Can G8 Leaders be Accountable at Lough Erne?

Photo by Guillaume P. Boppe

Next month, the heads of state of the Group of Eight (G8) countries will meet at an exclusive golf hideaway on Lough Erne in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. At their annual meeting at this isolated luxury lake front resort, the leaders of the most powerful countries in the world should take steps to improve the conditions of those less fortunate. A good start would be if leaders addressed three core areas: accountability; anti-corruption and transparency; and food security and nutrition.

Governments have long recognized accountability and transparency as essential elements for aid effectiveness. Unfortunately, a notable lack of transparency threatens to undermine the credibility of the G8 and its commitment to ensuring that aid is delivered effectively. Continued G8 leadership is essential to ensure that transparency – a fundamental principle underpinning the Open Government Partnership – is adopted as standard operating procedure by the G8. The Open Government Partnership involves increasing information about government activities, supporting civil participation, requiring high ethical standards and implementing codes of conduct, and increased access to new technologies. Forty-five countries have signed onto the agreement and 12 more are in the process of endorsing it.

G8 members need to implement and enforce international Anti-Corruption Conventions like the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and the OECD’s Anti-Bribery Convention (OECD Convention). In 2006, the G8 leaders committed to ratifying UNCAC. Ironically, Germany and Japan have still not ratified it, which they need to do as well as participate in the peer review process. Several G8 countries are also not enforcing their foreign bribery laws; Canada, France, and Japan need to increase their efforts. There is no point in having these laws if they are not enforced.

An estimated $20 billion to $40 billion is illegally removed from developing countries each year. These stolen assets are often hidden in developed country financial centers. G8 countries need to collect beneficial ownership information during incorporation and make it available to law enforcement agencies. This would identify what person or group enjoys the benefits of ownership even when the title is in another name. They also need to increase enforcement of “Know Your Customer” policies to prevent financial institutions from becoming safe havens for the proceeds of corruption.

In 2012, the G8 released an ambitious and comprehensive Asset Recovery Action Plan. Seven G8 countries have published Asset Recovery Guides and we urge Russia to join them. Unfortunately, asset recovery efforts have had only minimal success. The G8 needs to implement its Asset Recovery Action Plan and develop mechanisms to promote the transparent use of returned funds.

Natural resources can contribute to a country’s growth and development. But too often, these precious resources are catalysts for corruption and conflict. Transparency both by companies and governments can reduce this form of corruption and G8 countries need to expand these efforts to the extractives industry.

The G8 also has an opportunity to build on the momentum and progress in ensuring greater food security, which includes better nutrition for vulnerable populations. By strengthening their commitments and actions they can support national plans to scale up nutrition and support the global goal to prevent 25 million children under age two from stunting by 2016.

The G8 also needs to ensure pledges are met and robust financing secured for multilateral food security and nutrition mechanisms. They need to support sustainable agricultural productivity, rural economic development, and mitigation of and resilience to the impact of climate change on the agricultural sector. In addition, there needs to be sustained support for smallholder farmers, particularly women who usually form the backbone of feeding communities.

The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition is a commitment by G8 nations, African countries and private sector partners to lift 50 million people out of poverty over the next 10 years through inclusive and sustained agricultural growth with a focus on additional private sector investment. The New Alliance needs better accountability mechanisms and needs to publicize partner letters of intent and detailed plans for how they will achieve their intended impact. Government and private sector partners must be transparent about funding, aid effectiveness progress, and ways they will consult and involve civil society.

While the leaders of the eight most powerful nations sip their Guinness and look out over the tranquil waters of Lough Erne, they need to remember the desperation of the estimated 2.4 billion people who live on less than $2 a day and take meaningful steps to improve their lives.

By John Ruthrauff, InterAction's director of international advocacy