In the implementation phase of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it is important to learn from the mistakes of the past and to truly advance a holistic framework. From DAWN’s perspective, using an interlinkages and rights-based approach to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) might be useful to assess and promote positive synergies. This article offers ideas for achieving this by looking at the example of how tackling illicit financial flows could help the fight against women’s trafficking.
Policy efforts to reduce illicit financial flows (target 16.4) can help to achieve targets to end all forms of discrimination and eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls, including trafficking and exploitation (target 5.1, 5.2 16.2). According to research done by DAWN, the proceeds of women’s trafficking appear to be laundered using the same structures, mechanisms, jurisdictions and enablers as those used for tax evasion and avoidance. Human trafficking combines with abuse of transfer pricing mechanisms applied with the objective of cross-border tax evasion and avoidance and capital flight. Such structures are organized with the knowledge and skills of tax and legal advisors and banks acting as enablers.
Furthermore, trafficking in women, especially for labor exploitation, is linked with the activity of Transnational Corporations (TNCs). In order to grow a distance from the exploitation and trafficking in persons associated to the first links of the Global Wealth Chains TNCs create intermediary entities, outsource the most precarious stage in the chain and then do “outsourcing outsourcing.” In Global Wealth Chains – a concept that is not the same, but has connections with that of a Global Value Chain – the links serve the purpose of hiding, obscuring and relocating wealth, breaking loose from the location of value creation. According to information gathered in the Argentine case, there have been efforts from the government to connect the links of the chain and apply criminal liability to the owners of the big brands. The case study emphasized that greater resources should be devoted to investigate the links between the different outsourced companies that are suppliers to TNCs, otherwise the ones that end up facing legal liability for trafficking in humans will keep on being the smallest links in the chain.
Therefore, demanding regulation of TNCs to ensure compliance with human rights, gender equality, labor and anti-money laundering standards and dismantling the network of facilitators and secrecy jurisdictions will be beneficial not only to reduce global inequality (SDG 10) and tax evasion (SDG 16) but also to combat trafficking networks and the violation of women’s human rights in Global Wealth Chains (SDG 5 and SDG 8).
Moreover, trafficking in persons is both a consequence and a cause of women´s rights violation. The lack of resources to deliver proper public policies that guarantee access to basic living standards is one of the roots of women´s vulnerability to human trafficking networks, as well as to labor and sexual exploitation.
In the current context of economic slowdown it is important to counter the dominant narrative about the lack of resources and that “There Is No Alternative.” For instance, increasing the progressiveness of tax systems (focusing on taxing TNCs and high-income individuals) and controlling illicit financial flows is a step in the right direction to substantially increase state revenue and to allocate sufficient resources for advancing women’s rights and gender equality and sustainable development strategies.
In order to advance these positive synergies, the target to strengthen domestic resource mobilization (17.1) should be implemented linked to target 10.4 (that calls for governments to adopt policies, especially fiscal, wage and social protection policies, and progressively achieve greater equality), and along with target 16.4 and SDG 5. This can be an example about applying the Human Rights principles and approach to tax policy in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Finally, in order to avoid narrowing down the scope of 2030 Agenda, there is a need to counter the narrative that reduces it to national implementation. Many goals are transnational in nature and imply responsibilities for developed and rich countries. This is the case for SDG 10, which aims to reduce inequality between countries, SDG 17, which addresses systemic issues as well as target 16.4 on illicit financial flows. International cooperation should guide the policy efforts to implement those targets and goals, which are critical themselves as well as they are enablers to realize the whole agenda.