Rich countries have 'snubbed poor' at UN summit

By staff writers
June 25, 2009

Millions in developing and developed countries face growing hardship after Britain, along with other rich European countries and the US, blocked a radical UN response to the global financial crisis, say campaigners.

NGOs and campaign groups say the powerful nations have blocked progressive reform of the financial system put forward by more than 130 poor countries at the UN summit in New York.

The summit communiqué is expected to be adopted in full tomorrow (Friday) making significant references to fundamental issues such as debt, tax, aid conditionality and regulation.

The document will also include recognition that poor countries are not to blame for a crisis which is hitting them hardest. But campaigners say the communiqué will fail to agree action on the urgent progressive changes needed to transform the global economy. Instead it declares a commitment to more of the same policies which led to the crisis.

The document calls for the conclusion of the Doha round of trade negotiations – which could deepen unemployment which is already soaring due to the crisis. Conclusion of the Doha round threatens 7.5 million workers in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines, Tunisia and Uruguay and millions more in other countries.

In a report to the conference, a UN commission led by the Nobel Economic Science laureate Joseph Stiglitz, cited the role trade has played as a cause of the crisis. Among his proposals, Stiglitz argued the need for the world economic system to undergo a major transformation.

The communiqué is expected to ignore the report’s key proposal - a powerful global economic coordination council within the UN to bring more just and sustainable change than that offered by the World Bank, IMF and World Trade Organisation.

Ruth Tanner, campaigns and policy director at War on Want, said: “Wealthy countries like Britain have tried to block UN proposals for radical action on the global economy and used the summit to reaffirm support for a failed free market agenda. Millions of the world’s poor people face worse hardship so long as rich nations dictate the rules of the global economy.”

According to War on Want, the UK and other western governments tried to water down proposals before the conference with moves including threats of a boycott and public denigration of the summit. The charity also pointed to signs that the UK had pressed developing countries to downgrade their own support for the conference. The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown refused to send a cabinet minister to the event, but will attend the G8 summit in July, which War on Want brands outdated and elitist.

“The financial and economic mess we are in was created by inadequate regulations in rich countries, yet the poorest are suffering first and worst” said Stephen Rand, Co-Chair of Jubilee Debt Campaign.

“Better regulation is urgently needed for the most vulnerable in poor countries.

“The EU have consistently blocked any reform in the UN that might prevent this kind of crisis happening again. They hid behind the excuse that the UN conference should urgently mitigate the impacts of the crisis.”

“In practice, the EU has delivered no new money to the poorest countries and has attempted to derail a once in a lifetime opportunity to address some of the systemic issues which caused the crisis.” said Nick Dearden, Director of Jubilee Debt Campaign.

Christian Aid emphasized that tax was essential to ensure the poorest countries can raise their own resources.

“Corporate tax evasion costs developing countries more than the global aid budget. The UN Tax Committee is the best forum to deal with international tax evasion. The failure to decisively upgrade this committee is a missed opportunity” said Dr David McNair, Tax Policy Officer at Christian Aid in the UK.

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