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The importance of global cooperation on tax issues is becoming more and more evident. The sums lost amount to hundreds of billions annually. While steps to curb the losses are underway, gaps in global tax governance remain both in the institutional setting and with regard to substantive issues. For example, there is still no body with universal membership that could discuss issues that are of particular importance to countries in the Global South. In order to fill these gaps, either existing institutions need to be further developed, or new ones established, or both. In any case, a new body would have to perform certain functions and meet particular criteria with regard to composition. A new paper formulates options for achieving this.

The role of private sector in development is currently one of the most debated issues in international cooperation. It is inscribed in a wider context where financial resources for official development assistance (ODA) are shrinking, development cooperation is evolving beyond the traditional ‘aid’ concept, and the actors/entities that can be key players in development are growing. Fortunately, development is seen more and more as a holistic process that should be supported by integrated global policies (such as trade, investments, etc.), bringing about improvements in terms of both economic and social progress, the latter being based on the full respect of human rights.

The pivotal role of business in development discourse is based on the equation between economic growth and sustainable development, (voluntary) corporate social responsibility (CSR), enabling business environment provided by states, and finally public-private dialogues (private sector involved in policy making). The role of business has also been recognised in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for achieving Sustainable Development Goals.

When gender equality was universally adopted as Sustainable Development Goal 5, “gender equality matters to economic growth” became the party line of global institutions. The floodgates well and truly opened after McKinsey & Company published its 2015 flagship report finding USD 12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality. A cascade of “killer facts” soon followed from unlikely gender champions, from the likes of Goldman Sachs estimating a 12 per cent increase in per capita income could be created by 2030 by closing the gender credit gap, to the G20 recognizing their economies stand to gain significantly from increased female labour force participation in the context of widely ageing populations and low fertility rates. Even the World Bank’s Doing Business Report, ranking countries according to how favorable their business environment is and frequently criticizedfor having a very narrow approach, has now included gender dimensions in three of its indicators, signaling that “gender equality matters!” It seems the message might even have slowly trickled its way up to finance ministries, as the World Bank now hosts a semi-annual “Community of Practice” for finance ministers on gender equality.

“While there was some small cause for optimism at Marrakesh, the major issues were shuffled off, either never to be seen again or put aside for further ‘negotiation’ in the future. Overall, a disappointing result”, said Azeb Girmai, LDC Watch Climate Lead.

On the positive LDC Watch welcomes the Renewable Energy initiative for Sustainable Development (REEEI) which was launched on the last day of the conference. This will scale up the provision of renewable energy to Least Developed Countries, particularly helping development in rural areas.

Following the adoption of the draconian associations law in Egypt, six Political parties and 22 civil society organizations issued a joint statement to condemn and reject the proposed law. The groups noted that the new law effectively eradicates civil society and defers its administration to the government and security apparatus. They condemned parliament’s treatment of civil society as an enemy to be defeated through secret laws. In the statement, they reiterated that the state has already taken real steps to eliminate Egyptian civil society organizations by prosecuting case no. 173/2011 on foreign funding, and several organizations and their current and former directors have been banned from travel and have had their assets frozen. This new law, however, would pave the way for the eradication of any sort of civic action geared to development, charitable activities, and services. The operation of local development associations throughout Egyptian villages and hamlets, which provide services to local residents, will become nearly impossible.

Opening of the Marrakech
Conference, 7 November 2016. (UN)

The Marrakech climate talks, which began on 7 November, closed on 19 November, with developing countries making a strong plea for pre-2020 climate action and for developed countries to fulfill their pre-2020 commitments.

This call was made at the joint closing plenary of the twenty-second session of the Conference of the Parties (COP22), the twelfth session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 12) and the first part of the first session of the Conference of the Parties serving as meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA1).

In October the World Bank launched the first of what it says will be a series of annual reports on Poverty and Shared Prosperity, for tracking progress towards two key Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): reducing extreme poverty and inequality. The theme of the first edition is “Taking on Inequality.”

The report’s findings that “between 2008 and 2013, the number of countries experiencing declining inequality was twice the number exhibiting widening inequality” quickly made it onto the press.

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