Oxfam chief calls on BRICS to take development finance lead

Winnie Byanyima warns of vacuum left by European Union backing away from poverty reduction leadership role

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon arrives in Addis Ababa, but where are rich countries' finance ministers? (UN Photo)

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon arrives in Addis Ababa, but where are rich countries’ finance ministers? (UN Photo)

By Megan Darby

IMF head Christine Lagarde was too busy with Greek crisis talks on Monday to attend a summit aiming to lift millions out of poverty.

The conference in Addis Ababa is seen as critical to get cash flowing for sustainable development and build trust for a global climate deal.

Yet few finance ministers from rich countries have shown up, prompting Oxfam chief Winnie Byanyima to search for leadership elsewhere.

“The potential for Addis is huge but the prospects are gloomy,” she wrote in South African newspaper the Mail & Guardian.

“The European Union appears reluctant to play the unifying leadership role we have come to expect of it.

“Is it time for governments from some of the world’s emerging economies, such as South Africa, Brazil and India, to step forward to broker new rules and standards on development finance to which all can subscribe? The leadership needs to come from somewhere.”

Financing for Development: What to expect from UN Addis Ababa summit

Through foreign aid, tax reform and mobilising the private sector, delegates are aiming to find money to fulfil sustainable development goals.

Part of the agenda is to help the world’s poor adapt to the impacts of climate change and take a low carbon path to prosperity.

The Green Climate Fund, a UN-backed initiative, has raised US$10 billion. Developed countries are promising to mobilise $100 bn a year of climate finance by 2020.

But developing countries are demanding a clearer plan for the money before they will sign up to carbon-cutting commitments.

It is a potential roadblock to an effective global climate pact, due in Paris this December.

Byanyima, a former Ugandan politician, accused governments of putting commercial interests ahead of the wellbeing of 1 billion people who are going hungry.

“We can see these skewed priorities in the headlong rush to embrace private finance as a panacea for development,” she said.

“Although it’s clear that private finance needs to be part of the mix – and can play a critical role in some areas such as large-scale communications, energy or transport projects – its record in helping the very poorest communities is weak at best and abusive at worst.”

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