G20: Fiesta or Fail?

According to NGO colleagues who were in Los Cabos last night for the G20 briefings, questions to the UK Prime Minister revolved around Argentina and football. An interesting choice you might think, when the world is facing multiple crises in the economy, the climate and the food system.

The G20 countries between them represent 85% of the global economy and so there is a moral imperative on them to look beyond their borders and consider their global responsibilities. However, over the last few years, issues of poverty and development appear to have been relegated to a side-show as the eurozone takes centre stage, and this Summit has been no exception.

On climate change, while the Leaders’ Declaration acknowledges that, “costs will be higher to the extent we delay action”, there is no sense of urgency or any endorsement of particular sources of climate finance, such as international shipping, to fill the Green Climate Fund. The new ‘Climate Finance Study Group’ feels distinctly like a way of parking difficult decisions and ignoring the existing evidence already provided by the IMF, World Bank and the UNFCCC. On a similar note, there was a progress report on fossil fuel subsidies but as tweeters couldn’t fail to notice earlier this week, there is a long way to go!

Ralph Hodgson/Tearfund
Pupils at St Johns Primary school, Marsibit, N Kenya waiting for lunch, TF
partner CCS

The G20 also failed to respond adequately on food security. With 1 billion people going hungry every day it is clear that our food system is bust and not delivering as it should. The UK has hinted that food will be a priority for its G8 Presidency next year and the Prime Minister is also set to host a Hunger Summit linked to the Olympic Games. The UK should use these opportunities to initiate a full and frank conversation about the root causes of global hunger which will take into account the needs of small-holders and also consider the need for action on land, bio-fuels and climate change as part of the package.

On a more positive note, one of the most welcome announcements to come out of Los Cabos is the renewal of a mandate for the Anti-Corruption Working Group. This group has been important in holding G20 governments to account  on implementing the UN Convention against Corruption and the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. As Tearfund campaigners will know, it has been estimated that Africa loses $148 billion every year to corruption and so the work to stem illicit financial flows has important development implications. Mandate renewal offers an opportunity for an expanded agenda to include for example, an action point on extractive industries. Legislation requiring EU companies to publish what they pay in developing countries should be finalised in the coming months, following in the footsteps of the US Dodd-Frank Act. This will provide a firm foundation on which to build and if other G20 countries follow suit, we would be on the way to establishing a truly global transparency standard.


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