G8 takes significant steps forward on transparency and tax as Lough Erne summit ends
G8 leaders discuss issues of global importance at the 2013 summit in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland. [Photo: G8 UK Presidency]
As world leaders boarded planes for home, this year’s G8 summit in Northern Ireland, hosted by the UK, has placed transparency and tax firmly on the global agenda.
Over the past 10 days of intense action by the Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign, Prime Minister David Cameron’s championing of the issues that affect global hunger has brought about the beginnings of change that could make a difference to the 870m people who go to bed hungry every day.
CAFOD director of advocacy Neil Thorns said: “We should never accept as normal the fact that one in eight hardworking men and women, or their children, go to bed hungry nor should we ever accept governments and business not being transparent about their activities and the contributions they’re making to society.
“Today at the G8 we made some real progress in addressing this. The Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign held up some of the root causes of hunger and poverty in the world, such as tax and transparency, and the G8 has made some significant headway.
“Transparency in companies and governments about what is being paid for natural resources is on its way to becoming a reality, and getting a global standard for transparency in the extractives industry now seems within reach. But despite greater transparency in tax havens being a watershed, poor countries battling hunger can’t afford to wait to be included in global information exchange, nor should information about company ownership be kept out of the public domain.”
On transparency in the extractives industry, the G8’s recognition that there is a need to build on US and EU legislation to reach a global standard on payment reporting is welcome. The agreement last week by Canada and Switzerland to implement similar reporting regulations was a major win. These are vital steps forward in ensuring the benefits of countries’ natural wealth is fairly shared, and builds momentum for greater transparency across other sectors.
Last week’s commitment by the UK to a register of beneficial owners - which will require companies to supply information on who really owns, controls and benefits from companies - was a good step forward, and the G8 decision to back access to this information is recognition that the era of secrecy is coming to an end, but keeping this information away from the public domain - for the eyes of tax collectors and law enforcers only - is a missed opportunity to ensure companies can be fully held to account.
And the positive announcement that UK Overseas territories and Crown Dependencies, many of which are considered tax havens, would sign up to an existing multilateral agreement on automatic information exchange was a tangible sign of David Cameron’s commitment to outrunning companies that take advantage of the present tax systems. Agreement by G8 leaders on the need for a global agreement on information exchange is also recognition that transparency is now the norm, but any global deal on information exchange must include developing nations so they can hold companies working in their countries to account.