The world’s media has poured into city of Belfast this weekend in anticipation of the arrival of the heads of state from eight of the world’s richest countries. The whole of the Belfast Hilton Hotel is apparently preserved for Obama’s secret service entourage, and rumours are afoot of Putin taking a dip in Lough Erne at the summit.
Amidst all the furore, ActionAid and partners in the Enough Food for Everyone... IF coalition are here in Northern Ireland to crank up the pressure on David Cameron to ensure the world’s poorest are not forgotten in a deal to tackle tax dodging at the G8 summit over the next two days.
In just the 48 hours that this summit sits, an unfathomable £1.4 billion will be lost by developing countries, siphoned off into tax havens, vital funds that could and should be spent tackling hunger and poverty. We’ve seen a lot of tough talk about tax dodging in recent months; now is the time for action. We need justice for the 1 in 8 people going hungry every day.
Pamela Chisanga from ActionAid Zambia helps present David Cameron with a petition, signed by 1.4 million peopleThis morning in Enniskillen our very own Pamela Chisanga from ActionAid Zambia was one of the delegation who presented David Cameron with the Enough Food IF petition, signed by 1.4 million people across the UK, bringing the message from the global south for urgent action on hunger. Pamela reminded the PM of Caroline Muchanga, a market stall holder in Zambia who pays more tax than the British company whose sugar she sells, pressing him to ensure a deal that works for all countries.
There have been some signs of progress. As thousands gathered at The Big IF Belfast this weekend to send a message to the G8 leaders, the government’s Tax, Trade and Transparency summit in London opened with news that the ten British-linked tax havens have taken the first steps towards transparency, signing a basic deal to share some information about hidden money.
This sounds great, but this is only the start. The real prize in the next two days is a strong global deal at the G8. We will be fighting to ensure the UK stops at nothing less. The ingredients for a global deal to tackle tax avoidance are clear: agreement to share information with poor countries, public registers so tax authorities can trace the real owners of assets and shed light on dodgy deals; and companies opening up their books.
We also need urgent action on land grabs, to protect the poorest communities having their land sold to foreign investors. The G8 must change the rules so that so that no company can take land from poor families without facing repercussions.
The 1 in 8 people going hungry and 3 million children dying from malnutrition every year can’t wait any longer. When the G8 sit down to dinner tonight, I hope the message of the 1.4 million from across the UK will be ringing in their ears.