The changing world is toppling accepted orthodox and conventional wisdom. The themes of the past 4 NGO Annual Conferences range from human dignity and safety to climate changes, human rights, and nuclear disarmament. The collection of the issues forms the global health concerns in today’s world. As a result the theme of the 63rd NGO Annual Conference “Advance Global Health: Achieve the MDGs” is directly related to the issue of global health. Looking at things behind the window of international perspective are the truthful eyes of a pure and clean heart. All the tests and challenges mankind face are clearly displayed in the heart of Tao-practitioner. As such, the world has to embark on the program of “achieving global health for world citizens – creating sound legal framework to safeguard human rights”. The advancement and misuse of technology creates serious pollutions and threatens to disrupt the co-existence of mankind and the earth. The contaminated environment, unbalanced ecosystem, escalating green house effects, global climate changes and the endangered biodiversity will eventually hurt us and put to test mankind’s continued existence. What is even worse is people tend to be feeling empty, depressed and anxious in the pursuit of near-term happiness and benefits. This will lead to more reckless exploitation of the nature. The idea of sustainable development was introduced in response to calling for balance of humanity and nature. Ironically enough, the concept was introduced when sustainable development was becoming not so sustainable.
Bian Que Liezhuan of Shiji recorded that Bian Que does not treat 6 kinds of patients. Those who are self-conceit and unreasonable, those who love wealth more than their health, those who do not dress and eat properly, those who are having conflicting qi of yin and yang and weak internal organs, those who are too weak to take medicines, and those who believe in witchcraft not doctors. It is very difficult to cure those 6 kinds of people. The sage cures diseases before they start impacting our body. This is the modern concept of preventive medicine. The same can be applied when we are taking actions to realize global health in 2010 and beyond. We have to build a sound infrastructure, protect human rights and take preemptive actions.
Mankind takes advantage of natural resources for living and in the meantime destroying natural environment. The page of air pollution began when fire was first discovered by mankind. Many disasters in history and the extinction of civilizations were contributed by water and soil erosion and desertification brought forth by deforestation and heavy cultivation. Loulan Kingdom, Babylon, Maya and Phoenicia are among the civilizations destroyed by human acts. Take Loulan Kingdom as an example. Loulan Kingdom was situated along the Silk Road with highly developed agriculture. The civilization reached its peak in the 3rd century. The Loulan people diverted water from Peacock River and Tarim River to irrigate farming lands. Lop Lake was starved of water as a result. A gradual process of desertification began. The acreage of land and the supply of food were on the way down. Loulan Kingdom was perished in 542. Since industrial revolution, over industrialization and urbanization has bred exploitation and heavy pollution, which caused wide disruption to the balance of ecosystem. Big parcels of arable lands have been washed away because of desertification, erosion, and the expansion of non-agriculture land. According to statistics from the United Nations, about 20 million hectares of land lost productivity every year. The rain forests around the world are quickly disappearing. It is estimated that 100 million hectares of rain forests have been torn down and more than 1,000 species of animals and plants went into extinction along with the forests. Population growth and fast urbanization in developing countries only add salts to the injury. The supply of fresh water is becoming scarcer. Over fishing and contamination from man-made trashes and poisonous chemicals have destroyed habitats of fishes and make seafood unsafe. Our health has been threatened. Green house gas has caused climate changes, soaring temperatures, acid rains and pollutions. To sum up, energy deficiency and food insecurity are quickly becoming a reality in our life.
Since human beings are the culprits of pollution and degradation of nature environment, we have to bravely take responsibilities and solve environmental problems with proactive attitudes. It is our responsibility to develop a sustainable future for our offspring. Therefore, we have to strike the balance between economic development and environmental protection, and align our wisdom with the law of nature so as to promote a new economy based upon humanity and sustainability. In addition, mankind has to change hearts and start adjusting the relationship between mankind and nature. We should engage the pursuit of rich inner beauty, instead of material abundance. Only then will the harmonious balance between human beings and earth be restored. And we will be able to participate in the evolution process of the nature.
The change of ecosystem affects our living space. In the social environment, the most important aspect is the quality of life. As evidenced by the Best Countries Survey by NEWSWEEK, which ranked nations based upon a composite index of education, health, quality of life, economic competitiveness, and political environment, we can infer that social health hinges upon the respect for and satisfaction of basic human rights. A nation prospers if human rights are being protected; a nation falls apart if human rights are violated.
The first generation of human rights was centered on liberty rights in the 18th and 19th century and in response to the revolution wars in the Britain, America and France. The purpose was to limit government power so as to protect civilians from being exploited. The background could be traced back to the Humanism in Renaissance, which focuses on human values, concerns and the roles and importance of a human being in the society. The concept of human rights gradually takes root. Not until the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 did the concept of human rights expand to cover economic, social and cultural rights, the so-called second generation of human rights.
In a democratic nation with rule of law, listening to the people, understanding their needs, and adopting reforms accordingly is real democracy and real rule of law. Not a nation is able to escape from the impact of economic crisis. Taxation is the income source of government spending. Fair and legitimate taxation holds the key to a nation’s prosperity. It has been time-tested doctrine that following people’s wishes leads to prosperity while going against the people’s wish breeds ruin. As we look back at the history, many human rights disputes are related with taxation in one way or another. The 13-year American War of Independence was the fight against illegitimate taxation on the US colony by British government. The French Revolution was the result of widespread resentment exacerbated by the inequitable system of taxation. With an aim to increasing tax revenues, Margaret Thatcher introduced poll tax without taking into account the ability to pay. The inequitable taxation system contributed to the downfall of Margaret Thatcher.
The recent judicial and tax reforms are the process of movement towards the balance of government power and civilian rights. It can also serve as the benchmark of societal sophistication. The relationship between taxation and respect for human rights has long been at the core of creating sound legal framework to safeguard human rights. When we look at the history, more often than not, many rises and falls of sovereigns are results of bad taxation. The nation will soon fall apart if it continues to increase tax receipts without regards to its people. At the time when Taiwan is about to enter the second century, we have to speak out loudly the importance of taxation reform and encourage government to take actions so that our nation is able to enjoy peace and affluence well into the next century.
In recognition of the fact that the progression of human history has come to the very important crossroad, we have to speed up the integration and systematic implementation of the millennium development goal objectives of health, justice, equal rights and progress. NGOs and civil societies are very instrumental in realizing MDG goals. The best way to solve conflicts around the world is to exercise love, peace, respect and human rights.
How can non-governmental organizations help achieve the implementation of millennium development goals during the global financial crisis? Let’s start the analysis by examining the reasons why taxpayers are willing to pay taxes. People pay taxes and expect the government to protect their rights. Tax receipt is to balance national budget, not to make money for the government. Therefore, it is important tax agents pay attention to the protection of human rights when assessing taxes. It is imprudent and illegal to have people pay unjust taxes and their human rights violated. If a taxpayer owes more taxes than he can pay, the government will take away his assets. In America, when Internal Revenue Service freezes taxpayer’s assets but the taxpayer can provide enough evidence to support his case, he will be granted a 30-day time window to engage in legal proceedings and the government will rescind the order. The best-case scenario is the government takes assets with enough net values to meet tax liabilities and leaves something for taxpayers to survive on.
The first survey of taxpayer’s pain in Asia has identified 13 pains for government’s reference such as expenses of child care and long-term care for elderly parents are not tax deductible；restriction order on overseas traveling due to owing taxes；hard-to-understand legal proceedings for tax litigation；judge is not familiar with tax codes；administrative court is akin to court of loosing cases；some Asian country has the highest rate of tax dispute in the world；the system of appealing is not working；unscrupulous taxation；taxation without commensurate responsibilities. These are age-old tax problems in the nation and most of the government officers are not brave enough to face the problems and take actions. No wonder they have stayed on the list of taxpayer’s pains.
UN/NGO Association of World Citizens held the 2010 World Summit on Human Rights for World Citizens in April to advocate the advancement of human rights. The theme of the Summit is “Human rights endowed by God, Based upon the people, Rule of law, Protect human rights, Safeguard the earth”. I was chairman and chief executive officer of the Summit. As of today, the Summit has received more than 137,000 articles and 12,000 congratulatory notes from 11,500 organizations in 196 countries around the world. Wide range of thoughts and practical ways have been presented and shared with the world.
Rene Wadlow, vice president of Association of World Citizens, once said: “Sometimes human right seems like a very legalistic concept far away. In reality, it is something that deals with the heart and the mind of each individual in the way in which they live, deal with the government and their neighbors, and deal with their families.” This is such a classic text. Everything in the world is demonstrating that one will never be bale to feel the pain and torture of another one, if one has not been put in the same shoes. This is a philosophical topic worthy of lifetime pursuit of answers. We would like to propose the following action plans.
Non-governmental organizations and civil societies should work hand in hand and play a leading role in global economy by encouraging policies based upon the people and ruled by law, promoting and protecting human rights, and facilitating tax reforms. There is a serious tax dispute in Asia recently. Taxpayers have overpaid taxes due to government’s errors. When the overpayment has been returned, the taxpayers, some of which are lawyers, showed no sign of happiness. As long as the tax agents have abided the laws, the erroneous tax bills could have been withdrawn long time ago. But tax agents refused to admit mistakes and the taxpayers were forced to engage in series of appeals, litigations and lawsuits. Enormous administrative and judicial resources have been wasted and high social costs incurred. This is an example of how people have to sacrifice and waste life in a nation without sound taxation system based upon human rights.
As a result, scholars, experts and congressmen have, with a heart of patriotism and loving people, repeatedly called for nations to learn from history and avoid repeating same mistakes of collecting illegitimate taxes. It is also expected professional accountants should not be absent in the march towards realizing global health. Instead, they should, with their professional training in finance and tax and the duty to maintain orders in economic society, take leads and play proactive roles to create a fair and reasonable legal framework to safeguard human rights. A new world of happiness, peace, security and affluence will emerge. As Ban Ki-moon has said publicly in a speech earlier this year “We must not fail the billions who look to the international community to fulfill the promise of the Millennium Declaration for a better world. Let us meet in September to keep the promises.”