We can help poorer countries by tackling tax evasion and avoidance


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The Independent Online

Britain is leading the fight against global hunger. Millions of families in the world's poorest countries are getting the food and nutrition they need, thanks to the hard work of our charities, the generosity of our people, and the UK development budget.

By 2015, the UK will have reached 20 million pregnant women and children under the age of five with nutrition programmes and ensured another 4 million people have enough food throughout the year.

But, with nearly a billion people around the world still unable to guarantee when they'll get their next nourishing meal, there is still more to do. The 'Enough Food for Everyone IF' campaign will help to shine a much-needed spotlight on this issue.

Tackling the problems of hunger and nutrition is a priority for the UK Government in the year of our G8 Presidency.  Last year, we used the exposure the London Olympics brought to the UK to highlight the devastating consequences of malnutrition on children. Our Global Hunger Summit challenged the political and business leaders alike to act faster and with more ambition to tackle the malnutrition of today; and to support the scientific developments that will lead to more robust, nutritious and affordable crops tomorrow.

We plan to follow this up with another major event ahead of our G8 Summit in June, which will seek fresh commitments to improve the lives of millions by tackling under-nutrition.  We will also take forward the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition agreed at last year's G8, to lift 50 million people out of poverty over the next ten years through agricultural growth.

But, as well as tackling hunger directly, we need to think about the broader changes that need to happen to ensure that governments have the ability to meet the needs of their citizens, and to address the root causes, and not just the symptoms, of poverty. The priorities the Prime Minister has outlined for our G8 Presidency - advancing trade, ensuring tax compliance and promoting greater transparency - can push forward this longer-term change.

By driving a serious debate on tax evasion and avoidance, we can help poorer countries to receive the taxes they are due. This will help countries to fund public services and investment for all of their citizens. And promoting greater transparency around the management of valuable natural resources, such as oil, will show the extent to which revenues are being invested in tackling issues that affect the poorest people, such as hunger. In 2008, exports of oil and minerals from Africa were worth roughly £245 billion - around nine times the value of international aid. If invested well, such income could transform the lives of the poorest.

To make progress in tackling poverty, we need to look beyond the G8's role as donors and look at how our own practices affect developing countries and how we can help bring about meaningful change for the poorest. As the Prime Minister has made clear, success at the G8 will not be about whipping out the cheque-book. It will be about taking action to 'put our own houses in order' and helping developing countries to prosper in the process.

We know that people living in poverty rightly do not want to be reliant on hand-outs.  The President of Liberia - Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf recently wrote in the Times that countries like hers want an end to aid dependency. I believe there is a role for all of us - governments, businesses, and civil society - in bringing about the changes that will help millions more people to provide nutritious food for their families. Together, we must make progress in the battle against hunger in 2013."

Justine Greening is Secretary of State for International Development