRuHA (People's Coalition for the Right to Water), INDONESIA
  • Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), REGIONAL
  • Mineral Inheritors Rights Association (MIRA), INDIA
  • mines, minerals & People (mm&P), INDIA
  • Monitoring Sustainability of Globalization (MSN), MALAYSIA
  • Nadi Gati Morcha, INDIA
  • National Fishworkers Union, INDIA
  • National Hawkers Federation (NHF), INDIA
  • National Labour Academy, NEPAL
  • Oriang Women’s Movement, PHILIPPINES
  • Our Rivers, Our Life, PHILIPPINES
  • Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), PAKISTAN
  • Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee (PKRC), PAKISTAN
  • Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, PHILIPPINES
  • River Basin Friends, INDIA
  • Rural Reconstruction Nepal (RRN), NEPAL
  • SANLAKAS, PHILIPPINES
  • Sawit Watch, INDONESIA
  • Solidaritas Perempuan, INDONESIA
  • South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE), REGIONAL
  • SUPRO, BANGLADESH
  • Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), PHILIPPINES
  • Unnayan Onneshan, BANGLADESH
  • Voices for Interactive Choice and Empowerment (VOICE), BANGLADESH
  • WomanHealth PHILIPPINES

Endorsed by the Global Alliance for Tax Justice (GATJ)