October 22, 2017

Justice That The G8 Summit Can Bring

This was written for the Church Times in May 2013

Our world can provide enough food for everyone, yet one in every eight people on this planet goes to bed hungry. The problem is intensified because the rich of the world have found lucrative ways of using the assets of poor countries, stripping them of resources which are rightly theirs. In two weeks’ time, the G8 Summit will be meeting in the luxury golf resort of Lough Erne in Northern Ireland. Since the UK is hosting this summit, it is a vital opportunity for our government to ensure these massive issues of global morality and economics are fully on the agenda. The question is whether they have the courage and political will to bring change. Millions of people are hoping that they have.

Over 200 charities, including Oxfam, and Christian NGOs –Cafod, Tearfund, and Christian Aid – have highlighted two key areas of unscrupulous exploitation presently exacerbating global poverty and increasing hunger. The first is tax evasion. Tax revenue which should be going to poor countries from companies operating in them, is being siphoned off. Quietly nestling in major financial centres as well as in empty paradises in the Caribbean, tax havens provide the legal machinery to protect illegal tax evaders, thereby depriving many struggling economies of the tax money desperately needed for water and sanitation, hospitals, roads and schools. According to the OECD (Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development) developing economies lose three times more money in tax each year than they receive in aid. The fact that the UK is responsible for one in five of the world’s tax havens puts an extra responsibility on our government to take a lead, and end the anonymous ownership and secrecy of these havens. The very least we can ask is that they have the moral guts to ensure that abuse of power no longer lines the pockets of the rich and cheats the poor from their entitlement

The problems do not end with tax evasion. Unscrupulous companies and individuals can, and do, use their power dubiously to make other acquisitions. Global charities are urging the G8 also to address issues of ‘land grabbing’. It is estimated that, every second, poor countries lose an area of land the size of a football pitch to rich, private investors. In countries from Sudan and Liberia to Cambodia and Honduras, land which could grow food for local people is being bought up by exporters, Wall Street speculators and tourist providers. An Oxfam report disclosed that more than 60% of investments in agricultural land by foreign investors between 2000 and 2010 were in developing countries with serious hunger problems: 63% of the arable land in Cambodia went to private companies. But two-thirds of the investors planned to export everything they produce on the land, often first leaving it idle so its value increased. Nearly 60% of the deals were to grow crops used for biofuels, bringing rich pickings for the already rich speculators. The effect on those who live on the land has been disastrous. It no longer grows their food, and jobs, homes and livelihoods have been taken, sometimes violently, often without compensation.

The stark reality is that those with economic and political power can always override the poor. That is probably why Jesus warned that it is harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. Yet the G8 countries have both political – economic weight and legal jurisdiction. Christians across the world are urgently praying they will use their power to bring justice to the poor, and righteousness closer.

May 2013

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