Thursday, 6 November 2008

EU position for Doha unsettled by G20 summit

According to observers in Brussels, the G20 summit on 15 November in Washington has thrown a wrench in the works to finalize a common European position for the UN conference on Financing for Development in Doha, Qatar at the end of the month. EU heads of state are meeting in Brussels today to discuss the EU’s positioning at the Washington summit on the future of the international financial architecture. This architecture has an essential impact on the financing for development issues on the agenda in Doha. But the development perspective is low on the radar screen for the G20 countries invited to the Washington summit. And a development perspective is nowhere to be found in the preparatory paper for today’s EU summit.

It is against this backdrop, the EU Council of Ministers is moving towards agreement on its position for Doha. On aid, the question of clear timetables for Member States to implement their commitments to provide 0.7% of GNI in ODA will be left to Development Ministers at the 11 November Council meeting, with certain countries using the current economic context as an excuse to renege on their promises. On innovative sources of finance, some Member States refuse to consider funds raised e.g. through the air ticket levy as additional to their 0.7% ODA commitment, preferring to use these as compensation for declining aid budgets.

The EU position places a strong emphasis on the responsibility of developing countries for mobilizing their own resources for development, giving less attention to ways in which the EU is undermining their ability to do so. Several Member States are opposed to civil society proposals on taxation, such as upgrading the UN Tax Committee to an intergovernmental body, which would give it a stronger mandate on issues like EU tax havens which allow multinational companies to pay lower taxes to developing countries. The EU is also resisting strengthening the FfD follow-up process within the UN, which would help to ensure implementation of agreements reached in Doha.

According to the CIDSE network of catholic aid agencies, the choice is now clear: The EU can seize the opportunity of revisions to the international financial architecture to change unfair global power structures and rules that inhibit developing countries’ ability to finance their own people’s development. Or, it can continue to proclaim grand rhetoric about the impact of the financial, food, and energy crises on the world’s poor, while disregarding the interests of the vulnerable in the scramble for profile at the table of the world’s most powerful. CIDSE will organize a side event at Doha launching a new policy paper on taxation and development.

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