Monday, 30 June 2008

Monday, 23 June 2008

New Deal on power needed: Oxfam launches manifesto for tackling global inequality

Spiralling food and fuel prices have signalled the start of a new "age of scarcity" which could drag millions of people into poverty, according to a new book released by Oxfam today. Urgent action must be taken to tackle the huge inequalities that prevent poor people from having access to increasingly scarce resources such as food, fuel and water. "We have entered a new age of scarcity," said Duncan Green, author of the book and Head of Research for Oxfam GB. "Unless we act quickly, the gap between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots' will grow uncontrollably, exacerbating existing inequalities and condemning millions more people to poverty." Published today, From Poverty to Power is the latest of Oxfam's once-a-decade, flagship studies on the state of global poverty.



Challenging the view that progress in developing countries is predominantly driven by changes in rich country behaviour, it instead seeks to demonstrate that change happens from the bottom-up, driven by effective states that are held to account by active citizens. The book argues that predominant economic thinking is not equal to new global realities, and that a "New Deal" on power, the economy and global institutions is urgently needed. At the heart of this approach is empowerment - of poor people in communities and of poor countries in global institutions. "For too long experts have been crossing their fingers and hoping that growth alone will be sufficient to draw people out of poverty," said Green. "The fact that inequality prevents growth from being effective in tackling poverty has been largely ignored. Now it is clearer than ever that the only way to end the gross inequalities that have condemned more than a billion people to linger in poverty is through a massive redistribution of power, assets and opportunities."

The book goes on to argue that success in tackling poverty is critically dependent on how effectively we respond to the growing impact of climate change and rapidly diminishing resources. "Dirty, carbon-hungry growth is no longer an option," said Green "Unless we can find a route to low-carbon growth then we face either catastrophic climate change or serious economic decline. Either way, the poorest will be hit first and hit hardest." In his foreword to the book, Nobel prize-winning Economist Amartya Sen writes: "In telling us what can be achieved by ordinary people through organised action, this book generates hope even as it enhances understanding of what is involved in the removal of poverty".

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

New DATA Report: Good results in Africa but G8 falls behind

The DATA Report 2008, released today by ONE, the global anti-poverty organization, shows the G8 are falling further behind on the commitment they made in 2005 to contribute an additional $22bn in assistance to Africa by 2010. According to The DATA Report 2008, the G8 are halfway to the 2010 deadline, but so far have only delivered $3bn, or 14%, of the $22bn commitment. If the G8 continue at their current pace, they will collectively fall far short of where they pledged to be by 2010. While the pace of delivery is deeply concerning, the good news is that the assistance that has been delivered is making a real, measurable difference on the ground in lives saved and futures brightened.

Because of recent increases in development assistance:
* 2.1 million Africans are on life-saving AIDS medication, up from only 50,000 in 2002,
* 26 million children were immunized and against a group of life-threatening diseases between 2001 and 2006,
* 29 million African children were able to enter school for the first time as a direct result of debt relief and increased assistance between 1999 and 2005,
* By 2007, 59 million bed nets had been distributed by the Global Fund alone, helping to dramatically reduce malaria rates in countries such as Tanzania, Rwanda and Ethiopia.

These statistics make clear that there are no more excuses for not delivering quickly on what the G8 promised. The DATA Report lays out a clear roadmap for how the G8 can get on track to meet their 2010 goals by scaling up measures that have been proven to work. The report has been released today at a press conference in Paris led by Bono; Bob Geldof; Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS; TB and Malaria, singer and activist Angelique Kidjo; Arunma Oteh, Vice President, Corporate Services of the African Development Bank and French tennis star Yannick Noah.

According to the 2008 DATA Report, while the G8 as a whole are off track, some countries are doing better than others and, equally important, some made more substantial promises than others. The European members of the G8 – France, Germany, Italy and the UK – made the biggest promises to Africa as a percentage of their national wealth and together are responsible for 75% of the $22bn committed. While the scope of their commitments should be applauded, they are off track to meet them. Writing in his foreword, Archbishop Tutu says: "I am deeply worried that France, Germany and Italy are not going to keep the promises they made to Africa in 2005, because then all of Europe will be behind. President Sarkozy, Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Berlusconi need to hear more from their citizens on this subject if they are to make the right decisions, both for Europe and Africa."

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

DAC Peer Review: Praising Luxembourg’s aid commitment

According to the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the OECD, Luxembourg is a generous and committed donor. Its aid rose in real terms by almost 12% from 2006 (constant $291m) and 2007 (constant $325m) to 0.90% of its Gross National Income (GNI), making Luxembourg the third most generous donor in percentage terms. Every year since 2000 Luxembourg has achieved an aid to national income ratio of at least 0.7%. It has also promoted international efforts to strengthen the quality and increase the volume of aid. Luxembourg has improved the management of its aid programme, creating a strong foundation for more effective aid.

Luxembourg has opened regional offices in five priority countries and is translating its international commitments into practice. Its second generation of multi-year co¬operation programmes with ten priority countries makes aid more predictable. Luxembourg’s ambitious programme is coherent and well structured thanks to an efficient use of financial and human resources, the OECS says. Aid allocations are concentrated and aligned to the expressed needs of a few priority countries, which are the world’s least developed. It also works with a small number of multilateral organisations which share Luxembourg’s aid objectives. Its record in implementing humanitarian assistance is exemplary in many respects and follows the lines of internationally agreed principles. Luxembourg’s developing country partners appreciate the open and flexible manner in which it engages in policy dialogue and implements its aid programme.

At the same time, however, the Grand Duchy faces challenges in implementing the aid effectiveness agenda: it could do more to use partner country administrative systems and could co¬operate in new ways with other donors. Ensuring that its staff has the necessary competencies, and that it has access to other needed expertise is a constant challenge. In addition, the Development Co¬operation Directorate needs to enhance its capacities to become a learning organisation. Like other donors it will be a challenge for Luxembourg to shore up public and political support for meeting aid effectiveness commitments and taking risks such as engaging in difficult environments, including fragile situations.

The Development Assistance Committee, which groups major aid donors that are members of the OECD, issued its Main Findings and Recommendations on Luxembourg as part of a series of examinations of members' aid policies and programmes. The Peer Review, led by Finland and Spain took place on 3 June 2008. The Luxembourg Delegation attending the review meeting was headed by Mr Jean¬ Louis Schiltz, Minister for Co-operation and Humanitarian Action. The DAC Chair will present the findings from the review in Luxembourg in September 2008 during the annual Assises de la coop√©ration (development co¬operation forum).

Monday, 16 June 2008

World Bank’s own evaluation group slams Doing Business report

Following the publication last Thursday of a report by the World Bank's Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) that is heavily critical of the World Bank's own publication "Doing Business," the ITUC has urged the Bank to definitively remove the topic of labour standards from the mandate of "Doing Business," the Bank's headline annual publication. "In view of the damage being done by this report to workers' protections worldwide, the World Bank should formally prohibit its staff from using "Doing Business" to formulate policy recommendations for labour market reforms in client countries or to determine access to Bank funds," said ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder.

The IEG report on "Doing Business" (DB) found no relation between the level of employment in different countries and the DB's notorious "employing workers" indicator, which gives the best ratings to countries that have the lowest level of labour regulations. On the other hand, the IEG observes that "a surprising number of small island states" having almost no labour rules - some of which are not even members of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) - were considered by DB to be best performers for their labour legislation. The IEG also notes that the DB "paying taxes" indicator, which penalizes countries having any kind of mandatory employers' contributions for pensions, accident insurance, maternity benefits, and so on, tended to give best scores to notorious tax-haven countries.

World Bank staff have used these indicators since the first edition of DB was published in October 2003 to advise developing countries to do away with wide swathes of regulations, including those which protect workers, purportedly in order to make their economies more friendly to doing business. However, the IEG found no relationship between the overall DB indicator or the "employing workers" indicator and any genuine improvement in economic performance, such as higher growth, investment or employment rates. By rewarding countries having the lowest level of regulation, DB frequently gave some of its best scores to countries known as serious violators of workers' rights, including Belarus, Georgia and Saudi Arabia, all have which have severely restricted or even prohibited trade union activities.

The ITUC asked the World Bank, in addition to immediately stopping the use of the DB labour indicator in its analyses and policy documents, to launch an investigation into how the DB labour indicator was so widely used throughout the Bank, despite repeated warnings that its methodology was inherently flawed and would lead to rewarding violators of workers' rights. The ITUC repeatedly warned the World Bank on its DB report. The ILO issued similar analyses highlighting the methodological flaws starting in 2007.

The World Bank chose to ignore the warnings, and instead incorporated the DB indicators into its general labour market strategy, issued by the Bank's Human Development Network, and into its Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (CPIA). The CPIA is used by the World Bank to determine developing countries' overall level of eligibility to accessing Bank assistance.

The ITUC's most recent critique of the Doing Business report can be found >>> here.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

ILO Declaration: Social Justice for a Fair Globalisation

Following two successive years of debate, the ILO's annual International Labour Conference adopted a major Declaration on "Social Justice for a Fair Globalisation". According to Guy Ryder, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the declaration “speaks of the need to make a different reality possible. In place of our world of income inequality, high levels of unemployment and poverty and the growth of unprotected work, the adoption of this Declaration demonstrates a common commitment to build a world based on social justice."

The Declaration provides for regular review by the ILO of the components of decent work, which are now codified as inseparable and inter-related. It comprises, in particular, many paragraphs confirming the mandate for the ILO - deriving from its Constitution - to examine all economic, financial and trade policies, since they all affect employment. It is clearly the ILO's role to evaluate those employment effects in order to place employment and decent work at the heart of economic policies. Achieving this will require the ILO to make a strong and effective impact on the activities and policies proposed by the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organisation.

Other parts of the Declaration emphasise gender and non-discrimination, and call for a new package of international labour standards to be promoted everywhere, in particular the "governance" standards, covering tripartism, employment policy and labour inspection, in addition to the core labour standards. Freedom of Association and Collective bargaining are now formally codified as the enabling rights for the realisation of Decent Work for all. Governments are put on notice to put in place effective country programmes in order to attain decent work. The role of the ILO in achieving the extension of social security to all is emphasised, as well as a basic income for all in need, a minimum living wage and safe and healthy working conditions. A follow-up implementation plan is to be discussed at the next ILO Governing Body meeting in November 2008.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Rich countries offered little in Bonn climate talks

The second of eight planned UN meetings to strike an urgent new deal in 2009 to tackle climate change ended in Bonn today with little to show. "No-one expected miracles but ending two weeks of talks with so little progress will be difficult to explain to poor people who are already being hit by climate change. This was an under-whelming contribution to tackling what the UN describes as the biggest challenge facing humanity," said Oxfam's climate change adviser Antonio Hill.

The meeting heard that accumulated climate change funding, since the UN Climate Convention (UNFCCC) was signed, amounts to around $3.6bn in total. By comparison, the UNFCCC estimates that up to $67bn per year will be needed for adaptation by 2030, and Oxfam estimates that it will cost at least $50bn a year - more if global emissions do not peak by 2015 and drop steeply thereafter. Hill said: "Rich countries showed almost zero leadership in Bonn. The EU sat in silence as developing and other countries called for a new approach to deliver the money and technology required to help poor countries adapt to climate change and ensure a low-carbon, zero-poverty future.

"There is a big gap between developing countries, who want cuts and funding shared equitably between rich and poor nations and rich countries such as the US, Canada and Japan, who continue to downplay the scale of need. Climate change is the background spectre to the current global crises in oil prices, energy access, food security and the biofuels fiasco. The poor are being hit first and hardest but no one is untouched. The next UNFCCC meeting in Accra in August must show more progress than this. The EU especially must both respond to proposals already tabled and propose new ones or risk losing its vital leadership role."

Meanwhile, last week's announcement by Japan of 60-80% cuts by 2050 remains clouded in uncertainty. Japan's emissions are approximately 15% above its 1990 levels and growing, while under the Kyoto Protocol it pledged to reduce to 6% below 1990. Unless it starts reducing its overall emissions now, and achieves cuts of at least 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020, Prime Minister Fukuda's vision for 2050 will be dashed within a year.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

World Day against Child Labour: New ITUC action guide

On the occasion of the World Day Against Child Labour today, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is launching a new Mini Action Guide on Child Labour, providing campaigning tools and direct support to trade unions to fight against child labour. According to the ILO, some 218 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are involved in child labour. Many of these children work long hours, often in dangerous conditions. The guide highlights the fact that some 69% of working children are involved in agriculture compared with 9% in industry. The Asia-Pacific region accounts for the largest number of child labourers with 122 million, followed by sub-Saharan Africa (49.3 million) and Latin America and the Caribbean (5.7 million). With 26%, the proportion of children engaged in economic activities in sub-Saharan Africa is currently the highest of any region in the world. Child labour can also be found in many industrialised countries.

The World Day Against Child Labour this year is emphasizing education as a key factor in the eradication of child labour. The day will be marked around the world with activities to raise awareness that education is the right response to child labour. Around 72 million children of primary school age are not enrolled in school. There are also many who are enrolled but who do not attend regularly or who drop out. Good quality education and training is necessary for children if they are to acquire the skills necessary to succeed in the labour market; such education and training is also important to economically and socially excluded children and youth so that they can lift themselves out of poverty. Wherever children miss out on education, poverty will continue from one generation to the next, explains the mini guide.

To fight against child labour, the guide gives advice on issues such as using collective bargaining, participation in tripartite dialogue, promoting international labour standards, joining the Global March Against Child Labour and the Global Trade Union Alliance to Combat Forced Labour and Trafficking, and campaigning for the ratification and implementation of the ILO Conventions No. 138 and No.182.

The ITUC is closely linking its work in the Global March Against Child Labour and the newly-emerging Global Trade Union Alliance to Combat Forced Labour and Trafficking. The ILO estimates that up to 50% of all forced labour victims worldwide are children. Increasingly, children are becoming forced child labourers as a result of human trafficking. Children in in-house domestic work, in rural agriculture or isolated estates, in mining, brick making, textiles and fisheries are particularly vulnerable to this “worst form of child labour” as specified in ILO Convention 182.

For more information on IPEC (International Program on the Elimination of Child Labour) click >>> here.
To read the full ITUC mini action guide click >>> here.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Groups oppose World Bank Climate Funds

More than 121 groups released a statement last week opposing the World Bank's proposed 'Climate Investment Funds' to address climate change and its impacts. The statement was released during the United Nations climate change talks in Bonn, Germany and coincided with a US Congressional Hearing on the Clean Technology Fund. "With their long-term record of massive fossil fuel financing, the World Bank is spectacularly unqualified to control climate funds," said Karen Orenstein of Friends of the Earth US in Bonn. "The World Bank climate funds could undermine the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is the right place to manage this kind of funds," she added.

"There is no definition of the word 'clean' in the so-called Clean Technology Fund," said Janneke Bruil of Friends of the Earth International, one of the statement's signatories. “For example, ‘clean coal’ is a false solution: it has nothing to do with renewable energy," she added.

The statement released today notes that it is "highly inappropriate to issue loans for adaptation" to climate change, because it means further indebting poor countries as they adapt to climate change caused by the industrialised countries, which are providing the loans. The statement concludes by urging industrialised country governments not to support the World Bank initiative and calls on developing country governments to raise these concerns with donor countries, the World Bank and other institutions.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Rome summit: Much more needed says Oxfam

This week’s UN summit in Rome was an important first step in tackling the food crisis but greater action is now needed to resolve the crisis says Oxfam. “Recognizing you have a problem is the first step toward solving it. Leaders of the richest countries have acknowledged the importance of aid to agriculture after 25 years of decline. They have pledged money to provide immediate aid to those that need it. But a crisis like this, with so many contributing factors, needs a wide-ranging plan to resolve it and rich countries can’t continue to ignore their own trade and agriculture policies,” said Barbara Stocking, CEO, Oxfam GB.

The final communique acknowledges that biofuels offer both ‘opportunities and challenges’ and recommends more research into their impact. However, in the meantime, biofuels will continue to have a devastating impact on millions of poor people and recent estimates suggest that demand for biofuels is responsible for 30 percent of the global food price rise. Oxfam is calling on the EU and US to end their compulsory biofuel targets.

The communique also suggests that concluding the current WTO agreement will solve the crisis. Oxfam disagrees and argues instead that current WTO proposals do not give developing countries the flexibility they need to respond to volatile markets and short term rises and falls in prices. “Concluding a trade deal as it is currently framed will hurt poor farmers and consumers, not help them. Trade rules must protect poor people in times of both high prices and low. Developing countries need the ability to feed their people and support the poorest, most marginalized farmers to gain from current high prices. The current crisis illustrates starkly that what we need is not business as usual but deep reform of the international trading system," said Stocking.

The UN Task Force set up to deal with the food crisis must listen to representatives from the developing world’s 400 million small-holder farmers. These farms are not only important in feeding their nations but also providing economic development and must be part of any solution to the crisis. US$6bn has been pledged this week but this is less than half of the $14.5bn that Oxfam estimates is needed to provide immediate assistance to at least 290 million people threatened by rising food prices until the end of 2008. It is unclear whether the US$6bn is new money or comes from existing aid commitments, and what is the time frame for its delivery. (The money pledged this week includes: France €1bn (US$1.5bn), Spain €500m (US$800m), Islamic Development Bank US$1.5bn, World Bank US$1.2bn, African Development Bank US$1bn.)

“The baton of responsibility now passes to the G8 and its finance ministers meeting in Japan next week. As the world’s most powerful countries they must provide more money to deal with the immediate impact of the current crisis but also tackle some of the contributing causes by ending compulsory biofuels targets and providing more long term aid for to agriculture,” said Stocking.

For more information see >>> WDEV Dossier "The New Face of Hunger"

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

EIB at 50: Civil Society hopes for reforms

Environment and social campaign groups from across Europe marked the 50th anniversary celebrations of the European Investment Bank (EIB; see photo) this week by pointing out to the European Union's house bank that “Life begins at 50 - we hope.” The EIB has attracted sustained criticism from civil society organisations in Europe and across the world because of its non-transparent institutional nature, its lack of binding environmental and social standards—especially in its increasing lending activities in Africa, Asia and Latin America—and its continuing support for major fossil fuel extraction projects that undermine the bank's recent improved record in funding renewable energy projects. Desislava Stoyanova, co-ordinator of Counter Balance: Challenging the European Investment Bank, a new coalition of European NGOs concerned at the lending practices of the EIB, said: “We hope that the EIB has grown out of its youthful indulgences, backing dodgy projects without being accountable to anyone. Now that it’s entering middle age, the EIB will hopefully slow down and start to behave more responsibly.”

The EIB loaned EUR 48 billion of taxpayer-backed cash last year. At a series of actions in Luxembourg unofficially run in tandem with the EIB’s annual meeting of its board of governors, Counter Balance campaigners distributed spoof newspapers (“Luxemburger Wahl”) showing how things could look in the brave new world of the EIB’s more sustainable, small-scale, community-driven future. Anders Lustgarten of Counter Balance, in his ‘for one day only’ role of head of policy at the EIB, laid out a positive new vision for the EIB at two public press conferences in Luxembourg. The EIB’s ‘new’ policies include: phasing out its major involvement in fossil fuels and extractive industries; providing effective aid support in line with EU policies that prioritises people on the ground; ruling out potential funding support for the nuclear industry; ensuring that its future investments in the transport sector are ‘carbon negative’.

Prince Kumwamba, of Congolese NGO ACIDH which has criticised the EIB over its role in the highly controversial Tenke Fungurume copper mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said: “These changes at the EIB sound absolutely wonderful, and are at long last in line with what Southern communities and economies really need, rather than some huge oil field or open cast mine that creams off our natural resources with little accruing to us except clean-up costs. When these policies become reality, we will truly have something to celebrate.”

See for further information: Everyone's Investment Bank website: http://www.eib50.org/

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Ruggie report falls short of expectations

Today, John Ruggie, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for business and human rights, is to present his Protect, Respect and Remedy: a Framework for Business and Human Rights report to the UN Human Rights Council. John Ruggies report identifies grave deficits in the current human rights regime that represent an obstacle to protection to individuals and communities against corporate-related human rights violations. He notes “escalating charges of corporate-related human rights abuses”, regarding this as “the canary in the coal mine, signalling that all is not well”. The Ruggie Report regards the governance gaps created by globalization as the root causes of the “business and human rights predicament. These governance gaps provide the permissive environment for wrongful acts by companies of all kind without adequate sanctioning and reparation”. Ruggie sees the fundamental challenge as identifying “how to narrow and ultimately bridge the gaps in relation to human rights”.

Nevertheless, according to a background paper written by Jens Martens of Global Policy Forum, the Report does not respond to the global governance gaps it notes with global governance solutions. Instead, it is limited to what its author deems politically achievable. This above all includes incremental steps towards observing human rights at national level, especially in Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) and in export promoting via Export Credit Agencies (ECAs). Ruggie is in favour of strengthening judicial capacities to hear complaints and enforce remedies against corporations. He recommends the corporations themselves to observe due diligence regarding respect for human rights and gives some practical recommendations in this context.

However, Ruggie categorically rejects the UN Norms or any other global legal instrument to establish the human rights duties of corporations. Neither does the report address calls by human rights organisations for a UN special procedure (e.g., independent expert or group of experts) on business and human rights or a proposed International Advisory Centre offering governments of developing countries legal support vis-à-vis transnational corporations. Thus Ruggies report, Martens concludes, falls way short of the expectations of civil society organisations. With his principled pragmatism approach, Ruggie formulates what he feels is politically feasible given the forces that be in society but does not state what would be desirable and necessary to protect human rights.