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G20 summit: our response

By Helen Collinson | 25 June 2012

Anyone watching the TV news would be forgiven for thinking that the G20 summit that took place in Mexico last week was all about the Eurozone crisis and nothing more. In fact, these annual summits address a whole host of pressing global economic issues – including key issues for Christian Aid such as tax, climate change, and sustainable energy for all.

Regrettably none of these issues made it to the shortlist of issues the G20 leaders actually discussed in any detail in Mexico. Tax was addressed in just one short paragraph in the final communiqué, while climate change and sustainable energy received little more space.

It is wrong that issues of such importance to the world’s poor remain so low down the G20’s agenda – in spite of campaigners’ sterling efforts over the past few months to reverse this trend.

Christian Aid's voices were heard

It's not all gloomy, though. Your response to our campaign was magnificent.

In all, well over 20,000 Christian Aid supporters took our G20 action, sharing seven-year-old Juan's story and calling for action on tax havens and climate change.

G20 hand in Shortly before the prime minister left for Mexico, Christian Aid campaigner Linda Marshall from Staines, pictured on the left, handed in your messages to No 10.

These were in addition to the thousands of sign-ups to the worldwide End Tax Haven Secrecy campaign.

And there's language in the final G20 communiqué that makes us confident our campaigning contributed to some reasonably strong language on the need for greater tax transparency.

The line in question is: `We call on countries to join the growing practice [of automatic financial information exchange] as appropriate’

Automatic information exchange between tax authorities in different countries has been a key demand of Christian Aid’s tax campaign for the past three years, and it is heartening to see the G20 leaders endorsing this approach.

Tax havens - the elephant in the room

While it was acknowledged that tackling tax havens is important for low-income countries, there was a notable silence on what to do about them. 

At present, tax havens can pick and choose who they share information with and it is virtually never with developing countries.

Unless tax havens are required by law to share information automatically with other jurisdictions, developing countries will continue to face major difficulties in detecting profit-shifting to tax havens as a means of dodging tax.

In the coming months, Christian Aid will call on UK prime minister, David Cameron, to promote measures in the UK and globally that tackle tax haven secrecy specifically – so that tax dodgers have nowhere to hide. 

Christian Aid also welcomes a commitment that countries seek to minimise the ‘negative spillover’ effect of their domestic policies on other countries.

We hope this will include a thorough appraisal of the way rich countries’ tax policies might hurt poorer nations, as recommended by a report produced by the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2011.

Climate change and sustainable energy

As for the content in the communiqué on sustainable energy for all, it is disappointing that the text went no further than when the G20 last met in 2011.

The intelligence from those following the G20 is that Mexico agreed to defer major discussion on this issue to the Rio+20 Summit taking place immediately after the G20.

On the positive side, the communiqué announced the creation of a G20 study group on climate finance and also warned that `climate change will continue to have a significant impact on the world economy, and costs will be higher to the extent we delay additional action.’

Making such lofty and laudable statements is all well and good but action speaks louder than words.

Now it is the job of campaigners everywhere to ensure that the G20 stands by its stated pronouncements  and that its actions benefit the world’s poor. 

 About the author

Helen Collinson

Helen Collinson is Christian Aid's senior public advocacy adviser

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