A French campaign against tax havens was launched by a coalition of CSOs and trade unions in September 2009 ahead of the G20 Pittsburgh summit. Called ‘Stop tax havens’ they wanted to demonstrate that much of their economy was built on making use of tax havens via the investment decisions of banks, multinationals and hedge funds.

This was an empowering message as it meant that citizens could contribute to ending tax haven secrecy by pressurising domestic companies to be more transparent about their activities. At a time of global economic instability and looming budget cuts, it was also important to show how both developed and developing country budgets lost out due to tax havens.Therefore there was a strong self-interest incentive for government action as well as a moral one: tackle tax havens and governments would gain more money!

The campaign has a website so people know where to go to get information.They have clear policy recommendations and kick-started with a public petition that has so far collected 50,000 signatures.They identified four different stakeholders – citizens, trade unions, leaders of companies and local councils – and tailored messages and activities to each. In addition to signing the petition, hundreds of citizens have written to their banks to ask about their activities in tax havens. New technology has helped connect activists across France by using a ‘Google map’ that identifies other interested people in their area.

Local authorities have been asked to get involved by requiring companies tendering for service contracts to present their accounting activities on a country-by-country basis.This approach has already been endorsed by eight French regions, and the capital Paris may be next on the list! All of these activities are designed to build up the pressure for change in advance of the G20 summit (which France will host) and the opening of the French presidential election in 2011.

Reference no.15