Uncategorized – Tearfund's Policy Blog

November 26, 2015 by sarahwiggins1

25 years ago as a teenager, I wore ‘Save the Planet’ t-shirts that I’d bought in H&Ms – influenced by my much-more-environmentally-aware sister. But I did also stop using aerosols to spray my fringe! I can’t remember the ‘moment’ when the Montreal Protocol was signed – though I’m still glad I was part of citizens calling for a global agreement on how to stop the growing hole in the ozone layer. 

20 years ago in my first job – at a social change charity – I dismissed my colleagues who criticised the number of flights I took. ‘You can’t seriously think people will change their behaviour like that’, I said.

10 years ago, with a husband and two children in tow by then, I was living in Sri Lanka – we were working as part of the response to the Tsunami. Watching a film that explained the problem of climate change was the thing that propelled me from having a passing interest in the environment to seeing it as central to my faith and my vocation. Mike and I asked each other how would we answer our kids if they said ‘why didn’t you do anything about this?’. We returned to the UK for both of us to work on environmental issues.

5 years ago I started working in Tearfund’s advocacy team, and I shared my colleagues’ heartbreak as they’d devoted deep reservoirs of energy, personal sacrifice and professional expertise, towards calling for a global agreement on climate change at the Copenhagen Climate Talks. We came far short of where we needed to get to that time.

This year. Now. Today. Even before I get on the Eurostar to go to Paris on Friday I feel overwhelmed by the significance and the potential for hope offered by the UN climate talks which are taking place there in the first two weeks of December. I’ll be working with some of Tearfund’s partners and other international Christian organisations – to both influence governments there, and raise attention to the issues in our congregations back at home.

But this is part of a much deeper journey. I have learned and I have changed. Along with millions of others’, my lifestyle is different. We eat more veggie meals. We cycle to work and we drive to Slovakia when we visit my sister’s family (who ended up building the first Passive House (zero carbon) in that country!). We have to fly for work trips, but we haven’t flown for a holiday in 7 years.

This December, an art display in Jardin des Plantes, Paris

All the countries of the world are coming together in Paris – and leaders of the world will be there to start it off. It could be a ‘moment’ when we as a human race choose to make a strong agreement between countries that clearly provides a way for us to transform our over-reliance on carbon towards renewables. Crucially, we could decide to do this in a way that is just and fair for people living in poverty. It’s a really big deal.

And I realise, now, that the strength of our collective lifestyle changes and our connected voice, is incredibly precious. While I am in Paris, my family will be marching in London on Sunday as part of our journey. If you’re not planning on doing so already, you are warmly invited to join them in this march, or on any of the other ones around the UK, and also to join us in prayer.

November 24, 2015 by mattcurrey

Like most people I was shocked to wake up last Saturday to news of the horrific attacks in Paris. I have been praying for all those who have been affected and lost loved ones ever since. Paris became a city of tragedy in November, but in December it has the potential to become a centre of hope for the whole world. The French are pressing ahead with critical UN climate change talks involving all the world’s major leaders, and this year they have the potential to deliver a real breakthrough. In a few days I will be going with a small group of colleagues from Tearfund along with a group who are on a Pilgrimage to Paris to add our voices to help get a really good deal.

So how likely is that? Well in the run up to the conference over 160 countries, including all the major developed nations, representing more than 90 per cent of the world’s population have submitted their own national plans setting out what they will do to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions. The UN have added these up and if they are all implemented they would together reduce the total global average temperature rise by the end of the century from the currently projected three to four degrees to around 2.7 degrees above pre-industrial norms. This doesn’t sound like much, but the science tells us that in order to avoid the most damaging impacts of climate change the world needs to keep global average temperature rise to below two degrees, and ideally below 1.5 degrees. These agreements then aren’t anywhere near enough, but they would be a big step in the right direction.

We need to see these national commitments incorporated into a legally binding global deal in Paris. This deal also needs to contain within it the capacity to urgently review and ratchet up these commitments, even before they come into force in 2020, so they can be strengthened until they really are sufficient to keep us below two and even 1.5 degrees. Critically the agreement also needs a long-term goal of effectively getting all of our energy from renewable sources by 2050, so it is clear what all these short-term targets are ultimately heading towards. Finally we need progress from the world’s rich nations in providing at least $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poorer nations make this shift, and adapt to the impacts of a changing climate that they are already experiencing.

Image by Marcus Perkins for Tearfund

This is why these talks are so important to me and to Tearfund. In recent years I have sat with communities in Bangladesh whose homes were going underwater as a result of rising sea levels; villagers in the Philippines whose homes had been torn apart by tropical storms far more intense than anything they had previously experienced; farmers in parts of Zimbabwe whose crops now only get three months of rain a year when they used to get five; as well as many others.  For the world’s poorest people who have done the least to cause it, climate change is not an abstract thing that might be happening in the future. It is very real, it is happening now and it can be the difference between life and death. For them getting a good deal in Paris is critical!

Momena (yellow and orange dress) has moved six times due to rising tides and because of cyclone Aila, she is one of many landless families living in the village of Kamarkhola. A climate refugee, Momena fears for her 19 year old daughter Shahana, rising tides and frequent cyclones means more than just moving and loss of livelihoods. Now, because so many communities are living in such close proximity to each other, sexual harassment is becoming more common. Image by Peter Caton for Tearfund.

We can all play our part in helping make that happen. You can pray with your friends and churches using these resources. You can also join tens of thousands of people around the world in taking to the streets. We will be at demonstrations in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London on 28 and 29 November and would love for you to join us there. If the nations of the world can step up in the next few weeks and agree a deal which makes a good start in tackling global climate change, then the news from Paris will begin to truly turn from tragedy to hope for the world’s poorest and for all of us.

Main image by Asian Development Bank via Flickr/Creative Commons.

April 16, 2015 by annakateling

By Alex Evans. Originally posted on Global Dashboard.

Over the past six months, I’ve been working with my friend and colleague Rich Gower on a report for Tearfund, the Christian development NGO, entitled The Restorative Economy: Completing our Unfinished Millennium Jubilee – and today, the report is finally published. Here’s the summary, and here’s the full report.

The process of writing this report has been especially close to my heart, and has left me at the end feeling that I want to devote much more of my energy to the massive task of movement building and values shifting that lies ahead of us. I’ve been working in and around the multilateral system for nearly a decade, and like many of my friends and colleagues in that world, have frequently felt acute frustration at the postage stamp-sized amount of political space that currently exists for solutions on the scale we need, both internationally and at home in the UK.

This report is an attempt to start thinking about what a new approach to that challenge might look like – across four chapters. The first one sets out a snapshot of where we are: in many ways a golden age for development, but one in which three huge challenges – environmental unsustainability, growing inequality, and the millions and millions of people still left behind as globalisation accelerates apace – remain ours to solve.

In chapter two, Rich and I set out the need for a different theory of influence. Many of us who work in the fight for development, justice, and sustainability have I think been feeling the limits of theories of change that rely primarily on ‘insider lobbying’. We take that here as our starting point for asking what an alternative approach might look like: one that places much more emphasis on how we build new grassroots coalitions, transform values, and tell each other much deeper stories about where we are, how we got here, where we might choose to go next, and who we really are.

Chapter three then explores the potential to discover such deeper stories in theology. All of us witnessed how the biblical idea of jubilee was able to animate a transformative civil society movement fifteen years ago, and proved powerfully resonant far beyond the church groups that formed Jubilee 2000’s core. As someone who worked in the UK government at the point when the 2005 Gleneagles summit concluded its debt relief deal, I still have to pinch myself when I remember that the average low income country’s debt fell from nearly 75% of its GDP in 2000 to just over 25% today – something that happened partly because of politicians, but much more fundamentally because of a coalition of millions of ordinary people, united by a shared story.

In this light, we argue, it’s important to remember that the once-a-generation jubilee festival described in the Old Testament was never about debt relief alone. When you go back to the original texts, as we did at some length in the course of researching this report, you find that they were also about environmental restoration. Ensuring that there was real attentiveness to enabling people living in poverty to meet their basic needs. And ensuring that concentrations of wealth did not build up from one generation to another. All three of these themes are of course fundamental to where we find ourselves today, in 2015. (And as friends working on the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals will already have spotted, they’re central to that agenda too.)

So in a very real sense, the work we began in 2000 – our millennium jubilee – remains a work in progress. If we can complete it, then our kids will enjoy the kind of future that I know I want for my children – Isabel, 5, and Kit, 2. And in chapter 4, Rich and I set out what we think that would look like in practice.

We argue that it starts with the changes that all of us need to make in our own lives. This is partly because of the direct impact that such changes can have, of course, but we think the main issue here is something to do with the quality of intention that movements exemplify. Wherever movements not only demand but live out the change they want to see in the world, there’s a raw power there that can exert the kind of non-linear effect on politics that progressives so urgently want to see.

But ultimately the decision about the future we want has to be made by all of us collectively, as well as each of us individually. So chapter 4 ends with a ten big ideas for far-reaching policy changes of the kind that we think have this transformative power. The ideas cover a very broad waterfront – from reforming the financial system to global climate policy, and from how we use aid internationally to how our tax system works at home.

We don’t by any means think the proposals we set out are the last word on the subject. But if they can play even just a small part in catalysing a serious conversation, among all of us, about the choices we have in what we bequeath to our kids, then I think I speak for all of Tearfund’s fabulous advocacy team, Rich, and I when I say that we’ll be more than happy with the result.

March 17, 2015 by annakateling

By Timothy Ingram

As the devastating news about the impact of Cyclone Pam on Vanuatu unfolds, I am sat in the negotiation room of the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) in Sendai Japan. This United Nations (UN) conference was established to develop a new framework to address the global issue of disaster risk reduction and build on the success of the original Hyogo Framework for Action launched in 2005. This new Framework will represent a voluntary agreement by UN Member States (of which the United Kingdom is one) on global policies to combat the increasing risk of disasters across the world. Cyclone Pam has brought all this into stark focus.

What has been so encouraging since our arrival in Sendai last Thursday has been the diverse civil society attendance, with over 2000 delegates travelling to Sendai to share knowledge, experiences and a vision for the future of disaster risk reduction (DRR) in their countries. It has been a honour to be part of this and to meet so many passionate individuals working hard all around the world to improve communities resilience to disasters. The turnout from the UN has also been strong with 186 delegations registered to participate in negotiations on the new framework.

The inconvenient truth

If the civil society engagement has been the highlight of the conference, along with the wonderful hospitality of the City of Sendai, the lowlight has been the treatment in negotiations of those that matter most. It’s been shocking to witness the relevancy of ‘stakeholders’ involvement in decision making processes for national plans on DRR being called into question during the negotiations taking place in the Tachibana Hall.

The stakeholders that the conference is referring to are those affected by disasters – that means every individual, business and organisation that inhabits the natural environment of a country regardless of location, gender, ethnicity or religion. All these have an interest in the prevention of disaster and resilience of their country, community and homes.

Putting communities first

The very fact that the right of these individuals to input into the formation of disaster preparedness plans and policies to protect them from disasters such as Cyclone Pam or the Great East Japan Earthquake, is being questioned demonstrates the failing of the UN Member States to realise what this agreement should be about. This Framework should be about those stakeholders now having to rebuild their homes, lives and communities in the aftermath of disasters. This Framework should be about those stakeholders who know they are vulnerable and are hoping that they will not be next. This Framework should be about those stakeholders, both individuals and local organisations, who have the capacity and knowledge to strengthen national plans, improve community resilience and mobilise a vast number of volunteers to support the work of national and local governments. This Framework should demonstrate how a global society can come together, put politics aside and do what is needed to ensure that adequate support on disaster resilience is in place to: in short to lessen the need for humanitarian aid. This Framework should be about you.

A joined up Civil Society for lasting change

If these pressing issues are not tackled before the closure of the conference on Wednesday 18th March  then  the final agreed text may end up being just words on paper. A coalition of over 1000 global NGOs, including Tearfund, have come together to express their discontent with this process to date and concerns for the strength of the agreement to come. It is important that this is listened to and acted on before the close of the negotiations. See the press statement here: NGOs lament limited political commitment to funding disaster risk reduction plans.

However, while we will continue to push for an improved agreement at this conference, civil society, representing ordinary people around the world, has already begun to focus on how they can join together to affect real change on the front-line. It is this action that will be the true legacy of Sendai regardless of how negotiations conclude.

February 17, 2015 by Stephanie Gill

The following joint statement was released last week by Tearfund, CAFOD and Christian Aid. 

Faith leaders, as trusted and respected members of their community, have played a hugely significant, and often unsung, role in the Ebola crisis. In the midst of confusion, fear and panic, communities have often turned to them for guidance. They have assisted in preventing an Ebola outbreak spreading even further by disseminating key messages and mobilising their communities to do the same. Many pastors, priests and imams have worked tirelessly to change unsafe burial practices and other previously deep rooted cultural practices and attitudes which contributed so much to the spread of the virus.

A high proportion of the population of Sierra Leone and Liberia are believers and regular attenders at a place of worship. As experienced communicators, the regularity of religious gatherings such as weekly services at churches and mosques has provided faith leaders with a unique opportunity to speak to their congregations. The supportive teaching on love and inclusivity, found in religious texts, means they have been ideally placed to speak out against the destructive stigma associated with Ebola. Faith leaders have invited recovered Ebola patients to give testimony at religious services in order to address stigma and discrimination that recovered people have faced.

Many faith leaders have organised food assistance to families in 21 day quarantine and have set up programmes to care for orphans and help families rebuild their lives. They have often been a first point of call for those experiencing financial hardship. They have brought love and solace to people who are frightened, angry and bereaved, and to those who are sick and dying.

Beyond the community level, the President of Sierra Leone acknowledged the role of faith leaders and encouraged different religious denominations to work together in the fight against Ebola. The Inter-religious Council of Sierra Leone (IRCSL) founded the Religious Leaders Task Force on Ebola in order to address the Ebola crisis from a united interreligious perspective. At the international level, faith-based organisations such as Caritas Internationalis have been advising UN WHO experts on the revision of the Safe Burial Policy.

Ebola has caused huge disruption to people’s well-being at an individual and a collective level. For many people their sense of security and well-being, built up slowly in the years since the terrible conflicts in Liberia and Sierra Leone ended, have been shaken to the core. As the Ebola response moves into the recovery phase it is essential that faith leaders are proactively supported with the right training and related materials, ongoing mentoring and other resources to help them fully utilise their role in the Ebola response. Given their influence in communities and the potential harm of wrong messages, well trained faith leaders, who receive ongoing mentoring and support, can be a crucial part of the countries’ recovery and healing.

Independent, in-depth research should be prioritised by research institutions and donors to analyse the unique role of faith leaders in behaviour change including preventing the spread of Ebola, and also of mitigating the devastating impacts of stigmatisation during the recovery phase.

One particular challenge is that although faith leaders are well trained to provide spiritual care, most have not been trained in counselling and therefore there is a strong need for skilled personnel in this area. This skill shortage should also be considered in Ebola Recovery Plans going forward.

As Ebola Recovery Plans are developed it is of the utmost importance that faith leaders are fully involved and represented in high-level decision making processes which occur at an international, regional and country level. Faith leaders should be involved in the drafting process and the plans should recognise faith leaders as a key target group to work with. This includes the United Nations, European Union and World Bank ‘Ebola Recovery Plan’ which has ‘Peacebuilding, Social Cohesion, Institutions and Core Government Functions’ as one of its ‘four pillars’ and the Health Recovery Plan from the Ministry of Health in Sierra Leone has ‘Community Engagement’ as a key input. This should also apply to country specific Ebola prevention plans such as those facilitated by the WHO.

The role of faith leaders has often been overlooked and in many cases their potential contribution to the Ebola crisis is still not being fully realised. There was a significant missed opportunity in not involving faith leaders further at the very start of the outbreak. Evaluations of the response to the current outbreak will need to consider whether the role of faith leaders has been fully utilised. They will need to consider what steps should have been taken to include them more in planning and to mobilise them from the very outset of the outbreak.

These lessons will need to be applied to help prevent future outbreaks occurring in the affected countries and should also be applied to countries that are currently unaffected. Future programmes centred on Ebola prevention must ensure faith leaders are involved as a pivotal part of the focus.

CAFOD, Christian Aid and Tearfund recommend the following:

  1. There will be numerous reviews and evaluations of the Ebola outbreak and response. Policymakers should use these as opportunities to consider whether the role of faith leaders was fully utilised from the start of the outbreak and what lessons must be learned.
  1. In order to build a robust evidence base, independent in-depth research should be commissioned to investigate the role of faith leaders in catalysing behaviour change within the Ebola outbreak and response.
  1. Ebola prevention plans and programmes, such as those facilitated by the WHO, must ensure faith leaders are involved as a pivotal part of the focus.
  1. Ebola recovery plans currently being produced, such as the UN, EU and World Bank Ebola Recovery Plan, as well as national level plans must include clear strategies for working with faith leaders. Faith leaders must be fully involved and represented in these high-level decision making processes.
  1. Faith leaders and faith based organisations must be allocated dedicated funding for training and related material, and on-going mentoring, particularly in counselling.

January 16, 2015 by annakateling

By Alex Evans. Originally posted on Eden 2.0

Yesterday saw the launch of action/2015, the new global campaign on poverty, inequality, and climate change that will rally more than a thousand campaigning organisations around four crucial summit moments on these issues that will take place over the year ahead.

It’s the right campaign at the right time, because now more than ever, power is so distributed that only mass mobilisation and values change will be able to bring about the transformation needed – something I realised vividly during the profoundly disillusioning experience that was acting as the author of the UN High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability in 2011 (more on that sorry tale in the first couple of pages of this talk of mine from 2013).

But just what kind of values change is it that we need? I’ve written before here about the importance of stories for mobilising change – so what is it that those stories need to be about?

In our forthcoming report for Tearfund – working title The Unfinished Jubilee: Towards a Restorative Economy – Richard Gower and I argue that three themes are especially important. You can sum them up in just ten words: A larger us. A longer future. A different good life.

1. A larger us

First up, we need to think less of “people like us” and more of “people – like us”. The whole sweep of human history is a story of expanding the size of the ‘we’ with which we empathise – from itinerant bands of hunter-gatherers to chiefdoms, from city states to kingdoms, and on to modern nation states and the staggeringly diverse communities of affinity and ethnicity in today’s globalised world. This expansion of empathy was perfectly captured by Martin Luther King in his 1963 ‘letter from Birmingham City jail’:

I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. What affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

Above all, we need to get back to thinking in terms of the common good – and to do so at planetary scale, because in a world of global interdependence and planetary boundaries, only a 7 billion ‘us’ will do.

2. A longer future

Second, we need to face up to the fact that we’ve fallen out of the habit of thinking about the long term. Instead, our political leaders rarely have the luxury of thinking beyond the next election; our business leaders, the next financial quarter; our journalists, the next 24 hour news cycle. Scientist and author Danny Hillis observed in 1994 that:

When I was a child, people used to talk about what would happen by the year 2000. Now, thirty years later, they still talk about what will happen by 2000. The future has been shrinking by one year per year for my entire life.

In particular, there has been a catastrophic implosion of the implicit covenant between past, current, and future generations. Today’s young generation in developed countries face a far more uncertain future than their parents, with unaffordable housing, costly higher education and student debt, and the end of ‘jobs for life’. And globally, the next generation faces a future of steadily increasing climate change and resource scarcity – unless decisive action is taken now to prevent that from happening.

3. A different good life

Third, recent years have seen a wealth of research challenging the idea that material consumption levels have much to do with happiness, at least beyond a certain point. Surveys that measure people’s subjective wellbeing routinely find that the correlation between life satisfaction and income starts to break beyond a certain level of GDP per capita.  Robert Kennedy recognised this nearly 50 years ago, when he observed that,

Yet the Gross National Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.

So our stories need to focus on a broader idea of human flourishing, encompassing not only material security but also goals further up the ‘hierarchy of needs’ – such as friendship, family, a sense of connection, confidence, achievement, and the respect of others.

For more on the Tearfund project mentioned above, this presentation and this blog post, both from a couple of months ago, give an overview of some of the ideas we’re looking at.

December 12, 2014 by annakateling

Author: Madeleine Gordon

Over the last two weeks officials from countries around the world have gathered together for the latest round of UN climate talks, this time in Lima, Peru.

Although these talks happen every year, this round has been particularly anticipated as a signal to demonstrate the level of commitment towards a global agreement next year in Paris. This legally binding agreement will replace the Kyoto Protocol (a treaty agreed by nations through the UN to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions) and will take effect from 2020.

Encouragingly in the weeks leading up to the talks there were some unprecedented action by member nations, such as the US-China deal and $9.6  billion pledged to the Green Climate Fund– all signalling a change in the wind when it comes to international priorities on climate change.

Alongside this, there’s been strong public support for climate action throughout the year such as the ‘Peoples Climate Marches’ which saw over 2,000 different events across 162 countries, resulting in hundreds of thousands of people stepping out in support of strong action on climate change. In Lima on Wednesday there was a march of 15,000 people, from many different countries and diverse backgrounds – bringing a human face to the negotiations that can often feel sterile and technical.

Hosted in Lima, the talks have been important to the region of Latin America in raising the profile of sustainable development in the region.Tearfund’s partners in Peru are already helping communities reduce their vulnerability to extreme weather events and are speaking out publicly about the change that’s needed.

Roger Mendoza from Tearfund partner Paz y Esperanza in Peru has been at the climate negotiations, and comments; ‘I think it’s important that there is a united front from Member States, civil society and businesses in a spirit that energises us all into restoring the planet and to see communities flourishing. The impacts of climate change are a real threat to the most vulnerable, and that is why we are calling governments to take action immediately.’

‘From the negotiations we can see that there is consensus on achieving clear objectives, actual results, concrete funding for adaptation and mitigation, forest conservation, technology transfer and capacity building to ensure solid responses to global warming.’

‘We hope there is wisdom in [UN] member countries for these intentions to become realities. The final couple of days will be key in making sure we are on the right track to see a fair and legally binding treaty for post 2020.’

So we wait in solidarity and put collective pressure on our leaders to ‘do the right thing’. Alongside this, we also need to address our a high carbon, high physical consumption lifestyles in the West and a global economic model that has been great at driving down poverty, but has done so at enormous environmental and social costs. The change we require goes beyond political lobbying and incorporates the way we live, recognising we all have a part to play in a sustainable and just world, where all communities can flourish within the earth’s limits. A fair and legally binding deal in Paris next year is crucial to that.

November 19, 2014 by Melissa Lawson

So the Brisbane G20 Summit is over.  It was a fascinating Summit to follow, with discussions on how to grow G20 economies by 2.1%, ebola, climate change (not Mr Abbott’s favourite topic, but with external pressure it was at least mentioned) and Mr Putin leaving the Summit early after frank conversations about the Ukraine.

I was following the Summit to see how G20 leaders responded to Tearfund’s Secret’s Out campaign, which called for action by G20 leaders on corruption – particularly in the extractives sector.  So what actually happened and what was agreed?

G20 Australia

  • The final G20 Communique was short and sweet.  From a corruption perspective, it included an endorsement of high-level principles on beneficial ownership (ie countries will gather data on who actually owns and controls companies), but G20 leaders failed to include a commitment to make this information available to the public.  So progress, but still room for improvement.
  • The G20 agreed to a new Anti-Corruption Action plan.  The past two Action Plans have been useful in spurring anti-corruption efforts as each country’s progress is monitored and the findings published.  The new Action Plan is therefore welcome as it ensures anti-corruption remains a core G20 topic and will help to galvanise future action.
  • The new Anti-Corruption Action Plan includes extractives as a high risk sector. G20 countries have committed to practical action to mitigate corruption in this sector – including through developing best practice and considering high-level principles, in partnership with business and civil society.  This is a mini-win, as earlier this year we thought extractives could be removed from G20 discussions altogether as it was proving such a controversial issue between G20 members.  Although not in the Communique, the fact that extractives is included in the Anti-Corruption plan means it is now firmly on the agenda for the forthcoming 2 years.  Civil society now needs to influence the best practice and possible high level principles.
  • Budget transparency is given a higher priority in the new Anti-Corruption action plan and is recognised as a particular sector meriting attention.  G20 countries have committed to conduct a self-assessment, outline steps they will take to enhance their efforts, alongside developing a practical G20 toolkit on budget transparency.  Certainly a step forward.

Overall, the Brisbane agreements seem on a par with outcomes in many other multilateral processes.  As civil society we often get some of what we called for, but rarely everything.  We know the UK government were championing many of our concerns but other countries continued to block progress – which can be very frustrating in the run up to a Summit.  Only a few weeks ago we were concerned that extractives would not be mentioned and the G20 would fail to make a single commitment in this area.  So I’m pretty relieved that the G20 took some steps forward.  That’s why I’ve given it a 6 out of 10 for tackling corruption and illicit financial flows.

And that’s why we keep campaigning and putting the pressure on our leaders, because without our efforts we may have made zero progress in Brisbane.  So let’s not stop just because the G20 is over – we must continue advocating so that governments make decisions in the interest of the world’s poorest people.

November 12, 2014 by Melissa Lawson

On the eve of the G20 Melissa Lawson updates campaigners on what we have achieved and what we might see on transparency.

Developing countries lose approximately $1 trillion each year in illicit financial flows – that’s money lost to crime, tax evasion, corruption and other other illicit activity etc.¹ That’s seven times what is spent in international aid and is enough to:

$1 trillion could buy every person in Brisbane and Adelaide a new Rolls Royce. Photo: Lukasdesign

  • buy every person in Brisbane and Adelaide a Rolls Royce, or
  • provide basic education for children in low-income countries for the next 17 years,² or
  • contain the ebola crisis at least 1000 times over (based on calculations by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs).³

But this weekend, some of this might change.  Leaders of the world’s largest economies, making up 75% of global trade will be meeting at the G20 Summit in Brisbane – and we hope will agree actions to curb illicit financial flows.

Tearfund and others round the world have been part of Micah Challenge’s Exposed campaign calling on the G20 to address corruption – particularly through increasing transparency in the extractive sector.  The G20 must keep up the momentum towards transparency and build on the progress achieved at last year’s G8.  This is why Tearfund supporters have sent 25,000 messages to Prime Minister Cameron, urging him to use this his influence to champion anti-corruption issues.

So what are our chances of success?

We understand that the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group will issue a new Action Plan – something we called for earlier this year.  That’s a very mini-success.  Reportedly, extractive transparency has been discussed within this context and has brought much controversy.

Outside of the G20 discussions there have been other steps towards a global standard for extractive industry transparency.  Canada has made progress on mandatory reporting through tabling legislation, EU member states are transposing the Accounting and Transparency Directives into national law and the Australian Parliament will be discussing the issue.  This harbours well for the closing of the G20 negotiations, but agreements need to be solidified and other key countries such as Brazil and South Africa need to hold public discussions on extractive transparency.

Whether the G20 will collectively agree concrete actions on extractive transparency is still to be seen – we await the publishing of the new G20 Anti-Corruption Action plan at the weekend.

It appears there will be G20 progress on beneficial ownership transparency – although some countries are reportedly blocking agreements.  That said, to tackle corruption we need G20 leaders to agree for registries of beneficial ownership to be available to the public so the likes of Obiang can’t use complicated company structures to hide their wealth.

But these transparency mechanisms are amongst a long shopping list of challenges that will be discussed in Brisbane this weekend – from gender, tax, to climate change and I hope, ebola.  Let’s not be naive – international negotiations in a multi-polar world require determination, wrestling and strong leadership from the G20 President. I just hope that Tony Abbott has what it takes to stop some of the trillion dollars disappearing.

1. Global Financial Integrity Report (December 2013) Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries: 2002-2011

2. http://www.unesco.org/new/en/media-services/in-focus-articles/funding-gap-for-education-growing-according-to-new-figures-released-by-unesco-study-also-proposes-ways-to-close-it/

3.  https://docs.unocha.org/sites/dms/CAP/Ebola_outbreak_Sep_2014.pdf

November 10, 2014 by annakateling

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ (Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities)

At Tearfund we recognise that we’re living in a paradox – the more we achieve on development, the more we suffer on sustainability. Last week we hosted two conversations under Chatham house rules and invited various wonks from NGOs, think tanks, academia and government to discuss how we step forwards in facing in this paradox and ensure that Tearfund’s fantastic development work is not undone by our changing climate. You can read a background think piece that we shared with the participants and sets out some of our early thinking and ideas here (please note it really is just a think piece, and not in any way a statement of Tearfund policy).

Alex Evans, our lead consultant on the project has blogged about the conversations here. He says, the main purpose of the conversations was to ‘start imagining what it would look like for us to move to an economy that was both just and sustainable – at all levels, from global policy right down to what it would mean for individual families.’ The second purpose was to explore ‘the new kinds of influence and change that will be needed to unlock change on this scale. Tearfund have recognised very candidly in their internal thinking that traditional ‘insider’ lobbying strategies will have limited power here. Instead, alternative approaches will be needed – ones that propagate different norms, build new kinds of movement, create new coalitions for change, and use environmental, social, and economic shocks to fuller effect.’

Duncan Green, a guest at one of the conversations, has reflected on his thoughts here. A snippet of his thoughts: ‘To get real movement on climate change, we need a grand narrative on One World, sustainability and the need for environmental stewardship. But campaigners also need quick wins to build optimism and momentum. Those often have to be much less ambitious and system-shaking to have a chance of being adopted. The danger is that watered down quick wins will undermine the grand narrative (agreeing to more comfortable slave ships rather than total abolition). We need to make sure quick wins are aligned with the end goal, and develop the ground for a subsequent set of policy changes that are currently ‘just beyond the possibility horizon’ and make sure they fit the big narrative too.’

We’ll be launching our latest campaign based on the outcomes of these conversations next March.