In today’s latest news and analysis…
MDG blind spot
The Institute of Development Studies’ Richard Jolly offers some suggestions for reducing inequality, a problem he says is destructive for societies as a whole and is “largely overlooked” by the Millennium Development Goals.
“Inequalities fell when governments expanded social protection programmes like Brazil’s Bolsa Familia. Minimum wage legislation and policies allowing more people to access secondary and higher education also contributed to success. Successful countries used progressive taxation or channelled mining and oil revenues to fund inequality-reducing programmes.”
The price of secrecy
Reuters reports on the tax deal signed by Germany and Switzerland that would allow the former to collect more tax revenue and the latter to maintain its banking secrecy.
“This goes against European Union efforts to clamp down on banking secrecy and has prompted strong objections.
‘This quasi-tax amnesty is not only morally abject but also crazy from a fiscal policy viewpoint,’ Germany’s main union federation, DGB, said in a statement on Wednesday.
‘Tax evaders may remain anonymous and are even rewarded retrospectively and legalised,’ it said.”
Christian Aid is worried that G20 officials preparing the agenda for November’s summit intend to “water down” efforts to tackle tax avoidance in poor countries.
“This would be a scandal. Tax dodging by some unscrupulous companies costs poor countries more than they receive in aid. In fact, it’s one of the biggest single factors keeping people poor.
The G20 acknowledges this, and has previously committed to help governments collect tax revenue to fund development.”
Medical doctor and Independent blogger Sima Barmania chose World Peace Day to ask if peace is actually possible.
“There are indeed a ‘lot of nutters’ out there – but a significant part of their attitudes have been shaped by culture, education, and other socializing processes,” according to the US-based National Peace Academy’s Tony Jenkins. “Peace education – and how we facilitate it – plays a big role.”
Cameron the action hero
In his first speech to the UN General Assembly, British Prime Minister David Cameron celebrated the NATO intervention in Libya and suggested the UN must engage in less talk and more action.
“You can sign every human rights declaration in the world but if you stand by and watch people being slaughtered in their own country, when you could act, then what are those signatures really worth?
The UN has to show that we can be not just united in condemnation, but united in action, acting in a way that lives up to the UN’s founding principles and meets the needs of people everywhere…
The United Nations played a vital role authorising international action. But let’s be clear the United Nations is no more effective than the nation states that come together to enforce its will.”
British author Dan Hind interviews fellow-writer Greg Muttitt on Western intervention and the problem with trying to shape a post-conflict Libya without much understanding of the country’s culture and history.
“We should watch out for Western interpretations about what Libyan society is like. It is in the West’s interests for the Libyan political class to be weak and isolated, so it can be easily influenced from outside. That doesn’t mean that officials and generals have to sit down and work out a ‘divide and rule’ strategy. But everyone is tempted to see things in terms that suit their interests. Western policy-makers are no exception. There’s ample evidence of that in recent history,” according to Muttitt.
The Guardian’s John Vidal writes about a new Oxfam report entitled Land and Power that relates specific cases, such as the forced evictions of over 20,000 Ugandans to make way for the UK’s New Forests Company, to draw attention to the issue of foreign interests buying up African land.
“It’s not acceptable for companies to blame governments for shortfalls in their operations. Investors, no matter how noble they purport to be, cannot sweep aside the needs and rights of poor communities who depend on the land they profit from,” according to Oxfam director Barbara Stocking.
Hunger as disaster
Hunger, which affects nearly 1 billion people worldwide and whose causes and possible solutions “go to the core of virtually all the major components of the functioning of the international system,” is the focus of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ new World Disasters Report 2011.
“The traditional, mainly Western-dominated approach to defining the world’s problems and solutions will weaken as new, more fluid configurations of state and non-state actors complicate the process by which collective action will be taken to deal with global issues. The power dynamics of the humanitarian sector – to date, a largely Western construct – will also change as greater capacity and stronger political clout emerge from other regions. At the same time, the growing primacy of state sovereignty around the world will determine the limits of humanitarian intervention and the approaches that will be tolerated by governments.” (p.183)
Open letter on Somalia
Oxfam presents a summary of the bullet points contained in an open letter it signed, along with 19 other NGOs, calling for Somalia’s belligerents and the international community to set aside their differences for the sake of those suffering from the country’s famine.
“The letter urged international governments to change their approach to Somalia and enhance diplomatic engagement with the parties to the conflict, to ensure the unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid. It said donors should also remove any legal impediments on providing impartial assistance to people living in areas dominated by armed groups.”
Al Jazeera reports on the efforts of activist Debby Chan to investigate reports of safety and labour rights violations after a series of suicides by workers at the Chinese factories of Apple supplier Foxconn.
“As consumers we should ask ourselves how certain products are made …. Corporate social responsibility is always window-dressing measures without enforcement mechanisms and remedies for workers. So the only way to stop labour rights violations is through campaigning. We hope that more consumers can pressure Apple and Foxconn,” according to Chan.