Lila Haines says the G8 summit made a good start but left too much unfinished business

June 22nd, 2013

When the G8, the rich world’s leaders, met in Enniskillen this week they asked many of the right questions and came up with some of the right answers. But, while the tax deal they agreed is a big step in the right direction, it leaves major unfinished business. Apart from tax, other issues central to ending the causes of hunger remain unresolved.

Yes, the writing is on the wall for tax dodgers and land grabbers. But the G8 leaders must up their game to seriously tackle the scandal of global poverty and hunger that has gone on for too long.

Enough Food for Everyone IF, an alliance of over 200 organisations, campaigned for the G8 to take decisive action on four big issues: aid, land, tax and transparency. How successful was that campaign? More so than many observers expected, but there is still much to play for.

Tax

The top test of this year’s G8 summit was whether or not they agreed to an ambitious plan to tackle tax dodging that could benefit all countries. Specifically they had to agree to shine a light on phantom firms and support a new standard on tax information exchange from which all can benefit.

The commitment to create new mechanisms to exchange information for the benefit of poor and rich alike is the right ambition but we need a clear timeline. On beneficial ownership – the question of who really benefits from mechanisms like shell companies used to hide investments and profits – the UK is ahead of the rest of the G8 but falls short of what is needed.

It’s progress that more tax authorities will know who owns phantom firms so they can crack down on them. However, a summit avowedly focussed on transparency can’t justify keeping this information secret. And that’s the problem: access to the information to be collected will be limited, with little of it publicly available.

Poor countries battling hunger can’t afford to wait to be included. Future G8s and G20s must urgently finish the job.

Land

A recent wave of large-scale land acquisitions and other commercial investment in agriculture has raised concerns that small-scale producers are being forced from their land, with a subsequent substantial drop in their opportunities to feed their families. Worldwide, around 500 million small farms support almost two billion people – nearly one-third of the global population.

Putting land grabs on its agenda for the first time was a bold and welcome move by the G8. Commitments to improve transparency in land investments and establish partnerships with developing countries to advance land rights in line with UN standards are a step in the right direction.

The litmus test will be whether these efforts truly benefit vulnerable communities rather than open the door to more land grabbing.

The G8 needs to show it will really get to grips with the problem by regulating G8-based companies involved in land deals, and leading more ambitious global efforts to tackle land grabs. G8 leaders must now work towards a truly ambitious global initiative on land by 2015 that gets the right people round the table to smash the wall of secrecy that leads to land grabs.

Aid

In its Budget earlier this year the UK government pledged to spend 0.7 per cent of national  income on overseas aid, the first G8 country to keep the 43-year-old global promise.

The Nutrition for Growth summit convened by the Prime Minister on 8 June pledged an additional £4.1 billion to tackle nutrition. If the promises are delivered they could save the lives of almost two million children – an historic breakthrough in the fight against hunger. We now need to ensure that donors stump up the cash as quickly as possible: hungry children can’t wait.

The IF campaign helped put tackling hunger and the issues that drive it – like malnutrition, tax dodging and land grabs – at the centre of the G8 agenda. We’ve made real progress thanks to the millions of people who have supported the campaign. But there remains lots of unfinished business. The UK presidency deserves credit for putting the right issues on the agenda and making progress in many areas. We urge them to follow up on the unfinished business to help end the scandal of 1 in 8 people going hungry.

Unequal and exploitative free trade agreements and bilateral investment treaties, which prohibit the very policies developing countries need in order to fight poverty, put the prospect of a fairer world in jeopardy.

The potential trade deal between the US and EU would do little to address unequal global trade and investment rules. It could spell more trouble if it is used as a blueprint for further bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations.

What next?

The tens of thousands of people who campaigned with Enough Food for All IF have reasons to be pleased that their hard work has helped ensure the G8 took decisive steps in the right direction. But the campaign is far from over, globally or locally.

In Wales the Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign is turning its attention to what we can do to help end the silent scandal of global hunger. On Tuesday 2 July we will launch an animation in the Senedd showing how Wales can play its part. The message will also be heard loud and clear at events like the Royal Welsh Show and the National Eisteddfod.

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Lila Haines is Chair of Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign Wales. See her pervious articles on this theme on this site here and here.

One Response to:“Litmus tests for the world’s richer nations”

  1. Gordon James says:

    Unfortunately, the UK presidency did not put “all the right issues” on the agenda at this year’s G8 Summit. The British government was criticised by France and Germany for failing to include climate change, an issue that is already threatening global food supplies, on the agenda. As a result, the final communiqué did dedicate a page to climate change, acknowledging that “it is a contributing factor in increased economic and security risks globally” and noting “with grave concern the gap between current country pledges and what is needed”. The G8 governments committed to “increasing mitigation ambition in the period to 2020” and, more specifically, to supporting the United Nations’ efforts to deliver a new global climate change treaty at the Paris Summit in 2015. This committment will have to be far stronger than previous ones made by these governments if we are to have enough food for everyone.

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