Saturday, 26 June 2010

Oxfam: G8’s summit of shame fails poor people

As the G8 Summit comes to a close, international agency Oxfam criticized the leaders for their failure to deliver on their promises and for trying to divert attention by cobbling together a small initiative for maternal and child health. “No maple leaf is big enough to hide the shame of Canada’s summit of broken promises,” said Mark Fried, spokesperson for Oxfam. “The G8’s failure will leave a sad legacy of kids out of school, denied medicines for the sick, and no food for the hungry.”

With total G8 aid frozen, their five billion dollar commitment to maternal health will likely be taken from vital areas such as education and food, cautioned Oxfam. “This year the headline is maternal health, last year it was food. With overall aid frozen, the G8 are just shuffling the same money around to different pots,” said Fried. “The only promise that counts is the Gleneagles one to increase aid by $50 billion by 2010 and that is the one they have abandoned today.”

At the last G8 Summit, donors pledges $22 billion over three years to support agriculture in developing countries, but Oxfam calculates that at most $6 billion of this is new money and they are double counting it to pay for other initiatives, such as helping poor countries cope with climate change. “There are a billion hungry people in the world but it seems the G8 are out to lunch. Instead of new money for old promises, we got old money, re-pledged, recycled and renamed,” said Fried. “Oxfam asks France, as next year’s G8 host, to offer real accountability and resuscitate the G8’s flagging commitment to the world’s poor.”

As focus now shifts to the G20, Oxfam is encouraged by the place development issues have garnered on the agenda, and called on leaders to give poor countries a seat at the table. “The G20 mustn’t repeat the G8’s mistake of only inviting Africa for the photo ops,” said Fried. Oxfam also urged the G20 to adopt a financial transaction tax to raise the funds necessary to fight poverty and climate change. "After the scandal of the G8's broken promises, the G20 now has the chance to stand up and deliver for the world's poor,” said actor and Oxfam Global Ambassador Bill Nighy in Toronto. "A Robin Hood Tax on banks is a simple but brilliant idea to raise hundreds of billions of dollars to help millions of poor people who have been hit hardest by global economic downturn, hunger and climate change."

Thursday, 10 June 2010

EU aid own goals pushing MDGs out of reach

EU Member States are missing their official development aid targets and jeopardising global efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals, reveals a new report published today by CONCORD, the European confederation of development NGOs. The report, Penalty against Poverty: More and Better EU aid can score Millennium Development Goals, is being released as EU leaders are set to meet in Brussels next week to agree their common position for the United Nations’ MDG Summit in New York this September.

‘Penalty against Poverty’ finds that EU development aid in 2009 amounted to €49bn or 0.42% of national income – €1bn less than 2008 levels. Official estimates for 2010 put total EU aid at 0.46% of national income, far short of the 0.56% target for 2010 agreed by member states back in 2005. In real terms, this represents a shortfall of €11bn in funding with some of the EU’s biggest economies – Italy (€4.5bn), Germany (€2.6bn) and France (€800m) – amongst the worst offenders.

“EU aid efforts are being crippled by a crisis of commitment. In 2005 EU leaders committed to allocating 0.7% of their national income to fight global poverty but 5 years later they are well off-track on aid and abandoning their international commitments on aid effectiveness”, said Hussaini Abdu, Country Director of ActionAid Nigeria. “We are not asking them to get more ambitious about fighting poverty, just keep their existing promises on aid quality and quantity”, he said

The annual AidWatch report notes that although inflated aid figures continued to decline compared to 2008 levels, a staggering €3.8bn of inflated aid – or 8% of the total EU amount – was reported in 2009. This includes €1.4bn for debt cancellation, €1.5bn in student costs and €0.9bn spent on refugees in donor countries – making real EU development aid only 0.38% of European GNI.

“EU aid is €19bn short of what was promised to developing countries by 2010 to help them meet the MDGs – more than half the estimated extra €32bn required per year globally to meet the hunger goal alone”, said Justin Kilcullen, President of CONCORD. “This is very disappointing from a bloc that calls itself a leader on global development”, added Eduardo S├ínchez, President of the Spanish NGO platform. “Europe’s credibility as a global leader on development is at stake. If EU leaders are serious about regaining the trust of poor countries, they must come up with an ambitious MDG action plan next week”, said Elise Ford, head of Oxfam International’s EU office.

Representing over 1,600 European NGOs, CONCORD calls on EU governments to keep their promises to deliver more and better EU development aid. EU leaders must commit to legally-binding yearly timetables stating how aid targets will be met and find new ways to raise money for development such as a financial transaction tax which would bring estimated yearly revenue of €215bn - €1tr at no extra cost to the tax payer. Europe must put an end to the inflation of aid figures and place developing countries and their citizens at the centre of efforts to meet the MDGs.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Trade unions warn G20 finance ministers against inaction

As G20 finance ministers and central bankers meet in Busan, Korea, on 4-5 June 2010, with proposals to introduce new taxes on banks and other financial institutions high on their agenda, trade unions are calling for a firm and comprehensive G20 agreement to re-regulate global finance, including the introduction of a financial transaction tax. “Current proposals to introduce new bank taxation and new limits on bank loans in a strengthened Basel II agreement fall far short of the bold and ambitious action that is needed to deliver the necessary changes and quell the rising tide of public anger caused by speculative pressure on countries like Greece and Portugal,” said ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder. “We need a real hands-on approach to banking supervision and to excessive bankers’ pay, and to shielding commercial and retail banking from irresponsible shadow banking and speculation.”

“Concerns about preciously guarded national sovereignty or disrupting the slow economic recovery are misplaced,” stated TUAC General Secretary John Evans. “On the contrary, regulation is key to attaining recovery. Such concerns can be addressed by well-designed and coordinated international cooperation, and G20 Finance Ministers should instruct the Financial Stability Board to undertake comprehensive modelling to pave the way for the creation of a financial transaction tax at global or regional level.”

“The reports by the Financial Stability Board and its members released in the past year reveal the extent to which governments and supervisory authorities have lost control over global finance,” UNI General Secretary Philip Jennings emphasised. “It is essential that all derivatives and alternative investments, including hedge funds and private equity, should be brought under the scrutiny of proper regulation and public authorities. Moreover, worker representation in bank and insurance risk management systems needs to be enhanced.”

See trade union statement to the Financial Stability Board >>>

G20 must seize this moment to make the world a fairer place

A global bank tax to help poor countries survive the economic crisis must be urgently agreed, Oxfam said ahead of the G20 meeting of finance ministers in Busan, South Korea. International development agency Oxfam is pressing for a bank tax that will raise a minimum of $200 billion per year globally to help pay for the impact of the crisis on the poorest and for the costs of climate change, and which will raise the same amount for rich countries to spend on domestic priorities.

Oxfam spokesperson Mark Fried said: “This is a once-in-a generation opportunity for the G20 to reshape the global economy in favor of poor people. We can never return to a situation where the greed of the richest takes precedence over the needs of billions. However the G20 chooses to structure the tax, it should bail out not banks, but the world's poorest people. A financial sector tax is the best option to deliver the scale of resources needed to recover from the financial crisis. The G20 must now seize the moment and deliver a tax that will to raise resources to tackle poverty and climate change. Finance ministers meeting this week must agree a roadmap for taxing the financial sector, and close the deal at their upcoming Canada summit.”

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) gave its preliminary report on a financial sector tax to G20 finance ministers in April. The IMF proposal is two taxes to repay the costs of the global economic crisis and to pay crises to come: a levy payable by all financial institutions, and a tax on their profits and pay. The G8 has broken its promise of $50 billion in aid to poor countries by 2010, and 50,000 more children in Sub-Saharan African countries died last year because of the financial crisis.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Climate cash must not increase developing countries' debt

Oxfam has warned that the $100bn a year pledged by rich nations to help fight climate change could fail the poorest people, if recent moves to deliver climate cash as loans continue. A new report, Climate Finance Post-Copenhagen: The $100 billion questions, comes up as UN climate negotiations re-open for the first time since last year’s summit in Copenhagen. Whilst recognizing the need for some limited cut-rate loans to help poor countries develop in a low carbon way, the international agency strongly opposes the use of loans to help communities adapt to climate impacts.

Oxfam’s concerns come at a time when it is becoming clear that a significant proportion of the first installments of climate cash, to be delivered between 2010 and 2012 will be loans not grants. “At a time of economic emergency, when several poor countries are slashing critical health and education budgets to avoid a debt crisis, rich countries are considering saddling them with climate debt for a situation they did not cause and are worst affected by,” said Oxfam’s Senior Policy Advisor Antonio Hill. “It’s like crashing your neighbor's car and then offering a loan to cover the damages,” he added.

The report lays out a clear road map for how rich countries can not only meet their $100bn a year promise, but also double it by 2020 in line with actual needs. It suggests new and innovative sources from which to raise the cash, to ensure that governments do not raid it from existing and future aid budgets. These include:
* $100bn a year from a global Financial Transactions or ‘Robin Hood’ tax on banks – a small tax of 0.05% that could raise $400bn a year for health, education and climate change.
* $20-$30bn a year through the creation of emissions trading programs for international aviation and shipping; this would cap the amount of carbon emissions that could be produced by these industries, then charge them for each unit of carbon used.
* $75bn a year in fixed contributions from rich countries according to their historic responsibility for carbon emissions and ability to pay; this could be raised through the money from domestic emissions trading (or cap-and-trade) programs or taken from budgets currently used for subsidizing fossil fuels and carbon-heavy industry.
* $16bn a year by 2012 from the IMF in the form of low-interest loans for low-carbon development - using $120bn of rich country Special Drawing rights (SDRs) as capital, ‘green bonds’ could be issued, raising $40bn per year that can be made available as low-cost loans for clean energy investments in developing countries. Of the $40bn loaned every year, the net transfer (or savings) benefiting developing countries is $16bn.

The report also highlights the need for public sources of climate cash, to ensure the world’s poorest are not excluded from investments in their future. Whilst huge sums are needed from big business to create a global green economy, it is unlikely that companies will invest in small-scale projects with little or no financial return, designed to help poor people adapt to climate change, such as planting mangroves and developing irrigation systems. As 80% of food produced in poor countries is grown by women farmers, relying on market forces to deal with climate impacts could pose grave threats to world hunger.
Oxfam is calling on negotiators in Bonn to deliver and report openly on climate cash in 2010. A clear framework for raising and doubling the $100bn pledge in public money must be agreed by the Mexico summit in December this year.

Download the report >>> here.