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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New Tearfund film gets parliamentary premiere!

We’ve written quite a bit recently about our work on governance & corruption, and it was great to have the opportunity yesterday to speak with DFID Minister Stephen O’Brien at a Tearfund and Bright Blue event in parliament. Tearfund’s Chief Executive Matthew Frost focused on three areas for action:

– continued support from DFID for effective civil society initiatives aimed at tackling corruption and holding governments to account;

– increased transparency across the board, especially in the extractive industries where we need to see greater support across the EU for project-level reporting (see our Unearth the Truth campaign for more info); and

– effective leadership from the UK in global discussions about corruption and development including the G8, G20 and in the unfolding debate about what comes next after the MDGs expire in 2015.

The Minister spoke about DFID’s ‘zero-tolerance approach’ to corruption and cited their funding to strengthen civil society, improve public financial management overseas, and to support Met Police investigations into embezzlement. There is a huge amount already going on that people probably don’t know about but also a number of key challenges linked to things like money-laundering, the widespread use of shell companies to aid corruption, and the implementation of anti-bribery legislation.

This film starring Tearfund partners from Zambia including EFZ, BICC and Micah Challenge, was shown at the event and its a reminder of why tackling corruption must be at the heart of any sustainable development strategy.

Zambia Notes: Rooting out Corruption

In Tearfund’s 2010 report, Corruption and its Discontents, 87% of people surveyed in Zambia said that corruption was either ‘serious’ or ‘very serious’.  So whilst in Zambia with UK MPs Gavin Shuker and Tony Cunningham, I hoped we would hear more about the problem of corruption and some of the solutions being advocated by churches and other civil society groups.

Corruption impacts on development in a whole number of ways – at the macro level, it means that there is a lack of resources for investment in things like health, education, water and sanitation. At a micro-level, it limits access to basic services and destroys public confidence. Transparency International Zambia with whom we met in Lusaka have estimated that approximately 8-9% of the national budget is lost to corruption and cited a number of sectors such as the construction sector and the health sector which have appeared particularly vulnerable. They quoted the shocking example of a recent construction project which had cost 8.4bn kwacha, 2.1bn of which had ended up being paid to the son of Zambia’s former President. The extractives sector is another sector which is susceptible to corruption and in speaking to the UK MPs in Lusaka, Publish What You Pay Zambia (in which Tearfund partner EFZ is actively involved), set out the case for greater transparency and accountability in order to ensure that Zambians benefit more fully from inward investment especially in mining. We heard about a number of contracts that have been awarded for projects in the mining sector without much regard to social and environmental standards, and this sets alarm bells ringing about the possibility of corruption.

However whilst there is clearly a long way to go, there are some incredibly interesting initiatives that are springing up and which could signal a way forward. There is an Anti-Corruption Commission in Zambia with active participation from church representatives and the African Parliamentarians’ Network Against Corruption (APNAC – part of a global network) is also raising the profile of corruption issues across Africa. In Zambia the Chapter now has over 90 members, over half the total number of parliamentarians sitting in the National Assembly. The Chapter has an ethical code of conduct and is not just providing training for new members of parliament but also developing a community outreach programme, working in partnership with civil society groups including local churches.

Corruption inevitably results in less resources being available for investment in essential services like water and sanitation

The debate about corruption, transparency and foreign direct investment is also very current in Zambia– greater transparency at both a national and district level (where many licences are granted) should create a more attractive investment environment and enable communities to question payments or contracts that seem to be poor value for money. The UK has a key role to play in this regard and Tearfund has been urging the Government to take a strong position in favour of EU legislation requiring country-level and project-level reporting by oil, gas and mining companies. Finally, Transparency International Zambia also talked about the need for people to stand up to corruption and refuse to pay bribes at a local level. They have now established a legal advice project to encourage people to report corruption and are training communities in participatory monitoring methods, something that church networks are also well-placed to facilitate.

DFID has identified addressing corruption as a key priority for its programme in Zambia and this decision should be applauded. APNAC Zambia noted that without DFID’s support, implementation of their strategic plan would not be possible. Our media often views corruption through the lens of international aid, but we rarely hear about the anti-corruption efforts that we are actually financing and enabling as a result of UK aid – I was immensely impressed by the work of APNAC and others whom we met and people in the UK should be proud of what is being achieved with this support.

Zambia Notes: food and farming in a changing climate

“We are heavily affected by climate change. While you can see the food here,  we still have a big challenge in terms of food shortages – that is the problem.”

“Climate change has really troubled us. The way we are being taught conservation farming gives us a way that we can address this problem because we can keep the moisture, even if there is no rain. We give you thanks through the support you are giving to EFZ as we are benefiting from the lessons.”

Volunteers in the EFZ / Tearfund DRR programme, Mumbwa, Zambia 

Last week I travelled to  Zambia with two UK Members of Parliament, Gavin Shuker MP and Tony Cunningham MP, to explore  some of the barriers that are keeping people in poverty there and to visit projects run by two Tearfund partners – EFZ (Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia) and BICC (Brethren in Christ Church).

Learning about food conservation in Mumbwa

Learning about food conservation in Mumbwa

The links between climate change and food security were really brought home to us as we listened to volunteers and people benefiting from a food security / Disaster Risk Reduction programme being run through EFZ (Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia) in Mumbwa, located in Zambia’s Central Province. Having left the relative comfort of Lusaka, we travelled up to Mumbwa and saw the environment around us quickly change. Zambia is experiencing significant economic growth and has now been classified as a lower middle-income country by the World Bank; yet the disparities are clear and Zambia continues to score low on the Human Development Index (164 out of 179). In rural areas, the challenge of climate change is particularly acute and is impacting significantly on food security – one of the reasons why Zambia still comes so low on the human development index. This year the rains have been fairly scant and with the prospect of no rain at all between May and November, food conservation is critical, especially for those within communities, such as the elderly or those living with HIV, who are particularly vulnerable to food shortages and poor nutrition.

EFZ, with the support of Tearfund, are implementing a DRR project in Mumbwa which provides vulnerable households with primary farming inputs and training so that they can grow their own food. 220 households have benefited from the programme which has mobilised 50 volunteers through church networks to offer support and training. We had the privilege to speak with a number of the volunteers who talked about the different methods they use to preserve foods such as maize and papaya during the dry season. We also visited the house of Sophia, a project beneficiary who is 64 years old and heading up a household of 10, including 4 orphans. She has been implementing food conservation techniques and is growing a number of crops including cotton and bananas.

She was immensely inspiring to meet and her determination and pride shone through. As the Programme Director of EFZ remarked to me, this kind of response to climate change and food shortages is so much better than hand-outs. This approach gives people the skills and training they need, reduces their dependency on food aid and in some circumstances, beneficiaries such as Sophia are also able to generate an income by selling produce at local markets, income which can then be used to support their wider family, for example being able to pay school fees or buy text books.

There is certainly hope in Mumbwa, but also a stark challenge for the global community. Zambia’s vulnerability to climate change is high and the prospect of increased drought in some regions and increased flooding in others is likely to hamper development efforts in other areas such as health. I hope that donors will see the value in financing innovative adaptation projects at the grass-roots like the one which we saw run by EFZ, but we must also remember that without immediate action to drive down global emissions, the impacts of climate change in Mumbwa could be much more severe.