UNITED NATIONS/ADDIS ABABA – When the four-day-long international conference on concludes in the Ethiopian capital next week, one of the lingering questions in the minds of departing delegates may well be: did we really achieve anything concrete after years of negotiations?
As Oxfam International rightly points out, 2015 is a big year for major global conferences – on combating poverty, inequality, environmental degradation and climate change.
“Setting up a tax body is a crucial first step towards a better global financial system which works to uplift the majority and not further enrich the wealthy.”
– Lidy Nacpil of APMDD
But in the first of these big conferences – in Addis Ababa, July 13-16 – decisions will be made about how money is delivered and spent by governments to tackle poverty and inequality.
One of the major sticking points during the negotiations in New York was the creation of a global tax body, including international tax reforms.
The final decision, however, will be made by ministers and high-level officials from 193 governments in Addis Ababa, the third in a series, the first FfD conference being held in Monterrey, Mexico in 2002 and the second in Doha, Qatar in 2008.
If you look at the big finance-related issues that are in the media these days, says Oxfam, “we read about economic crisis, government budget cuts, major tax dodging scandals, and countries in debt crisis. All of these are issues that fall under the financing for development agenda. “
Therefore, if the FfD conference is to be a success it could mean a rebalancing of power and a new cooperation with developing countries, which would get to have a voice in the international financial system.
The FfD conference could be a once in a decade opportunity to ensure that efforts to fight climate change, poverty and inequality are funded fairly.
“Unfortunately, current signs indicate that it will far from deliver on that promise. Negotiations (in New York) have seen more and more eroded from these ambitions,” said Oxfam in a statement released here.
McKinley Charles, media coordinator for ActionAid in Addis Ababa, told IPS its primary focus will be on tax reforms, more specifically the international tax body that is still currently being negotiated.
“We are working to improve and democratize the international tax body so that regulations can be put in place to stop tax dodging which robs developing countries of billions of dollars of revenue every year.”
These are revenues, she pointed out, that could have gone to the building of much-needed schools, clinics, and roads and provide clean water and electricity to help combat poverty and boost development.
“Addis is a big opportunity since it looks as if a decision on the international tax body will be made there,” she added.
Charles also said ActionAid, as part of its efforts, will be involved in a number of side events on tax justice, including panel debates.
ActionAid is also fielding some 12 tax policy analysts and campaigners from Europe, South Africa, Kenya, Zambia and Mozambique “to get our messages out to the policy makers and the public influencers.”
Asked whether the success or failure of the FfD will largely depend on tax reform, Alison Holder, Oxfam’s policy advisor on tax reform, told IPS the tax body issue will be a litmus test of whether this FfD conference is really about building a new common agenda and whether it is about real reform to address the international barriers that prevent developing countries from raising sufficient tax revenue.
The tax body raises the question of whether rich countries recognize that if the world is able to finance ambitious development goals, “then we need to see some shift in the balance of power,” she said.
“Without the commitment to create a truly global tax body, any outcome from these negotiations will continue to place all of the burden of financing for development on developing countries’ own doorsteps. They would be told to improve their own tax systems and live with current broken tax system.”
Holder also said rich countries are refusing to recommit to their decades-old promise to deliver 0.7 percent of their national income in aid – which would release an estimated 250 billion dollars a year.
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