Thursday, 10 July 2008

After G8 leaders failed at summit: Pressure piled on UN now

The 2008 G8 Summit in Japan failed to tackle the grievous problems facing the world that are hitting poor people first and hardest, said international agency Oxfam at the summit's end. Leadership must now be shown at key UN meetings on poverty in September and on climate in December. Oxfam International Executive Director Jeremy Hobbs said "never was more urgent action needed by the G8 than this week in Japan. Accelerated climate change, runaway food prices and growing poverty are depriving millions of people of their livelihoods and, in many cases, their very lives. Several governments championed steps to tackle the crucial issues sitting on the G8 agenda, but in the end this summit did not deliver the breakthroughs that are so urgently needed. The consensus reached was shallow at best, especially on climate.”

* On climate change, the G8 endorsed among other things a commitment to halve global carbon emissions by 2050 - but with no agreed baseline year or mid-term targets - and a $6bn pledge to the World Bank for climate investment funds that will come out of existing aid budgets.
* On the food crisis, the G8 promised to reverse the decline in aid to agriculture - but without any numbers - and to support the UN's plans to tackle the crisis. It also pledged to ensure that biofuels would be produced in a way that would be compatible with food security and to accelerate the development of second-generation biofuels.
* On Africa and development aid, the G8 reaffirmed previous promised to provide $50bn in new assistance, half to Africa, by 2010 - although it offered no details on who would do what to reverse the decline in aid since 2006. It also repeated the promise it made 12 months ago to spend $60bn for health.

Oxfam International chief policy adviser at the G8, Max Lawson, said: "The G8 leaders' clumsy attempt to backtrack on their aid promises has backfired. With two years to go to the 2010 deadline, G8 leaders now have to deliver the $50bn in new assistance they pledged at Gleneagles. The world takes these promises seriously even if the G8 leaders do not." On current trends, Oxfam said the G8 will fall $30bn short of the 2010 promise, which could cost as many as five million lives, most of them among the 30,000 children who die each day from causes related to extreme poverty. "The G8 failed to rise to the challenge of a world in crisis, a world that is demanding serious action. We must see renewed leadership in September at the UN Emergency Summit on Poverty and in December in Poland at the vital UN climate talks," Hobbs said.

Geldof: G8 relevance at risk

Union leaders: G8 have abdicated economic leadership at Summit

Trade union leaders from the G8 countries and global labour organisations called on the G8 to address the worsening jobs situation and climate change when they met with the Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda in May. Yet at a time when working people were looking for leadership the conclusions of the economic discussion at the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit fall short of even the limited expectations that many commentators had.

The outcome on climate change and aid commitments have been criticised by civil society organisations and some developing country leaders. Unions share these concerns. In particular the absence of a baseline year for greenhouse gas reductions' targets can only serve to confuse the negotiations on climate change. But also disturbing is the failure of the leaders to address the weakness of the global economy and the likely rise in unemployment that is now being forecast over the year ahead. Whereas the 2007 Heiligendamm summit took the building of the social dimension to the global economy forward, this summit barely addresses the issue. Instead the agenda looks like a business agenda of more rights and compensation for foreign investors and the usual warnings on protectionism.

John Evans, General Secretary of the Trade Union Advisory Council at OECD (TUAC) said "the G8 say in their statement that they wish to enhance cooperation with all stakeholders including trade unions - and yet they have ignored much of what we have called for: coordinated measures to support and rebalance growth, action to create "green jobs" and decent work as well as encouraging workplace agreements between unions and management as part of the action to combat climate change."

The only positive notes in the view of the unions are the moves forward on health and developing the health workforce and in particular the decision to establish a mechanism for monitoring meeting commitments to universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention treatment and care by 2010. The decision to set up a group to report on the food crisis and calls for stepping up anti-corruption measures, international tax enforcement and education are also needed commitments that will be followed closely by the unions.

For further information: See Trade Union Statement to G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit - July 2008: Responding to the global crises: the role of G8 leadership

Monday, 7 July 2008

G8 outreach to Africa

Oxfam: G8 summit must set out clear action plan

The rich world's response to the global food crisis has been inadequate and at times hypocritical, said Oxfam on the eve of the G8 summit and ahead of a critical vote in Europe on biofuels. New research suggesting that the rush for biofuels has pushed food prices up by 75%, adds to already strong evidence that biofuels are doing more harm than good. Also due today is the delayed Gallagher enquiry into the impact of biofuels. Oxfam is urging the UK government to scrap its target for biofuels and MEPs to reject the proposed EU target of 10% of energy from biofuels by 2020.

The World Bank estimates that increases in prices of wheat, rice and maize cost developing countries $324bn last year alone - the equivalent of three years global aid spending. Food inflation has wiped out 10% of the GDP of Senegal, Haiti and Sierra Leone, and around 5% of GDP in Vanuatu, Mozambique and Eritrea, according to latest World Bank analysis. "Food inflation might cause pain in rich countries - but it is shattering entire economies and people's lives in developing countries," said Oxfam’s Phil Bloomer. "At the G8 this week world leaders need to do much more to show they are ready to tackle this food crisis in the long term. They must reiterate their promises to increase aid - needed now more than ever - and make the necessary reforms including increasing investment in agriculture in poor countries, targeting women and small farmers."

Also, the European Commission are proposing to offer €1bn of unspent agriculture funds to help farmers from poorest countries boost their food production. Oxfam welcomed the urgently needed money, but said the Commission needed to go further and seize the opportunity to reform. "Rich countries' farm subsidies have systematically undermined production in poor countries. While prices are high they should take the chance to end the unfair subsidies once and for all. Aid should not distract from the urgent need for fundamental root and branch reform in the EU and US," said Bloomer.

The World Trade Organization is due to meet later this month but Oxfam challenged the assertion that the proposed global free trade deal would alleviate the situation and said that rapid liberalisation, without sufficient flexibility for poor countries, would further expose developing countries to shocks.

Concerning aid to Africa, G8 negotiators remain deadlocked and were expected to continue discussions late into Monday night, sources have told international agency Oxfam. The text of the development communiqué still lacks a reiteration of the key promises made in Gleneagles to give $50bn extra in aid by 2010 and for half of this, $25bn, to go for Africa. Some negotiators also continue trying to back away from the 2007 commitment on extra aid for health. “We must see the $50bn aid promise back in the communiqué”, said Max Lawson of Oxfam International. “With entire communities reeling from the rapid increase in food prices, aid must go up, not down. These late night negotiations will be a test of Japanese leadership and G8 resolve.”

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Push for Decent Work in development and poverty eradication

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is using a new United Nations Development Cooperation Forum (DCF), meeting in New York this week, to push for decent work in development and poverty strategies. An ITUC Statement to the first Biennial Development Cooperation Forum of the UN's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) sets out a series of steps which need to be taken to make aid and poverty eradication effective. "At the policy level, the UN has made great strides in mainstreaming decent work into its development agenda," said ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder. "The recent adoption by the International Labour Conference of the ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalisation gives fresh impetus to putting the policy to work in reality".

In keeping with the new ILO Declaration, the ITUC Statement calls for the decent work agenda to be fully incorporated into National Development Strategies (NDSs), based on the four strategic objectives of promoting employment, social protection, social dialogue and rights at work. Special emphasis is placed on gender equality and non-discrimination as drivers of economic and social development. The ITUC further calls on multilateral institutions as well as bilateral and multilateral development actors to harmonise their policies with sustainable development objectives, including decent work objectives, and to ensure that policies support rather than undermine these objectives. The Statement points out that aid programmes should fully respect the principles of national policy space, democratic ownership, removal of tied aid and ending regressive economic policy conditionality.

The ITUC's push for decent work in development will gain further momentum at two important international events later this year, the September meeting in Accra on aid effectiveness, and the conference on financing for development in Doha in November.

Concerning the Development Cooperation Forum itself, the ITUC believes that this new ECOSOC body should become the key global forum for discussing development cooperation, and that the ILO in particular should have a key role in it to ensure that decent work is fully integrated. The DCF should set the agenda on development and aid effectiveness, and operate as a multi-stakeholder policy Forum involving bilateral and multilateral donors and institutions, UN specialized agencies, and civil society organisations including trade unions. It should complement the existing policy dialogues of other relevant for a such as OECD-DAC and the Financing for Development (FfD) process, with development cooperation and development effectiveness as its core mandate, and with a remit to resolve issues of policy coherence with respect to development cooperation.

Development Cooperation Forum: We have reached a critical juncture, Ban says

The United Nations has reached “a critical juncture” in the implementation of its development agenda, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, with soaring oil and food prices, turmoil in the financial markets, inequality and climate change all threatening to strike hardest at the world’s poorest people. In a message to the opening of the annual high-level segment of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), held at UN Headquarters in New York this week, Ban said urgent collective action was needed, particularly to address imbalances in the global economy. Scepticism about globalization is widespread, amid concerns that it is leaving the most vulnerable behind and increasing economic security among the middle classes worldwide, Ban added, in a message delivered by Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs. “No social or economic order is secure if it fails to benefit the majority of those who live under it,” he said.

“From this perspective, we all should have serious concerns about a system whose wealthiest 400 citizens command, as a group, more resources than its bottom billion. Yet we also need to beware of the risks of a severe backlash against globalization, which could significantly curtail the opportunities and benefits of a more closely integrated world.” The Secretary-General said this session of ECOSOC, especially its Development Cooperation Forum, should give new impetus to achieving economic growth, social development and environmental protection in an integrated fashion.

In a separate message to the Forum, delivered by Thomas Stelzer, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, Mr. Ban voiced concern that development assistance is still provided inconsistently. “Some countries enjoy the attention of the international community, while others find it harder to attract funding. As a result, some countries receive less aid than would be expected on the basis of their needs or performance.” Aid is also spreads unevenly between sectors, he said, with agriculture experiencing a marked decline in aid in recent decades, “a particularly worrying trend” given the soaring prices of foods and other basic commodities. He noted that stronger mutual accountability was one way to develop a more balanced relationship between donor and receiver countries, and added that increasing South-South cooperation and private philanthropy were welcome moves. – ECOSOC’s high-level segment, which includes many round-table discussions, policy dialogues and debates, is scheduled to run until Thursday.