Monday, February 09, 2009

Bruno Gurtner's report to the TJN Council Meeting in Belém on 28th January 2009

What follows is the text of the Report by Swiss economist Bruno Gurtner, Chair of TJN's Global Board of Directors, to the Tax Justice Council Meeting held in Belém, Brazil, on 28th January 2009:

Report of the Chair of the Global Board of Directors

TJN is a success story! When I started to write this report I had just read the latest edition of our Tax Justice Focus with the excellent editorial by our specialist on communication, Nick Shaxson. It’s really worth reading this piece! Nick enumerates a strong series of facts, development and issues where TJN has successfully influenced people and organisations. Here are just a few of the instances on this list:
- Taxation is at the heart of the development discourse now. The Doha Conference itself but also the long preparation phase fixed the idea that development without taxation can’t be successful. And national tax systems must be protected from a harmful international environment. TJN has contributed strongly to this change;
- This is recognized by important international and regional institutions as well as by more and more governments in the South and in the North. TJN is accepted and appreciated as a highly valuable voice by these international institutions;
- Some years ago development NGOs didn’t care about taxation. Now TJN is recognised as one of the most important specialists in this field and we have won the support of many development NGOs;
- International and national medias have intensified their reporting about tax, tax evasion, harmful tax practices, unregulated tax competition and capital flight. TJN is quoted in many of these reports, often at the start of the article;
- TJN has broadened its cooperation with distinguished academic milieus which makes our work more credible and reputable;
- As a result TJN is better able to win funding for our different projects.

The report of John Christensen, the Director of the International Secretariats will highlight in a more detailed manner the different aspects of our work.

But let me also mention some elements of progress we have reached inside our network. After our last Council meeting in Nairobi in 2007 we launched TJN Africa. Even though our African friends face many difficulties and barriers we can see meaningful progress. TJN Africa is well en route.

We have restructured TJN Europe. We have held some promising joint actions and are ready to follow on with other important steps. We hope that these days here in Belém will make possible similar steps for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Different national coalitions have strengthened their capacities and some have formalised their existence, including in the USA, in Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, Scandinavia, and Ireland. Other countries and regions will follow.

Since Nairobi we have intensified our media work, with direct contacts to important journalists and film-makers. We now regularly publish our Tax Justice Focus, we update regularly our website which reach now a high information level. Our tax justice blog brings nearly every day comments and news. This is only possible thanks the enormous commitment of Nick Shaxson.

We have streamlined our internal mail-list-system. We have the broad Intertax-list, freely accessible to everyone interested in our subject, even adversaries. Internally we spread our information through the activist-list which can also be used for internal discussions. Regional and national list exist as well and some also maintain websites.

Major research and communication projects are under way (John will report in details). They have been made possible through funding by foundations, NGOs and governments. This has enabled us to engage researchers. The staff of our International Secretariat has grown. In the next days even an Administrator will start her job. The activity of our International Secretariat is definitely no longer a one-man-show. We have in the meantime a strong team carrying forward our work. We can also count on a strong team of Senior Advisers supporting us in different fields and activities and bringing us fresh impetus for new themes. Some ad-hoc working groups are dealing with special questions.

This brings me to another important point. I’m convinced that we have reached the end of the pioneer phase of our network. Our organization structure is more complex. We must seek new ways of mutual cooperation between all levels. We will be confronted with new challenges. We have to make us fit for these future challenges. We have raised expectations of different institutions which we must fulfil. We have to be accountable to our funders. I hope that our strategy discussion today will be fruitful and this may be a starting point for this new phase in which we will consolidate our existing work and maybe start some new initiatives.

The Global Board held nine phone conferences in 2007 and eleven last year. The Board treats its business in an open and frank way. Invitations, Agendas and the Minutes are always published by e-mail to the activist-list and are downloadable on our file system for all activists. On several occasions we have invited non-members to join our discussion and contribute in their specialised fields.

Unfortunately not all elected Board members have been able to follow the work of the Board during these two years. Some have had to be replaced by others of the same region. We will have to re-elect a new Board later today and we hope to have representation from new regions.

I would like to thank to all my colleagues of the Board for their strong cooperation and enormous engagement. Especially I would like to mention those who have not stood for re-election: Jo Marie Griesgraber from TJN-USA and Nicola Liebert from TJN-De

Last but not least I would like to give thanks to John Christensen and everybody in the International Secretariat for their enormous commitment and the splendid work they do. It is far more than what can be expected in a normal job. I enjoy highly working with you. I enjoyed also to work with all of you in the Global Board, in regional boards, in your function as Senior Adviser or in other roles. I thank all institutions which supported us financially or with other means.

And I hope we will keep on this pace in our work for a better taxation system in a better world.

Bruno Gurtner
Chair of the Board for 2007 and 2008

(Bruno was re-elected as Chair of the Global Board of Directors at the Council Meeting on 28th January 2009. The Board is elected every two years.)

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