As Britain leads the G8 conference, it's time to move on from the outdated idea of a divide between the developed and developing world

We are more interconnected than ever. And efforts to reduce tax avoidance and improve transparency will require co-operation across international borders

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The Independent Online

The last time Britain hosted the G8 will always be remembered for the despicable terrorist attacks of 7/7 in London which overshadowed events at Gleneagles.

But history will also show that in 2005, with Britain chairing the G8, leaders took concrete steps to cancel debt and increase aid for the developing world.

A total of $50 billion in aid was pledged and millions of lives have been transformed as a result. To have achieved rare progress in such circumstances was testament to the ambition, hard work and leadership of the Labour Government in the months before, as well as during, a summit which still represents a high-water mark of achievement for the G8 as an organisation.

Now it is Britain’s turn again.

At Lough Erne next week, leaders need that same spirit of 2005 if they are to make the most of this opportunity for progress.

There will be many important issues under discussion including how to end the horrific levels of violence in Syria. An escalating death toll and this week’s announcements from Washington, show just how grave are the dangers confronting Syria. It is vital that at this G8 meeting every effort is made by David Cameron and other leaders to engage the Russians directly and enlist their support in bringing all sides to the negotiating table. The joint US-Russian initiative remains the only credible plan to secure a transition to an inclusive and sustainable peace settlement for Syria.

But David Cameron has also rightly identified tackling tax avoidance and improving transparency as among his top priorities for this summit. The government needs to achieve the most ambitious outcome possible.

The starting point is to seek proper transparency from multinational companies over key pieces of information needed including their revenues and profits. Such country-by-country reporting is essential if people are to know if these firms are paying their fair share of taxes.

Second, we should end the secrecy around tax havens so that the authorities can discover the identity of the wealthy individuals who control trusts and shell companies. It is right that Britain is securing the support of some of the tax havens for which we have responsibility for an existing convention on sharing tax information about who controls firms in their jurisdictions.

But as I first argued last year, Britain - which has responsibility for arguably the biggest network of tax havens in the world - needs to be prepared to use all its considerable legal power and authority to ensure all the UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies which act as tax havens sign up.

Third, Labour believes tax information must be shared properly with developing countries which lack the data and resources needed to track money being funnelled out of their economies.  Any new deal for sharing tax information at the G8 must include poor countries from the start. It must not be just a perk of club membership negotiated for the authorities of rich countries.

Indeed, it beggars belief that a summit ostensibly focused on improving transparency is even willing to consider agreeing a series of secret lists for the benefit only of its own members. Such a result would be indefensible.

Fourth, we should complete the initiative begun by Britain 10 years ago by which mining companies report the payments they make to governments. It is only through this sort of transparency that we can all begin to understand how the vast wealth of mineral resources in the developing world is being tapped.

Finally, this summit should reach agreement among the G8 on reform of the rules on transfer pricing, by which countries can artificially shift profits from one jurisdiction to another. These rules are for the OECD to agree finally but this summit could provide a powerful impetus if a can be reached.

Success or failure will, of course, depend on the discussions at the summit and the vital preparatory work that will need to have been undertaken in the months before. I hope there can be agreement on these and other key measures at the summit.

But Britain also needs to be willing to act alone on issues like transparency if consensus cannot be reached.

And this summit must be a prelude to the important path we need to tread over the years to come. In 2015 leaders will need to agree a new set of ambitious goals to succeed the Millennium Development Goals and existing targets for climate change. That will be a critical moment to reshape our world after the financial crisis.

On these big challenges confronting the world over the next decade we must realise we truly are in this together. Too often, people say there is a choice between the interests of richer countries and those in the developing world.

But improving tax fairness benefits both the developed and developing world. All of us, rich and poor, will all be affected by climate change. It should matter to everyone when a child goes hungry, wherever that child lives. And it is only together that we can build a shared and sustainable prosperity.

On all these issues, there is not a developing world and a developed world. There is one world and we need to change how it is run. G8 leaders must show they understand this message in the coming days.