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Jun 13, 2013

Jun Final countdown to the G8 Summit

13
2013

Today, I’m packing my bags and heading off to Enniskillen in Northern Ireland for the G8 Summit. 

The annual gathering of the ‘Group of 8’ - the club of some of the world’s most powerful nations – always attracts protesters and the global media, and concludes with a grand statement and the obligatory family photo.

This year will be no different, but it’s been eight years since I have witnessed the spectacle. Oxfam will be in Enniskillen to deliver one message to the G8 - that it’s time to put an end to the scandal of world hunger. 

Above: G8 leaders (well, the Oxfam 'Big Head' versions) arrive in Northern Ireland ahead of the G8 Summit on June 17th and 18th 2013. Check out this Flickr gallery for more photos from their trip.

Whilst the G20 may have overtaken the G8 as the biggest show in town, this year’s G8 Summit has been given a higher billing than the last few years. It has also sparked interest from a coalition of over 200 charities across the island of Ireland and in Britain, who have formed a major campaign on hunger called IF.

For the 2013 Summit, the UK is sitting in the Chair’s seat, and British Prime Minister David Cameron has touted this as the ‘most ambitious G8 yet’. 

He has promised to get the G8’s own house in order on three of the big issues affecting the world today – trade, tax and transparency – and has also pledged action on global hunger. These are welcome words – but the real test is whether the eight leaders can deliver next week.

The decisions they make on two key issues could make a huge difference to the fight against global hunger.  

Tax dodging

Tax dodging is an issue that’s grabbing the headlines in many G8 countries, but its impact on developing countries has received less attention.

Every year, developing countries lose more than €120bn/£100bn to just one type of corporate tax dodging – enough to eradicate hunger more than three times over.

But it is also the tip of the iceberg, as hundreds of billions are also hidden away by the world’s wealthiest and corporate giants in tax havens. In fact, our research shows that wealthy individuals could be avoiding tax on as much as €700bn/£600bn through Irish financial institutions. We’ll be telling the G8 that they must get tough on tax dodging, by changing the rules that protect the companies and individuals using tax havens so no one can hide their money away and avoid tax without consequences. 

Land grabbing

Land grabbing is an issue that has been under the radar for too long. The race for land in developing countries is exposing vulnerable communities to the risk of losing their homes, ways of life and the land they rely on for food to eat.

Meanwhile the race to put adequate regulations in place to prevent land grabs has hardly started. Already, G8 companies and investors have bought land in developing countries more than the size of the whole of Ireland since the year 2000.

This land could grow enough food for 96 million people. The G8 has a huge opportunity to protect people from land grabs by increasing the transparency of land investments, and forcing its own companies to disclose information on any land deals they are involved in. Will they take this opportunity?

So, what can we expect?

The G8’s track record in delivering on their promises is not one to shout about, as their own ‘Accountability Report’ shows. But in the last few weeks, there have been some signs that the G8 is moving in the right direction. 

Last week, governments committed $4.15 billion to tackling malnutrition at a special event on nutrition, and this week we’re seeing some movement on both tax and extractive industry transparency by some G8 countries. But a G8 deal on land and tax which really helps poor countries is badly off track.  

With more than a billion people living in extreme poverty and one in eight going to bed hungry tonight, the G8 need to raise their game over the coming days. We will be following the G8 Summit every step of the way – sharing the latest news, demanding greater action from leaders, and having just a little fun with our famous G8 Big Heads!

Get involved

Please share this blog post on social media using the share icons at the top of the page.  You can also use #G8 to tweet us your wishes for the G8 Summit - we'll retweet and blog the best ones we receive!

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Jun 5, 2013

Jun Fight poverty and enjoy big music events for free!

5
2013
Fancy a free ticket to see Justin Timberlake, Snow Patrol or The Killers? Or how about Bon Jovi, Basement Jaxx, Mumford & Sons or Kings of Leon? Or maybe you prefer big festivals like Electric Picnic, Longitude or Oxegen? 
 
Over the next few months our team of volunteer stewards, activists and shop assistants will attend Oxegen, Electric Picnic, Longitude, Tennants Vital, Belsonic, Aviva stadium shows, Phoenix Park shows and more to be announced.

 

Clockwise from top: Aisling Sheridan and Siobhan Hogan working as volunteer stewards at Oxegen. Gavin James at the OxJam stage at Electric Picnic. Festival Revellers and Gardaí pose for Oxfam’s Ending Poverty Starts With Women campaign at Electric Picnic. Karen Sheridan (Slow Skies) Oxjamming. Photos: Ger Murphy / Oxfam.
 
Volunteer stewards work as low-level security at the events with the money donated by festival organisers going to help Oxfam fight poverty, while volunteer activists engage festival goers by spreading the word about our Ending Poverty Starts with Women campaign. Volunteer shop assistants look after the Oxfam festival shop, raising money for our life-changing projects around the world. All volunteers must be over 18 on the day of the event.
 
You’ll gain access to festivals and concerts free of change, get to meet and work alongside some amazing fellow volunteers and help us fight poverty and injustice together while seeing some of the biggest acts in music. Win-win!
 
Whichever event you lend a hand at, you'll get to enjoy some of best live music the summer has to offer!
 
 
Places are filling up fast, so sign up as a volunteer now!
May 28, 2013

May First impressions mask difficult reality of life in a Syrian refugee camp

28
2013

Before I arrived in Jordan, Zaatari Refugee Camp in my mind had taken on almost mythical proportions. I had heard that it was initially constructed to accommodate a population of 35,000 but was now rumoured to have a registered population of more than 130,000. And frighteningly, not the largest refugee camp in the world.

As I approached by car, it seems strange to say but I was disappointed by first impressions. Zaatari refugee camp sits atop a relatively flat landscape not far from the Syrian border and without an aerial view the sense of scale I had imagined was impossible to view.

 

Above: The Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan is a sprawling city with rows of tents as far as the eye can see. Anastasia Taylor-Lind/Oxfam

Surrounded by a high wire fence for security, it appears orderly with its seemingly evenly spaced rows of regulation refugee tents. It is solid underfoot too with crushed stone to prevent muddying caused by vehicles and human traffic in winter rain. And either side of the road that leads from the main entrance is a remarkable array of market stalls selling everything from fruit, vegetables and cooked food to clothes and toys and household basics sourced from local traders outside the camp. The refugees from Syria have proven themselves to be remarkably self-reliant and resourceful.

“It doesn’t seem that bad,” a companion commented. Indeed there is much about Zaatari that on first appearances “doesn’t seem that bad”…if the alternative is to be trapped in a bitter conflict that has left an estimated 70,000 dead and forced another 6 million (yes, million) people to flee their homes.

First impressions too of course can be deceptive and as the morning and hours passed, the realities of life in the refugee camp became more apparent…more than anything else the sense of confinement, the restricted space, the lack of opportunity to escape even for just a short time from the heaving bustling hive of activity. 

Clockwise from top:  Clothes drying on a high-wire fence in the camp. Caroline Gluck/Oxfam. Oxfam public health staff put the finishing touches to 95,000 litre water tanks that will considerably increase the water storage capacity in the refugee camp. Karl Schembri/Oxfam. A woman and child gather water in the camp where Oxfam has installed tap stands and towers, latrines, bathing areas, laundry areas, water collection points and wash blocks. Caroline Gluck/Oxfam. Syrian children in the camp share a smile. Karl Schembri/Oxfam. Syrian refugees arrive at the camp, originally built for 35,000 but now accommodating more than 130,000. Caroline Gluck/Oxfam.

And as we moved beyond the road that once formed the main axis of the camp, it is with regret that I say my expectations of scale were finally met. Row upon row upon row of tents dominated the horizon as far as the eye could see. This was no camp. This was a sprawling city, ironically the significance of which is only best understood when you see the enormity of the blank canvas of land that has been cleared to accommodate still more tents and, more recently, prefabs.

Later, faces pressed against the fence outside a health clinic where lines of mothers and young children queued served only again to re-enforce the sense of claustrophobia and suggesting that, despite best efforts, supply of services had outstripped demand. It could hardly be otherwise. 

Organisations like Oxfam are working closely with the refugee population to provide access to the most basic of human needs such as clean water and washing facilities but the scale of need is frankly overwhelming…1,500 people arrive on average each day. I wondered how we in Ireland would cope with such an influx. More importantly still, how do the Syrian refugees cope?

Refugee camps are rarely constructed as homes but places of temporary refuge until it is safe to go home or some alternative option is found. Almost as though lives can be put on hold while diplomats, like economists, trade options...and futures...of those whose recent past, and perhaps even lives, have been comprised of choices few of us could ever even conceive.

As I write now amidst a flurry of international activity to bring about a resolution to the conflict, I hear that the influx of refugees across the border into Jordan has almost ceased. And then the question, why? And quickly the realisation that those in Zaatari are the lucky ones...they were able to flee. And it is then you understand the true meaning of “it doesn’t seem that bad”.

May 21, 2013

May The G8 must take action on tax dodging and tax havens!

21
2013

Shocking new statistics released by Oxfam this week have shown that governments are letting people hide at least $18.5 trillion in offshore tax havens. Yes, you read that right: not $18.5 million, or even $18.5 billion, but $18.5 trillion!

And our research shows that as much as €707 billion owned by wealthy individuals from overseas may be shielded from tax authorities around the world in Irish financial institutions, leaving Ireland open to suggestions that it’s being used as a tax haven.

“It’s time to take the side of ordinary people, rather than the privileged few. These figures put Ireland at the centre of a global tax system that is a colossal betrayal of people here and abroad” says Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland. “Now is the time to take action.”

By holding their money in offshore tax havens like San Marino and Monaco, the owners of these $18.5 trillion worth of riches pay little or no tax - while hard working people in the world's poorest countries strive to make a living and 1 in 8 go to bed hungry.

 

If companies and individuals paid their dues, it would total more than $150 billion - money which could be spent on schools, hospitals and libraries. As austerity bites and budgets are slashed, ordinary people across the world are losing out on billions of unpaid tax.

And these figures are just the tip of the iceberg: tax evasion by big corporations prevents hundreds of billions of dollars being paid every year. The vast majority of ordinary people pay their taxes every year, so why should the world’s richest individuals and corporations get away with dodging tax?

Now is the time to take a stand. This year's G8 takes place in June in Northern Ireland, and David Cameron has committed his G8 Presidency towards ‘getting our own house in order and helping developing countries to prosper”, while yesterday European leaders met to discuss tax.

But unless European and G8 countries follow their fine words with action, this could be a lot of hot air – or result in a deal that shuts out developing countries.

Oxfam is calling for G8 leaders to;

  1. Get their own tax havens to join a global deal to share tax information, so that all countries – especially the poorest – can tax companies and individuals fairly.
  2. Commit to making ownership of companies and other assets public, so that nobody can avoid paying tax by hiding their money or setting up phantom firms.
  3. Agree to get tough with tax havens when they won’t play ball.

Please share this blog post on social media to spread the word and ensure that political leaders play their part at this year's G8 Summit in Co. Fermanagh on June 17th and 18th.

Tell them that you won’t stand for the unjust tax dodging practices of the global elite.

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May 15, 2013

May Let’s make some noise on hunger at Big IF Belfast event when G8 comes to town!

15
2013

Oxfam has always been about campaigning for change, because we tackle the root causes of poverty to really change things for the world’s poorest people.

Often, we have to live with the fact that change can take a long time! But then, once in a generation, once in a lifetime, circumstances come together to create a moment where all our campaigning can have a really big impact. That moment is now.

World leaders have been preparing and planning for the G8 summit which will be held in Fermanagh in just five weeks’ time and we know that they are already talking about what they can do to tackle the causes of hunger. 

Top: Oxfam Ireland Campaigns and Advocacy Officer Christine McCartney (left), Jim Wells MLA (centre) and (right) Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken at the recent Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign’s ‘Road to the G8’ event in Parliament Buildings in Stormont. Northern Irish politicians were briefed on the IF campaign which is pressing for world leaders to act on hunger at next month’s G8 summit in Fermanagh. Photo: Neil Harrison / Oxfam. Middle: Rita Ora, One Direction, Orlando Boom and Erin O'Connor are showing their support by wearing the Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign wristband. You pick one up in any Oxfam shop across the island of Ireland. Bottom: Pictured at the launch of the 'Big IF Belfast' event at Botanic Gardens today (14 May) are members of the Ulster Orchestra members Steve Irvine (tuba), Neil Gallie (trombone) and Richard Guthrie (viola) join the chorus calling for action on hunger at the launch of the Big IF Belfast event which will take place on Saturday June 15th. Photo: Neil Harrison / Oxfam.

We need to make sure they hear loud and clear that we, their citizens, want and expect them to do more than talk – we need them to act. 

Plans are being unveiled today for a very special event to get that message across. The BIG IF Belfast on Saturday 15 June will include a fantastic two-hour stage show, with top music and famous names calling for action on hunger, plus the BIG IF art installation, interactive activities and the chance to send your message to G8 leaders. It’s organised by Oxfam Ireland and our partners in the Enough Food For Everyone IF campaign. 

This is the moment. We can get the attention of world leaders and get them to act on hunger – IF we come together on the eve of the G8 and make some noise.  

So let’s grasp this chance to make sure hunger is on the table when leaders meet in Fermanagh next month.

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