The Group of Eight, or G8, summit was held in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland last week. The G8 Summit is an annual conference at which leaders from nine of the world’s most powerful nations and bodies come together to discuss the global issues of the day. Representatives from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Russia, Japan, Italy, Germany, France and the European Union all sat down together to discuss the Syrian conflict, international trade agreements, and meeting Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Though only briefly discussed, one of the most important topics on their agenda was poverty and how it related to health and development.
In the days leading up to the summit, anti-poverty groups came out in force to demonstrate on behalf of their cause. In Belfast and at Lough Erne resort, where the global leaders were staying, over 10,000 activists took to the streets to make their voices heard. Prime Minister of the UK, David Cameron, had already vowed to put “impact investing” on the G8 agenda, and the people wanted to be sure that he stuck to his word. Impact investing- a combination of philanthropy and profit- was a topic that would coincide well with other issues up for discussion.
More than three billion people worldwide, about 40% of the world’s population, live in poverty. 1.5 billion people living in “resource rich” countries survive on less than $2 a day. Tax avoidance schemes conducted by foreign investors deprive nations of around $161 billion per year, and global leaders have allowed these practices to continue. The removal of all barriers to foreign investment and the privatization of industries have maintained a status quo where investors benefit more from the country than its people receive in return.
One of the MDGs agreed upon in 2000 was a reform in the structure of economic relations between developed and developing countries, including fairer trade relations. This would allow developing nations to work their way out of poverty, as opposed to allowing wealthier countries to take advantage of their natural resources. As opposed to pursuing a solution to this goal, wealthy nations and investors have denied developing economies the opportunity to build their own industries. Policies that force developing countries to rely on inward “investment” have been embraced instead.
In countries where development initiatives, such as funding for education and improving health care, have been embraced, there has been marked improvement. In Ghana and the Philippines, development index scores have come up over the past few years after implementing such programs. In that same span of time, since 2009, 60 countries have introduced legislation to discourage or prohibit activism in all forms. Organizations that seek to improve the lives of the poor are limited to only providing basic services.
What is needed now is a sustainable development model for nations trying to climb out of poverty. Accountability, transparency and commitment are all essential to shared development goals.
This past week may have been the first step towards reaching this new objective. On the Saturday before the official start of the G8 summit, the participating leaders came together in a pre-G8 meeting and they all agreed to join a tax sharing agreement. This new agreement means that companies and investors must report what they pay to home-nations to insure that developing countries are receiving their rightful portion of the profit pie. If the world’s top leaders commit to seeing this agreement succeed, it could mean the beginning of a brighter future for the developing world.
– Allana Welch