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G8: leaders agree Lough Erne declaration and Syria communique

18 June 2013

4:12 PM

18 June 2013

4:12 PM

Remember that last communique signed at a summit of world leaders, the really challenging one that they’re all worried they will never meet in reality? You don’t? How strange. David Cameron mused at the weekend that these agreements that take days to draft end up in an ‘elephant’s graveyard’, and to try to show that his rolled up sleeves are having an effect on this G8 summit in Lough Erne, he has insisted on a 10-point ‘declaration’ signed by the leaders. Here it is:

Private enterprise drives growth, reduces poverty, and creates jobs and prosperity for people around the world. Governments have a special responsibility to make proper rules and promote good governance. Fair taxes, increased transparency and open trade are vital drivers of this. We will make a real difference by doing the following:

1. Tax authorities across the world should automatically share information to fight the scourge of tax evasion.
2. Countries should change rules that let companies shift their profits across borders to avoid taxes, and multinationals should report to tax authorities what tax they pay where.
3. Companies should know who really owns them and tax collectors and law enforcers should be able to obtain this information easily.
4. Developing countries should have the information and capacity to collect the taxes owed them – and other countries have a duty to help them.
5. Extractive companies should report payments to all governments – and governments should publish income from such companies.
6. Minerals should be sourced legitimately, not plundered from conflict zones.
7. Land transactions should be transparent, respecting the property rights of local communities.
8. Governments should roll back protectionism and agree new trade deals that boost jobs and growth worldwide.
9. Governments should cut wasteful bureaucracy at borders and make it easier and quicker to move goods between developing countries.
10. Governments should publish information on laws, budgets, spending, national statistics, elections and government contracts in a way that is easy to read and re-use, so that citizens can hold them to account.

At least this one is easy to read. But it’s difficult to see how governments could really be measured against any of these criteria in a year’s time. The first five points are the most detailed, while point 8 is something the EU and US can say they’re already getting on with. As for point 10, whether you think this government is living up to that aim depends whether you’re a big fan of the new website or whether you’ve spent many an hour pulling faces at it trying to find quite important documents.

The issue that has overshadowed this conference, Syria, is the subject of a separate communique, which is below:

We remain committed to achieving a political solution to the crisis based on a vision for a united, inclusive and democratic Syria. We strongly endorse the decision to hold as soon as possible the Geneva conference on Syria to implement fully the Geneva communique of 30 June 2012, which sets out a number of key steps, beginning with agreement on a transitional governing body with full executive powers, formed by mutual consent. As the Geneva communique says, the public services must be preserved or restored. This includes the military forces and security services. However all governmental institutions and state offices must perform according to professional and human rights standards, operating under a top leadership that inspires public confidence under the control of the transitional governing body.

It is significant that Assad is not mentioned at all in this statement: a sign of the compromises hammered out in talks with Russia. Cameron went a bit further in his statement to the press, talking of a ‘future that won’t involve President Assad’.

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