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I sat in Enniskillen Golf Club on Tuesday afternoon, having just delivered our final, golf-themed stunt with the Big Heads, and watched the news coverage of the G8 Summit drawing to a close. When the G8 communiqué came out, we got to work analysing and put our reaction out to the media - saying that the G8 had ‘asked all the right questions but has been thin on answers’. Now 48 hours later and with the dust beginning to settle, I can properly reflect on the G8 outcomes this year.
In the days leading up to the Summit, the Syrian crisis surged to the top of the G8 agenda. But the apparent stalemate between G8 leaders on defining concrete next steps on the crisis gave us little cause for hope of any progress. In the end, the G8 reached agreement that could act as a springboard for future action – as long as they stick to their word. The G8’s statement on Syria reaffirmed their commitment to find a political solution to the conflict including peace talks as soon as possible; to pursue greater humanitarian access for aid agencies and pledged $1.5bn of desperately needed funding to help the eight million people affected. Now the pressure is on to ensure that momentum is not lost and peace talks become a reality (and you can help).
Tax transparency was the second hot topic on the agenda. The UK government had laid down the gauntlet in the months and weeks leading up to the Summit with big talk of ‘sweeping away’ tax secrecy. And last Saturday, the UK’s own tax havens announced they will sign up to an international Convention on sharing tax information – the signs were looking good. The final G8 tax deal ended with more rhetoric but little detail. The G8 acknowledged that new measures to share tax information need to be open to the poorest countries, but made few commitments to actually doing this. Much more disappointing was the G8’s lack of action to end secret company ownership. A public registry that shows who actually benefits from the ownership of each company would have been a crucial first step, but only a few G8 leaders could even agree to looking at private registries of ‘beneficial ownership’. As our reaction said – you can’t end secrecy with secret lists.
The problem of land-grabbing
Another priority for Oxfam at this year’s Summit was land transparency – and again the G8 scored well for recognising the problem of land-grabbing. It even made it into the 10–point ‘Lough Erne Declaration' – a one-page summary of the Summit and two international meetings in the preceding weeks. The G8 also agreed a series of partnerships with developing countries to improve land transparency. But they failed to live up to the pre-Summit talk of ‘putting their own house in order’ by clamping down on companies in their own countries involved in land grabbing. This is unfinished business and we’ll be calling on the G8 to launch a truly ambitious global initiative on land by 2015 that can lift the veil of secrecy on land grabbing.
So the spectacle of the G8 is over for another year, and the media, police and campaigners like me have all packed up and returned home. Whilst the Summit outcomes are not everything we had hoped for, we should celebrate the progress that was made. Some of the most powerful leaders on the planet are now talking the talk on land and tax transparency – issues that were totally off their radar only a few years ago. We’ll keep on campaigning until the G8 show they can also walking the walk.
What do you think? Did the G8 get the job done, or were they really just sight-seeing this year?
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