Saturday, February 04, 2006

The UN and Global Taxation

The United Nations wants a global tax focused on the Internet, but they don't want to call it that, of course; they want to call it a "Digital Solidarity Fund." To be sure, UN bureaucrats would like to be able to control the Internet (in which case blogs like this one would simply disappear). Here is the latest account of what is going on behind the scenes.

Internet taxes
The Digital Solidarity Fund:
An Internet tax in disguise

By Joseph Klein
Monday, January 30, 2006

The United Nations is known for double-speak. In the UN’s vocabulary, for example, the phrase innovative sources of financing really means global taxes. But the General Assembly outdid its usual Orwellian prose at the 2005 World Summit in New York, when it officially endorsed what it called "voluntary contributions" to an Internet kitty for developing countries known as the Digital Solidarity Fund. This is false labeling. The truth is that the financing mechanism for this Fund relies in large part on mandatory surcharges imposed on high tech companies as a condition to having their contract bids accepted by local governments that decide to participate in this bit of extortion--or as the Fund’s founders so eloquently put it, the "obligations to contribute 1% of the transaction to the Fund is neither subject to interpretation nor negotiation". We will ultimately pay the tab as these companies pass along the cost of their surcharge to its full paying customers. The money raised will supposedly be used to buy computers and Internet access for poor developing nations. Here is yet another give-away program in which good intentions paid for by the West will no doubt be stymied by the realities of corruption and mismanagement that have beset so many of these types of aid programs in the past.

The Digital Solidarity Fund is the brainchild of H.E. Abdoulaye Wade, President of Senegal. Not able to convince the majority of member states to enact an international communications tax to broaden the developing world’s access to information technologies, he worked with mayors in sympathetic cities like Geneva, Switzerland and Lyon, France to bypass the normal route of nation-to-nation treaty dealings. And the idea is beginning to catch on.

A World Summit of Cities and Local Authorities on Information Society was held in Bilbao, Spain last November at which a commitment to "promote digital solidarity by supporting the Digital Solidarity Fund" was adopted as a priority action. The Canadian and U.S. cities of Montreal, Quebec, Gatineau, Denver, Los Angeles, Houston, Nashville, Oakland and, of course San Francisco were part of a coalition of cities that took part in this conference. The participants declared their intent to set "a World Agreement in motion in favor of Digital Solidarity." In their words,"(T)he Digital Solidarity Fund aims at mobilizing financial resources in order to develop a truly sympathetic Information Society." Sympathetic? Maybe computers really do have feelings!

Kofi Annan is all for end-running the standard UN budget process that requires member nation approval because doing so gives the UN more money for its pet programs with less accountability. He certainly would prefer to deal with the mayor of San Francisco than with George Bush. In fact, he does not like the UN Charter’s model of the United Nations as a world organization of member states. As he expounded at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos in a talk he entitled "A New Mindset for the United Nations", Kofi Annan said that his objective as Secretary General "has been to persuade both the Member States and my colleagues in the Secretariat that the United Nations needs to engage not only with Governments but with people." We know from his track record what this means. He is not just interested in talking with people to hear what they have to say. He wants to use friends of the UN to push his expansionist agenda. And he wants to find ways to tax "global citizens" directly with a little help from sympathetic local functionaries, so that the UN can help those whom the UN bureaucrats believe are deserving of our hard-earned money.

Make no mistake about it. The UN has been talking about getting its hands on revenue raised from Internet taxes for years. They are following their usual stealth strategy of getting their way by hook or crook. The Digital Solidarity Fund is their preferred vehicle because it seems so benign. But as the Fund’s advocates have declared, once the "voluntary" mechanism sinks, those in charge of the DSF will move to get it adopted through an international convention adopted by member states and local authorities. The target for this to happen is June 2006.

A new United Nations organization called the Internet Governance Forum will be meeting in Greece during the first or second quarter of this year. Advocacy groups pushing for expanded give-away programs will be on equal footing with government representatives as full-fledged forum participants. Kofi Annan plans to preside. Given the setting for the first session of the UN Internet Governance Forum, one cannot help but think of the Internet taxes hiding inside this Trojan Horse.

Joseph A. Klein, a Harvard Law graduate who has worked as a global technology attorney for more than 30 years, is the author of Global Deception: The UN's Stealth Assault on America's Freedom.

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