Friday, May 27, 2011

G8 Communiqué - weasel words and little initiative

With the global recovery wobbling on many fronts and dissent spilling out onto the streets of cities across the Middle East and Europe, the G8 has been deliberating in Deauville, France, and has issued a communiqué that can only be summarised as weak, weak, weak.

On the one hand they try to talk things up: "The global recovery is gaining strength and is becoming more self-sustained", while having to accept the reality check that: "downside risks remain, and internal and external imbalances are still a concern." This is an understatement. Debt burdens cripple governments, companies and households. Consumer demand is at best sluggish and corporate investment weak. This is no time to be cutting government expenditure, but that's exactly what G8 offers up.

And the news is no better on regulation, governance and accountability. In respect of the latter we are not encouraged by paragraph 62 under the relevant section:

Para 62: We will improve transparency of our aid information. In particular, we will make further efforts on publishing information on allocations, expenditure and results. Information will be provided in accessible formats that deliver on the needs of partner countries and citizens. In this respect, it is important that partner countries also improve transparency. We recognise that individual countries will proceed at their own pace but we will lead by example through increasing transparency in this area and work with others in advance of the Fourth High Level Forum in Korea in November 2011. We will continue to support transparency in other areas including through the full implementation of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), which we all support, We call on all countries, notably resource-rich countries, and extractive companies to join or support this initiative. We also welcome the complementary efforts to increase revenue transparency, and commit to setting in place transparency laws and regulations or to promoting voluntary standards that require or encourage oil, gas, and mining companies to disclose the payments they make to governments.

Of course transparency on aid information is important, but the increasing trend to funnel aid through private financial intermediaries is a step in the wrong direction, and muddies the waters around the role of aid and who benefits from it. The statement about the EITI and revenue transparency is, well, weak, and the mention of voluntary standards provides a cop-out for countries and companies happy with the status quo.

And while it holds no surprises, paragraph 63 isn't something to get excited about:

Para 63: We will continue to work with the OECD and in other fora to foster accountability processes and call on all donors to engage in similar exercises.

Yes, yes. But we've heard this before, and its hard to get excited about the OECD processes which are just so minimal and ineffective. For example, attempts last year to introduce the concept of country-by-country reporting into the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises just fell by the wayside, and the Global Forum peer review process (yes, we know its more of a G20 process rather than G8) just doesn't cut the mustard.

They could try harder, but they won't. This is why civil society needs to take the initiative here and simply drive forwards with its own proposals. G8 politicians just haven't got what it takes.


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