Mar 26th, 2013 10:58 AM UTC
By Helen Hector
A decade ago, African leaders made a bold commitment to reverse decades of neglect of the agriculture sector. Big promises were made by both African countries and international donors – but have they been kept?
Today ONE launches a brand new report which answers this question.
A Growing Opportunity: Measuring Investments in African Agriculture takes a closer look at who’s leading the way and who needs to do more. Read the report, or get the headline findings in this infographic.
Mar 21st, 2013 2:57 PM UTC
By Alan Hudson
Wherever there’s a dodgy deal, a Phantom Firm is likely lurking in the shadows.
Phantom Firms are what enabled Teodorin Obiang, the son of the President of Equatorial Guinea, to launder more than $100 million into the USA. This financed a playboy lifestyle of fast cars, a $30 million mansion, a $38.5 million gulfstream jet, and various pieces of Michael Jackson memorabilia, including a diamond-encrusted glove from the Bad Tour. Meanwhile, back home in the oil-rich west African state, more than 1 in 7 children under the age of five were dying from a preventable disease.
Phantom Firms are anonymous shell companies that are set up to hide the identity of the people who control them. In addition to facilitating the financing of terrorism, they enable drug-runners, human traffickers, money-launderers, arms traffickers, corrupt politicians and dodgy businessmen to enjoy the fruits of their crimes without being found out. They are the lynchpin of the global underground economy which harms us all. And, the activities that they conceal rob African countries of the resources that they need to invest in health, agriculture, infrastructure and poverty reduction.
Global Financial Integrity estimates that in 2010 African countries lost more ($51 billion) through illicit financial flows that are moved out of Africa illegally than they received in aid ($43 billion). As well as robbing countries of their resources, illicit financial flows foster corruption and damage the prospects for investment and growth. Phantom Firms undermine the fight against poverty and undermine the competitiveness of responsible businesses that have no need to hide their dealings behind a veil of secrecy and that see the wisdom of strengthening, not damaging, the environment in which they do business.
To take another example, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Phantom Firms enabled someone – someone with the power to rig the system – to buy mining licenses at a fraction of their value, before then selling them on at their full value. This robbed the country of more than $5 billion. For more examples of the use of Phantom Firms see “Rigged: The scramble for Africa’s oil, gas and minerals”, by Global Witness.
Under the UK’s leadership, the 2013 G8 has a real opportunity to fight Phantom Firms. If the G8 members – the UK, the US, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and Canada – signalled their commitment to require the public disclosure of information about who owns and controls companies and trusts, this would be a crucial blow against Phantom Firms and a HUGE win for poverty reduction in Africa. If this were followed up by changes to European laws on money laundering, and to laws in other countries, including the US, this would be a MASSIVE win.
The signs are good, with Prime Minister David Cameron talking up the importance of “shining a light on company ownership” at Davos in January and encouraging signs from other G8 countries. There is also a growing coalition, backing the call for an end to Phantom Firms. This includes not only leading civil society organisations and the Publish What You Pay network of 650 grassroots organisations, but also a growing number of law enforcement agencies, business organisations and firms, including companies in the oil, gas and mining, and banking sectors.
We at ONE will be making our voices heard, asking that the G8 commit to making information public about who owns and controls firms.
By tackling Phantom Firms, and requiring that information is made public, the G8 can help citizens in Africa and elsewhere to lift the veil of secrecy, to follow the money and to make sure that much-needed resources are invested in poverty reduction rather than siphoned off in dodgy deals.
Mar 21st, 2013 11:26 AM UTC
By Adrian Lovett
This post was initially published on NewStatesman.com
Martin Luther King may have been right to say that the moral arc of the universe bends towards justice, but he also knew that such a virtuous long-term curve would not be achieved without a lot of daily hammering, heaving and shoving.
Today, after the Chancellor confirmed that Britain will become the first G8 country to reach the 43-year-old 0.7% target for international aid as a share of national income, it feels like one of those moments to step back from the hammering and see the shape of the arc.
I admit: I didn’t get into global campaigning to achieve the 0.7 target. But I quickly realised it was one necessary step along the road towards a goal that really is worth fighting for: an end to extreme poverty. And I also confess it has taken longer than I thought it would.
From the first tentative promises to “begin to reverse the decline” in the aid budget made by New Labour in 1997, to the strong leadership of Blair and Brown in 2005 to get other countries behind bold aid targets and a package of other measures, and the remarkable commitment of David Cameron, George Osborne and Nick Clegg since 2010 which has taken this issue out of party politics… it’s been a long road. But today, we can look back and see just how far we’ve travelled.
The arguments remain, of course. There are those who say 0.7 is unnecessary, arbitrary and unaffordable. But as ONE estimated last year, by reaching 0.7, British taxpayers will put 15.9 million children in school, vaccinate 80 million children against life-threatening diseases, provide safe drinking water for 17 million people and help 77 million get basic financial services, like bank accounts and credit, enabling them to work their way out of poverty for good.
And is 0.7 per cent an arbitrary target? Only in the sense that 70mph is an arbitrary speed limit on the motorway. We can argue about the detail, but the point is that it’s about right.
As for affordability: it’s 7 pence in every ten pounds of national income. As a proportion of government spending, it is dwarfed by almost everything else. A person earning £30,000 a year contributes about £67 a year to aid, and around £6,595 to everything else. Even in tough times, this is small change that makes a very big difference – and when told the facts about the size of the aid budget, six out of ten people say it is about right or not big enough.
Looking ahead, there are challenges. As the aid budget is pegged to the size of national income, each time the nation’s wealth is revised downwards, aid goes down too. In today’s announcement, £130m was cut from the proposed increase in aid. The Department for International Development can probably just about absorb a hit like that, but it’s a reminder that while the British economy continues to suffer, the world’s poorest people share the burden. And to provide real certainty now about future aid commitments, the right thing to do would be to enshrine the 0.7% target in law, as all three major parties have promised to do in this parliament. The coming Queen’s Speech would be the right time for the Coalition Government to make good on that promise.
Finally, the UK must use this moral authority and political muscle for all it’s worth as they host the G8 this June. The Prime Minister has a great vision for what he can achieve with his G8 presidency. With the necessary political drive, he could help unleash a transparency revolution, so that ordinary citizens have the information they need to hold their governments and others to account, turning resources into results in the fight against extreme poverty. And with other leaders, he can make critical commitments on agriculture and nutrition, putting political weight and financial support behind African-led country plans.
With these two steps in 2013, that vision of an end to extreme poverty will be more achievable than ever. And today will be remembered as a memorable milestone on that historic journey.
Mar 13th, 2013 9:00 AM UTC
By Helen Hector
Young activists in the UK have been getting messy to raise awareness about the biggest ever national campaign to end global hunger.
Ten points if you recognised the Rudyard Kipling poem If which has been re-worked for this film, and ten bonus rock-geek points if you knew that alternative metal band Enter Shikari provided the soundtrack and voiceover.
Enough Food for Everyone IF is a movement of over 100 organisations, including ONE, who have come together in 2013 to influence a series of big opportunities in the UK that could kick start the end of global hunger – including the G8 Summit which is being held in Northern Ireland in June.
The message is simple: there is enough food in the world for everyone, but not everyone has enough food to eat. The solutions to end global hunger are there, but we need to come together and make world leaders act if it’s ever going to become a reality.
If you’re 16-25 there are three exciting campaign missions to get involved in, including a creative challenge that led this group of activists to hold the paint fight. Find out more and download the campaign toolkit.
And if you are over 25 and feeling really annoyed that someone has decided you’re too old to throw paint and like alternative metal, you can either join in anyway (we won’t tell), or see what else you can do to support the campaign.
Mar 6th, 2013 12:30 PM UTC
By Helen Hector
If you picked up the Observer on Sunday you will have seen that we’ve just launched a new report that looks at the progress made in fighting extreme poverty since the historic pledges made at the Gleneagles G8 Summit in 2005.
If you were part of the incredible Make Poverty History movement that helped secure those promises on aid, trade and debt, this is what it has helped achieve.
Our report has got a lot of people talking – so we’ve pulled all the highlights together here if you want to catch up with the conversation. Get ready to scroll!
Mar 3rd, 2013 10:05 AM UTC
By Helen Hector
Today ONE launches a new report that looks at the progress made in fighting extreme poverty since the historic pledges made by world leaders at Gleneagles in 2005.
Get the headline facts from the graphic below, or if you want to delve deeper, read the full report.
Feb 28th, 2013 10:38 AM UTC
By Helen Hector
In this new video from the Enough Food for Everyone IF coalition, the G8 Summit has been taken over by kids. Can they solve the problem of global hunger?
It seems crazy that there is enough food for everyone in the world, but nearly one billion people are hungry.
ONE is an international member of Enough Food for Everyone IF, a group of over 100 organisations who have come together to make 2013 the beginning of the end of global hunger.
If you think these kids have got the right idea about ending global hunger, make sure you share the film!
Feb 25th, 2013 2:18 PM UTC
By Alan Hudson
As David Cameron’s speech to the World Economic Forum at Davos made clear, plans for the G8 Summit are taking shape. In addition to tackling the threat of extremism and terrorist violence, and addressing issues around agriculture, food and nutrition at a pre-G8 event, the key issues on the agenda are trade, tax and transparency – government transparency and corporate transparency.
On tax and transparency, a number of issues seem to be competing for attention on the G8 agenda. These include: transparency about the revenues that companies pay to governments to extract oil and other natural resources; transparency about land deals; transparency about tax matters; transparency about who owns and controls shell companies; transparency about budgets; and transparency about development assistance. Alongside these proposals are others to ensure that the information unleashed by various transparency initiatives is user-friendly and that civil society groups and others are able to make use of that information to hold governments and companies to account.
Faced with a plethora of proposals and initiatives, there is a need both for some prioritisation and for a clear and compelling narrative about how the various initiatives will work together to drive progress against poverty and preventable disease. For ONE, this is fundamentally a narrative about linking resources to results, with transparency and information the main storyline.
Here’s how the story might go.
On resources, the G8 countries commit: to make faster progress on implementing the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) to meet their aid transparency commitments; to support robust EU laws on extractives transparency, help to develop a global standard on extractives transparency and, where relevant, sign up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI); and, to establish public registries of beneficial ownership.
On budgets and spending, the G8 countries: support BOOST – a World Bank initiative to make information about budget revenues and expenditures more accessible; endorse and implement the principles of the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency; and, support the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative (CoST) so that there is transparency about how public resources are spent on infrastructure projects.
On results, the G8 countries support another World Bank initiative – the Service Delivery Indicators initiative – which looks to improve the information that is available about how health, education and other services are delivered in developing countries. Straddling the resources and budgets and spending categories, the G8 should also support better and more open contracting.
In addition to these asks at different stages of the chain from resources to results, we are also asking the G8 to take action to make the chain as a whole work better, first by making sure that data is made available in accordance with emerging standards for open data, and second by investing in the capacity of civil society, the media and other accountability institutions to use information to hold governments and companies to account.
This is an ambitious but achievable agenda. Backed by such a narrative, the G8 can deliver a coherent package of measures that, by enabling people to access information to hold their leaders to account, will help to ensure that all resources – aid and developing countries’ own resources – are used effectively to fight poverty, rather than squandered or siphoned away. This is a compelling story. We hope it’s one that the G8 will take up and use to communicate and deliver the policy changes that are needed.
Jan 22nd, 2013 7:49 PM UTC
By Joseph Powell
This year the G8 returns to the UK. Last time in 2005 Africa and international development was top of the agenda. The commitments made on aid and debt cancellation, combined with African leadership, have helped spur great progress. Since the 2005 Gleneagles summit, annual child mortality in sub-Saharan Africa has fallen by 423,000 and 21 million more children are in primary school.
Next week G8 Sherpas – the government representatives charged with preparing for June’s Lough Erne summit – will meet for the first time under the 2013 UK Presidency. David Cameron wrote to fellow leaders in early January setting out his priorities for the year: transparency, tax and trade. In addition he announced a pre-G8 summit on agriculture and nutrition. Sherpas will be discussing what progress they think the G8 can collectively make on both sets of issues.
The context in 2013 is, however, very different to that of 2005. From 2002 to 2011, the importance of aid in sub-Saharan African government revenues fell from 17% to 11%, despite the fact that aid had increased by $28 billion. This reflects a big rise in the volume of domestic revenues from $74 billion in 2002 to $341 billion in 2011. Aid still remains a vital part of the picture, as it can meet immediate life-changing needs and also help create the conditions for countries to grow. But as more and more countries attract investment, exploit their natural resources and expand their tax base, Africa’s development prospects rest on its ability and will to harness domestic resources for the benefit of all.
To help achieve this we are proposing a package of targeted and mutually reinforcing transparency reforms:
(1) enhance transparency about resource inputs (e.g. aid and extractives revenues);
(2) open up budget processes so that citizens can see how their resources are being invested;
(3) collect better and more timely data about what those investments are achieving (service delivery quality);
(4) build the capacity of oversight institutions and citizens’ groups to use information to hold governments to account; and
(5) agree a common open standard that all data released through the G8’s focus on transparency will meet.
If implemented ambitiously, these five steps would open up the development process, moving us towards a world where people are able to access, understand and use information to take charge of and accelerate their own development.
We will also continue to hold G8 leaders to account for past promises. At the 2012 Camp David summit a partnership of G8 countries, private companies and national governments pledged to lift 50 million people out of poverty over 10 years through the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. However, this pledge will not be met unless the New Alliance is enhanced and expanded this year, from the starting six countries to an additional 12. Alongside enlargement the G8 should ensure that transparency and accountability of the Alliance is improved, there is a greater focus on nutrition and women, and investments from African and small and medium enterprises into the partnerships are increased.
More generally the G8 and partner countries should back African governments’ agriculture plans with the resources they need to deliver sustainable food security. According to the World Bank growth in the agricultural sector is at least 2.5 times more effective at reducing poverty than growth in other sectors. This year should also see an acceleration in the quality of national nutrition plans and the mobilisation of finances to turn the tide against chronic malnutrition.
Progress on a package of transparency reforms, and on agriculture and nutrition, would amount to the G8 putting citizens first by empowering them with information and creating economic opportunities in the sector where most Africans work.
In the coming weeks watch out for further blog posts on ONE’s G8 policy asks
Nov 21st, 2012 6:36 PM UTC
By Diane Sheard
British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that the UK-chaired G8 summit next June will be held in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland. In a blog earlier this month, ONE’s Adrian Lovett set five tests for Cameron in 2013, the third of which was using the UK’s G8 presidency to help ensure that ours is the generation that eradicates extreme poverty.
In his announcement, Cameron lay out three G8 development strands, building on his ‘golden thread’ narrative: advancing trade; ensuring tax compliance; and promoting greater transparency. As you may have read elsewhere on the ONE Blog, the golden thread is a distinct approach to poverty reduction which argues that if societies are to move from poverty to prosperity, they need to have the right institutions and governance arrangements in place, with people empowered to face the challenges and seize the opportunities that they face in their daily lives.
Cameron expanded on this in an op-ed on Wednesday, in which he said that “as more and more countries attract investment, exploit their natural resources and expand their tax base, Africa’s development prospects increasingly rest on its ability to harness domestic resources for the benefit of all”, and that “there are several ways the G8 can uniquely support this process, advancing transparency in order to empower citizens to take charge of their own destiny.” We couldn’t agree more. Greater transparency – of aid flows from donors, of government budgets, of tax and illicit finance, and within the extractives industry – is central to this. And what’s more, we expect G8 leaders to put their own houses in order, including looking at tax havens and the recovery of stolen assets within their own countries.
In addition to the golden thread focus, Cameron will host a high-level food and nutrition event just ahead of the G8, building on this year’s Olympic hunger summit. The New Alliance, launched at the 2012 G8 in Camp David, committed to lifting 50 million out of poverty through investment in agriculture. Next June, leaders must enhance and expand the New Alliance if we are to make progress towards this goal. Donors must also commit to backing African governments’ agriculture plans with the necessary resources, as well as enhancing nutrition.
We are hopeful that making real progress on trade, tax and transparency could pass the third test that Adrian has set. There is certainly real potential. Northern Ireland’s recent history has demonstrated how bleak prospects and endemic pessimism can be overcome within a generation with the right combination of time, resources and political will. For the goal of ending extreme poverty, we need the same ingredients. This is Adrian’s fifth test: whether Cameron – and other G8 leaders – are prepared to invest the necessary time, resources and political will.
The International ONE Blog is a daily log of the anti-poverty movement. The site is operated by ONE staff, with guest contributions from ONE volunteers, members and allies.
The content of each post and each comment represents the views of that author and does not necessarily reflect the views of ONE. ONE does not support or oppose any candidate for elected office, and any post expressing support or opposition for a candidate is not endorsed by ONE.