The UN and finance for development

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The UN has a process called the General Assembly's High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development. This was created by the Monterrey Consensus. This was agreed in 2002 when more than 170 countries adopted a commitment designed to "eradicate poverty, achieve sustained economic growth and promote sustainable development" in the world's poorest countries.

The process will be reviewed in Doha next year, a meeting that will be vital for the development movement.

What is interesting in the context of this blog is that the UN now sees issues with which I am concerned as being central to the development agenda. Take the latest meeting of the High-level Dialogue in October 2007, for example. The speakers were David Spencer from the Tax Justice Network, Raymond Baker, a senior adviser to the Tax Justice Network and Eva Joly, the women who did more to tackle corruption in France, single handed, than the rest of its establishment put together. She is now based in her native Norway and is committed to tackling opacity in the world's financial system. Norway is explicitly supporting investigation into "Illicit financial flows and its developmental impacts". I will be in Oslo for this reason in December.

And this is being taken seriously at the UN. As the meeting report says:

During the panel discussion, Raymond Baker of the Center for International Policy noted that 70 to 90 per cent of global income still went only to 20 per cent of the world's population. There was a troubling shift of money from poor to rich people, he said, which was made possible through the 72 tax havens that existed worldwide. T he most significant reasons for this shift, Mr. Baker said, were bribery or corruption of government officials, drug trading and terrorism financing, as well as tax evasion. The most common practices contributing to these illicit mechanisms were false documentation and falsified pricing of imports and exports, he said, adding that, interestingly, the actual ways of shifting money had not changed from past decades, while the outcome, unfortunately, remained the same: illicit financial flows undermined trade and reduced tax collection in developing countries , which led to losses of approximately $ 1 trillion to $1.6 trillion per year. That annual figure, Mr. Baker said, dwarfed the $150 billion needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Raymond's right. And what is important is that the world is increasingly believing he's right. That's why we promote this issue: eradication of these illicit financial flows could do more than anything else possible to improve the lot of the poorest people in the world.