Leading NGO’s held a briefing June 12 to discuss issues they hope will figure prominently at the G8 Summit in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland. Among them are food security, nutrition, tax havens, transparency, and mining.
The NGO’s pointed out that the global economic downturn in recent years has meant commitments made at past G8 summits have not always materialized.
But at the Food and Nutrition Summit held ahead of the upcoming meeting, over four billion dollars were pledged to address global food security. The grassroots advocacy group ONE said it will be monitoring the implementation of these and other commitments.
Ben Leo, the group’s global policy director, explained that groups like the ONE campaign actively monitor how G8 leaders and governments follow through.
“We do a series of accountability reports that look at a range of issues, agriculture, health, transparency, and overall development assistance levels,” he said. “So there are a number of groups that we will be watching, so when words are delivered, action must follow. And the G8 will be held accountable for actually delivering on that.”
He also emphasized that it’s more than making a pledge and keeping it; it’s about providing people with the proper tools to get out of poverty. For example, he said his organization has been working hard over the past couple of years to bring the plight of smallholder farmers -- who are mostly women -- to the forefront.
“The G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition is continuing to expand in a number of countries that are participating in that. Nigeria was just added along with two others. The Nigerian agriculture minister has a very aggressive plan. So with the G8 supporting private investment that is sensitive to these women smallholder farmers, a lot can actually happen,” said Leo.
He favors better targeted internventions, not just directly to the farmers, but across the value chain. Leo said, for example, that food storage and access to markets are opportunities for companies to help play a role in addressing many aspects of the food chain.
Nora O’Connell, Save the Children’s public policy and advocacy director, said nutrition plays a vital role in creating a sustainable global economy.
“New research actually just came out from the Lancet medical journal last week that says nutrition is critical to child survival. And in fact, the numbers have gone up, that malnutrition is a leading cause for 45-percent of child deaths worldwide. But what does that have to do with economic growth? And how is this linked to this broader agenda?” asked O’Connell.
“I think that’s really embodied in this summit that David Cameron and the government of Brazil and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation hosted last Saturday in London, called ‘Nutrition for Growth Beating Hunger through Business and Science.’ I think that link between nutrition and economic growth really links it to this broader agenda.”
She added a report recently released by Save The Children documented that those who do not receive proper nutrition up to age two are 20% less likely to be literate than children who do.
What that means is that those children don’t do as well in school. They have about 20% less earnings as adults, and economies can have up to 3% [smaller gross domestic products]. So when you’re looking at the long term, how do we create a global economy that enables economic growth? You can’t actually have that picture without core human development and looking at [the role of nutrition],” explained O’Connell.
Marie Brill, executive director of ActionAid USA, said tax havens can be made to produce revenue to help cure hunger. She said, “We could have an incredible gain for food security at this G8 summit if there’s concrete action taken to cut down tax dodging, and to address tax havens. That would leverage a tremendous amount of resources that could be applied to addressing food security by supporting women smallholder farmers, access to land, increased investment in nutrition, and a whole host of different social services that would actually address the root causes of hunger.”
Brill also pointed out that it is vital to allow countries to tax corporations so big multi-national companies would not pay less in taxes than the women who are selling the same product. She wants G8 leaders to seriously look at ways to address this issue.
“The G8 is an incredible place to start because they have the power to make decisions. [One is how to create] a global protocol to ensure transparency for information from companies. [Another is to have] a public registry for the beneficial owners of different companies so that countries have access to the information they need to tax fairly, corporations and individuals,” said Brill.
For Africa, a continent rich in mineral resources, how to best utilize its resources has always been a topic at the forefront of the G8 summits.
Ian Gary, senior policy manager of extractive industries at OXFAM International, said as a result of the UK government’s focus, world leaders will be taking a closer look at how to make better use of oil and mineral resources in Africa and other regions.
“More than 1.5 billion people live on less than two-dollars a day in resource- rich countries, and a key to unlocking that wealth and reducing corruption and mismanagement is transparency. So what we’re expecting is a strong statement from the G8 leaders that mandatory disclosure requirement for payments that these companies make, should be a global standard,” explained Gary.
So far, Gary said they have seen good progress in this area.
For example, in the US, the Dodd-Frank Act requires all companies that report to the US stock exchange to disclose their payments. Also, he said this week, the European parliament approved a similar measure, and that the Canadian prime minister said he would support mandatory disclosure.