Rich nations leave big global issues undecided

By agency reporter
November 4, 2011

When it came to critical global issues, the richest nations on earth decided to decide later, says Catholic aid agency CAFOD, responding to the G20 communiqué.

CAFOD's lead economics analyst Christina Weller said that the statement produced by the leaders of the world's wealthiest nations in Cannes "is short on substance, ideas and commitments – saved, in part, only by the ambitious agenda of the French presidency which meant some critical issues at least got an airing at the G20 table."

She continued: "As a result the G20 discussed two important reports on innovative financing – the World Bank and International Monetary Fund report on climate finance and the Gates’ report on innovative finance, but the only real commitment is to return to them again later.

"We are thankful that the door on these issues is still ajar, and perhaps pushed a little wider open, but it isn’t the firm commitment that many were hoping for.

"The 'global strategy for growth and jobs' has taken up the majority of discussion time at the two-day summit. David Cameron thinks this was 'rightly... the most pressing concern of the Summit'.

"But there is little that’s new on financial regulation or the system for managing exchange rates – the core business of the G20 and an underlying cause of continuing problems in the global economy.

"Whilst we agree that fixing crises in G20 countries matters for the poorest who will suffer from the fall-out; if that is all that the G20 can cover, then its future is not bright.

"Given the brief attention given them, development issues did make a happy appearance in the final communiqué – with sections on food security, climate change and addressing the challenges of development. But there is little for poor nations to celebrate.

"For example, the G20 recognises the long-overdue need for infrastructure investment in poor countries – with two thirds of the population in sub-Saharan Africa lacking access to electricity. However, by picking out 11 large-scale pet projects and pushing private investment, the G20 risks doing more harm than good.

"We know that where returns are small, oversight is weak and local communities are not consulted, impacts of private sector investment in infrastructure have had negative impacts on the poorest. The G20 needs to acknowledge these lessons and adapt its much-needed infrastructure plan to include rural roads, health centres and other vital local investments that support poor people's livelihoods.

"A lot of critical discussions have simply been pushed back – the Gates report has resulted in the G20 agreeing that new sources of funding being found for development and climate change should happen ‘over time’. Climate change gets a political nod that the G20 want something to happen at Durban but all we learn about the promising World Bank and IMF report on climate finance was that they had bothered to read it," concluded CAFOD's economist.



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