Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Climate change: ITUC statement for Copenhagen

With governments downplaying prospects for December’s UN climate summit and the chances of a binding agreement receding fast, the international trade union movement has called on governments to go to Copenhagen ready to make decisions that will put the world on an unequivocal path to a low-carbon future. “The science shows clearly that the longer we wait, the higher the human, environmental and economic costs will be. We need governments to make ambitious commitments which will set in stone the core elements of a treaty that must be completed as a matter of urgency. This means legally-binding targets on emissions and longer-term financing to assist developing countries to adapt, as well as “just transition” strategies to deal with the social and employment dimensions,” said ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder.

The ITUC statement to the Summit sets out the international trade union movement’s position in detail, emphasising the need for creation of green and decent jobs, through investment in new low-carbon production and services and measures to reduce the carbon footprints of existing industries. The ITUC platform was developed through an exhaustive 18-month process of negotiation involving trade unions from every part of the world, and reflects the concerns and proposals of working people from developing and industrialised countries.

The ITUC Statement to the Copenhagen COP15 Summit and other information about trade unions and climate change can be found at http://climate.ituc-csi.org.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

World Food Summit must tackle hunger with just and sustainable solutions

CIDSE and Caritas Internationalis, together the world’s largest development alliance, working with communities impacted by the food crisis across Asia, Africa and Latin America, travel to Rome for next week’s World Food Summit to call on world leaders to harness the potential of small-scale farmers. The catholic alliances believe urgent action is needed now; every day over a billion people go to bed hungry and currently over 23 million people across East Africa are in need of emergency food aid due to drought and a food price crisis made worse by the global economic recession. Since the global food crisis hit in 2007 there is increasing recognition by governments of the need to invest in small-scale agriculture in developing countries to ensure that small producers earn a decent income and enjoy the universal right to food.

“This is a very positive development, but recognition needs to be translated into national country policies and donor support strategies that promote small producer organisations and strengthen their ability to improve production, processing, and marketing - including their capacity to negotiate with buyers and other market actors. The Summit leaders should particularly prioritise farmer’s engagement in policy development, their access to land and water, inputs, credit, insurance, markets, training and extension services,” said Bob van Dillen, from the CIDSE and Caritas networks. However, there is a significant threat that the international community will promote the use of high-tech agricultural techniques, many of which are socially or environmentally unsustainable and create dependence on external inputs, rather than investing in what these farmers really need. The World Food Summit is also expected to reiterate support for further opening of markets and completion of the Doha Round of trade negotiations, which CIDSE and Caritas believe would hurt small-scale farmers rather than help them unless significant changes are made to current proposals.

CIDSE and Caritas believe that if the international community is serious about harnessing the potential of small-scale farmers, policies should particularly target women producers, who are the backbone of the rural economy and crucial actors in ensuring household food security. Both networks call on developing country governments to allocate, within 5 years, a minimum of 10% of their annual budgets to implement these urgent policies. The international donor community should make at least an equivalent commitment to agriculture and rural development in their Official Development Assistance (ODA), whose share within overall ODA spending has fallen from 17% in 1980 to around 5% today.

Parallel to the Summit a Civil Society Forum is taking place in Rome from 14-17 November. An APRODEV and CIDSE Briefing Paper and recommendations to the EU for the World Food Summit is available: >>> here

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Oxam reacts to G20 finance ministers

According to Max Lawson, Oxfam senior policy adviser, a tax on banks would be a major step towards clearing up the mess caused by their greed. “The G20 has a responsibility to act. Every minute around the world 100 people are forced into extreme poverty as a result of the economic crisis. Money raised by a financial transaction tax on banks could make a massive difference to the lives of ordinary people.” A global financial transaction tax could raise $1.15 trillion annually to help those affected by the economic crisis in both poor and G20 countries.

On tax havens Lawson said: “It is not sustainable for the G20 to protect themselves from tax havens while allowing them to continue to deprive poor countries of hundreds of billions of dollars every year. A multilateral deal to ensure all countries are protected from tax havens must be a key priority for the G20 in 2010.”

Monday, 9 November 2009

G20 meeting in Scotland: Action for employment, but questions remain

The world’s trade union movement has welcomed the decision by G20 Finance Ministers meeting in St Andrews, Scotland, to keep jobs high on the agenda for economic recovery and reform, and to “maintain government support for the recovery until it is assured”. The meeting also decided that the ILO will have a role in assessing the effectiveness of G20 policies for “strong, sustainable and balanced growth”, although the major players in this process will still be the IMF and the World Bank. Nevertheless, several serious questions remain unanswered by the St Andrews meeting. While the Finance Ministers committed the G20 to responsiveness and legitimacy, especially concerning reform of the international financial institutions, trade unions are extremely concerned that the Financial Stability Board (FSB), which has a primary role in designing new architecture for financial regulation, still effectively operates in secret.

“The FSB has made no effort to discuss and consult outside a very narrow circle of people, many of whom bear heavy responsibility for the current crisis. The G20’s stated commitment to transparency won’t have much meaning at all unless governments make the FSB come out from behind closed doors and open up to discussion and consultation,” said ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder. The unions have also expressed dismay at the lack of progress on a global transactions tax, championed by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown who hosted the meeting. “The IMF, which has been asked to make recommendations on this, has traditionally opposed such a tax and now seems to be steering the G20 towards a weak option which would not generate many funds nor make banks help to pay for the crisis they caused. This would only add to the enormous burden working people are already bearing, and would do little if anything to restrain destructive speculation,” said John Evans, General Secretary of the OECD Trade Union Advisory Committee.

The communiqué issued by the St Andrews meeting does include references to the need for financing to tackle climate change; however, no concrete commitments are given either in terms of actual funds to be made available or on the emissions reductions that need to be agreed at the UN Conference in Copenhagen next month. “Finance will be critical to success or failure at December’s Copenhagen Climate Summit, and the absence of clear commitments from this weekend’s G20 meeting on financing within the industrialised economies, or to help developing economies find a low-carbon development path, does not bode well for success in Copenhagen,” said Ryder.