For the past two years, Action for Economic Reforms, Jubilee South/Asia-Pacific Movement on Debt and Development and Christian Aid, have been working on building the tax justice network in the Southeast Asia. The idea of creating the network came about out of a preliminary meeting which was convened with an initial idea of creating a tax justice network in Asia. This meeting was held during the Asian Seminar on Tax Justice which was held on August 9 to 11, 2010 in Antipolo City, Philippines. The meeting was composed of representatives from other partner organizations from the Philippines (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines, HealthJustice and South East Asian Committee for Advocacy), Cambodia (Cambodians for Resource Revenue Transparency), Indonesia (Indonesian Corruption Watch, Perkumpulan Prakarsa and Revenue Watch Institute), Thailand (South-East Asia Tobacco Control Alliance) and Vietnam (Justice Initiatives Facilitation Fund). During the meeting it was agreed upon that it would be better to have a focused network first composed of organizations from Southeast Asia. Thus, the Southeast Asian Tax Justice Network (SEA-TJN) was informally established.
The group met again for a second meeting to formally create the network and further define what we wanted to achieve through the formation of such network. Thus, the Southeast Asian Strategy Workshop on Tax Justice was held on March 21-22, 2011 in Pasig City, Philippines. The main idea for the calling of the workshop was to have a more focused research, for capacity building, campaigning around tax justice, addressing regional tax issues and to already begin international campaigning. As a result of the meeting, the participants came up with six principles that will bind us as we create the network: transparency, equity, distribution, progressive tax, how to benefit from taxes, and asserting the sovereign right to taxes. The following issues were recognized: extractive industries, sin taxes, tax competition, transfer pricing, and the informal or shadow economy. In addition, three main lobby targets were also identified: the national government, supra national bodies, and the ASEAN.
In furtherance of the network’s objectives, a Forum on Tax Justice was held during the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum (ACSC/APF) 2011 in Jakarta, Indonesia. The forum aimed to provide the basic principles of tax justice and an overview on taxation as policy area since the participants were attendees of the ACSC/APF who came from different backgrounds. Specifically, the forum served as venue to provide updates on specific tax issues such as tax on mining, tobacco taxes and regressive taxes; and to link up with other groups interested to engage tax justice issues. The forum also served as a building block towards the formal launching of the SEA-TJN.
As a result of these activities, we are now ready to formally launch the network through the first Regional Conference on Tax Justice. The regional conference, which will be held on 27-29 October 2011, will serve as venue for sharing of research findings of partners. Target participants of the conference will include partners and associates of the project and some select experts who will serve as discussants/reactors on the research findings.