DESA News Vol. 11, No. 9 September 2007

Trends and analysis

Tax policy and development

Experts to discuss environmental taxes, tax evasion, transfer pricing, and other thorny issues of finance

Tax as a means of development in developing countries and economies in transition is the focus of an expert group meeting taking place in Rome on 4 and 5 September. The DESA Financing for Development Office, in cooperation with the International Fund for Agricultural Development, is organizing the event to provide a forum for informal discussion of key issues related to the tax aspects of domestic resource mobilization.

The discussion will revolve around opportunities for greater cooperation in resource taxation, environmental taxes, tax evasion and avoidance, transfer pricing, and other concerns. Taxation of resources is of special concern to many developing countries, whose economies tend to depend heavily on natural resources with volatile prices, such as minerals, oil, and forest products. Diversification of revenue sources and the positive and negative effects of trade liberalization on the domestic tax base will be considered.

Attracting investment often means offering tax advantages to foreign companies, explains Michael Lennard, Senior Officer in the Financing for Development Office. Yet the need for investment must be balanced against the need to have a sufficient domestic tax base for development of health care, education, and infrastructure. An important question that arises is whether tax advantages for transnational corporations crowd out investment by small and medium sized enterprises.

Environmental taxes will also be examined. Such taxes discourage the use of environmentally harmful products, reduce clean-up and restoration costs associated with pollution, and can create new revenue sources for government, which can in turn be used to address environmental challenges. In addition, environmental taxes are sometimes seen as preferable to technical standards due to lower costs of monitoring and compliance.

Ten internationally renowned experts have been invited to take part in the meeting. Eminent tax policy advisers, administrators, and academics will explore areas where international cooperation in tax matters can have the greatest impact, and the role of the UN in fostering such cooperation. The outcome of the meeting will be reported to the third session of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters next month in Geneva.

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Financing for gender equality

Expert group meeting sets the stage for next year’s Commission on the Status of Women

Injecting a gender perspective into all areas of development remains a challenge, not least due to a shortage of resources. From 2001 to 2005, for example, only $5 billion of a total $20 billion in bilateral aid were allocated to activities that had gender equality as a significant goal, with two thirds directed to the health and education sectors. Scarcely any bilateral aid was directed to the promotion of gender equality in such areas as agriculture, infrastructure and finance.

To lay the groundwork for next year’s session of the Commission on the Status of Women, whose priority theme will be financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women, the DESA Division for the Advancement of Women will convene an expert group meeting in Oslo from 4 to 7 September 2007 on this issue. The meeting will be hosted by the Government of Norway.

The experts will explore public finance, with an emphasis on the impact of fiscal policies designed to stimulate gender equality. They will map out ways to ensure that gender equality is at the heart of macroeconomic policy, and is adequately addressed in the follow-up processes to the Monterrey Consensus on financing for development. Participants will also look into opportunities available for mobilizing bilateral and multilateral assistance and new aid modalities, coupled with new sources of funding for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal 3 on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

They will also examine how funding for national machineries for the advancement of women compares to that of other ministries or departments at national level. Similarly, the role of women’s organizations in the budget process deserves attention, as does the funding of these organizations.

The meeting will bring together experts appointed by the Secretary-General, academics, representatives of donor agencies, women’s funds, foundations and development banks, as well as observers from governments, the United Nations, inter-governmental organizations and NGOs.

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Will carbon sequestration work?

Ways to speed up development and implementation of carbon capture and storage under discussion

Is the use of coal and other fossil fuels compatible with an atmosphere free of man-made carbon dioxide? Obviously not, but the adaptation of technologies to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions may allow continued use of fossil fuels while nearly eliminating CO2 emissions. An expert group meeting will unfold from 10 to 11 September in New York to deepen understanding of the potential of carbon capture and storage technology to contribute to reduce the effects of climate change in the interest of sustainable development.

Carbon capture and storage entails trapping the carbon dioxide normally released from the combustion of fossil fuels or from industrial processes and then isolating it from the atmosphere for long periods by storing it in underground geologic formations. Although in some respects this technology is at an early stage of development, its use is already controversial. Since carbon capture and storage could translate into increased cost of electricity or risk of carbon dioxide leakage, the public attitude tends to be skeptical. In addition, uncertainties remain with regard to economic, environmental and regulatory aspects, while further research and development is needed to address technical challenges.

The meeting will bring together a small number of experts from academia, industry, and government agencies working to advance knowledge of carbon capture and storage options from different angles. Some are concentrating on such issues as economic and market analysis, and legal and regulatory frameworks. Others are examining environmental and safety concerns, as well as opportunities for technology transfer to developing countries.

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Women gaining ground in African politics

Online discussion on women, political participation, and decision-making in Africa

Women are bringing down some of the walls they have historically faced in African politics, and the figures are eye-opening. The proportion of members of African parliaments who are female rose from 7 percent in 1990 to 17 per cent in 2007, which is close to the global average. In Rwanda, women hold about half of the seats in the Lower House, the highest percentage worldwide.

Pervasive barriers, however, still prevent full-fledged participation of women in decision-making. These obstacles range from entrenched poverty, lack of equal access to health, education, training and employment and gender stereotypes and, in some countries, the devastating impacts of armed conflict and natural disasters.

The DESA Division for the Advancement of Women and the Economic Commission for Africa in cooperation with the e-Network of National Gender Equality Machineries in Africa is organizing an online discussion on women, political participation and decision-making in Africa from 4 September to 14 October. The goal is to understand the map of women’s political participation in Africa better, review measures taken at national and sub-regional levels to promote such participation, and highlight gaps where action is needed.

The online discussion will start with an assessment of the current level of women’s participation in decision-making in Africa. The constraints faced by women entering politics and the strategies they use to overcome them will be discussed on the second and third weeks. The fourth week will be devoted to the role of women in the private sector, civil society and the media. The potential of building alliances among women in different decision-making processes will be taken up in the fifth week.

The e-Network was set up in 2006 in cooperation with the African Center for Gender and Social Development at the Economic Commission of Africa, with the goals of enhancing the exchange of knowledge, fostering partnerships among national women’s machineries, and speeding up implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action at the national and sub-regional levels. The online discussion expects to receive input from representatives of national gender equality mechanisms in Africa, other ministries, political parties, NGOs, academia and the media.

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Staying in the black by going green

Experts shed light on how to make the most of earnings for green local development

Oil, gas and minerals have generated windfall revenues in recent years for many countries that produce and export such products. Yet because resources are exhaustible, the issue for those countries is to use the current revenues with maximum efficiency for growth and sustainable development, explains David O’Connor, Chief of the Policy Integration and Analysis Branch in the DESA Division for Sustainable Development. How to do that? DESA is organizing an expert group meeting on the use of non-renewable resource revenues for sustainable local development on 21 September in New York.

The meeting will provide a platform to spur discussion on this issue. How to allocate those revenues? What kinds of investments have been undertaken by central and local governments? Furthermore, have those investments been translated into effective projects and development programmes? Experts will discuss the impacts on the ground of activities and projects financed by revenues from natural resources in selected countries in the developing world. They will identify institutional mechanisms and policies which have proven effective in ensuring that such revenues are used effectively, efficiently and equitably.

Perspectives of various countries – Chad, Ghana, Nigeria, and Peru – and different stakeholders, from field researchers to NGOs, will be brought together for the meeting. This will inform discussions of the 2008 Commission on Sustainable Development, focusing on review progress in implementation of inter-governmental commitments relating to the areas of agriculture, desertification, drought, rural development, and Africa, notably Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.

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Global forum celebrates the role of youth in ICT

The meeting explores ways to empower citizens through technology

The World Summit on the Information Society emphasized that young people are the leading creators and earliest adaptors of information and communication technology, while asserting that youth and ICT are agents of positive change in society. Two years later, the Global Forum on Youth and ICT for Development will repeat this message, recognizing youth as catalysts of change. From 24 to 26 September, young people from all corners of the world will meet in Geneva with policy makers from international organizations, government agencies and the private sector.

Participants will engage in an open discussion on the role of technology in advancing people’s lives, while exploring ways to empower citizens through ICT. The meeting is a reminder of the importance of harnessing youthful creativity for the benefit of young people themselves as well as the communities in which they live. The World Summit made it clear that a people-centred and development-oriented information society is an important goal of ICT. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has put it, information and communications technologies have “a central role to play in the quest for development, dignity and peace.”

The forum will open with a video hosted by a young conference participant, and will contain interviews with conference organizers and footage from programs sponsored by key conference partners. The video is intended to spur discussion among young viewers on the issues that will subsequently be addressed at the meeting. It will be streamed on the Global Alliance website as well as YouTube, and distributed on DVD.

An online blog is already up and running, with an emphasis on what is happening behind the scenes. A few guest bloggers have been invited to share their views and experiences with ICT in the areas of education, health, and entrepreneurship.

Attendees will also find a marketplace in Geneva that showcases ICT projects, initiated for and by youth in connection with development.

The Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technologies and Development, sponsor of the event, was launched a year ago with the purpose of promoting effective use of information and communication technologies for development. Its mission was inspired by the World Summit on the Information Society, which forged a global consensus on the importance of ICT as tools for achieving the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.

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GAID executives take stock

The third meeting of the Steering Committee, the executive governing body of the Global Alliance, will be held on 19 September in New York. The meeting will be chaired by Craig Barrett, Chairman of the Alliance and Chairman of the Board of Intel Corporation. The Steering Committee, which provides the Alliance with executive oversight and guidance, is composed of twelve members representing governments, business, civil society, the media and international organizations. An interactive discussion will review the progress of the Alliance and chart its course for the coming year. This will be followed by a discussion on the Alliance’s funding.

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