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Maximum Available Resources, Non-retrogression
and Minimum Essential Levels in Tax Policy
This is the second in a series of advocacy tools produced by RightingFinance to assist education and
dissemination of standards on tax policy and human rights contained in a report produced by the UN
Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.1 (Unless otherwise noted, textual references
in the text are from that report).

To progressively
realize
economic,
social and
cultural rights
entails a
prohibition
of deliberate
retrogression.

Normative basis
Maximum available resources: States must
devote the “maximum available resources” to
ensure the progressive realization of all economic,
social and cultural rights as expeditiously and
effectively as possible, even during times of severe
resource constraints, whether caused by a process
of adjustment, economic recession or other
factors. This principle should guide the State’s
decisions and priorities in generating, mobilizing
and allocating resources in order to permit the
realization of human rights. The obligation of
progressive realization independent of economic
growth also exists; it requires the effective use of
available resources, including potential resources
that could be raised through reasonable efforts,
such as taxation measures and international
assistance and cooperation.” (para. 25)
Non-retrogression: “The obligation to
progressively realize economic, social and

cultural rights entails a prohibition of deliberate
retrogression, namely, of measures that directly or
indirectly lead to backwards steps in the enjoyment
of rights. There is a strong presumption that
such measures are in violation of human rights
standards.
States may only adopt such retrogressive
measures if they can demonstrate that they have
carefully considered all alternatives, including
revenue-raising ones, and that they are duly
justified by reference to the totality of the rights in
the International Covenant on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights, in the context of the full use of
the maximum available resources.” (para. 28)
Minimum essential levels: “States parties to the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights have an immediate core obligation
to ensure the satisfaction of, at the very least,
minimum essential levels of all economic, social
and cultural rights.” (para. 27)

BOX 1

Collecting taxes in the natural resources sector
In a review in 2013, the
Africa Progress Panel
found significant “evidence of undertaxation.”
In Liberia, extensive tax
concessions to foreign
investors involved in ore
projects go far beyond the
arrangements set out in
the Liberia Revenue Code

(LRC),to the point that
the IMF recommended
that if such concessions
came up for renegotiation, the authorities
should aim to harmonize the terms with the
Revenue Code and avoid
tax breaks.

In Sierra Leone, foreign
investors enjoy very
generous concessions on
mining exports (including
royalty rates as low as 0.5
per cent) and only one
of the five major mining
companies operating in
the country paid corporate tax.

In Zambia an Extractive
Industries Transparency
Initiative report found
that, between 2005 and
2009, half a million Zambians employed in the
mining sector were carrying a higher tax burden
than companies.8

In contrast, the IMF
estimates governments
should be able to collect
40 per cent to 60 per cent
of resource rents for mining and 65 per cent to 85
per cent for petroleum.9

Select target paragraph3