The Doha summit on financing for development: a lost opprtunity?

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The following is press release driven, I know, but is by organisations I know, work with and trust, and worthy of wider attention:

Last weekend's high-level UN conference in Doha, Qatar, has been branded as a 'lost opportunity' by two leading charities. Both Christian Aid and ActionAid said the conference, held to examine funding for development, failed to help poorer people by instituting key reforms to the global financial system.

They were particularly critical that [the UN tax] committee, designed to address international cooperation regarding tax matters, was not upgraded into an intergovernmental body. Such an upgrade would have shone a light on the secrecy offered by tax havens often exploited by unscrupulous businesses trading internationally to evade tax in developing countries.

However the conference did agree that the UN's economic and social council should be asked to examine the 'strengthening of institutional arrangements,' this includes the tax committee.

This failure contrasted against the message given by other speakers at the conference -- including Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations and Angel Gurr??a, head of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development.

They all called for stronger action to be taken in combating tax evasion. Norway, France, Germany and South Africa all pushed hard for a strong resolution on tax but opposition to the move was led by the United States. Mr Gurr??a said taxes were "the lifeblood of government services." He went on to say: "To succeed, developing countries must create effective tax systems and, with the developed countries' help, tackle the curse of corruption, tax havens and tax evasion."

Let's just hope a new administration in the US changes the approach adopted here. I know from John Christensen, who was in Doha as a guest of the German government, that the US was way out of line with sentiment.

So too was the UK: in fact, development minister Douglas Alexander was said to be there but no one saw or heard him. Why was that?