20 February 2012


The demand for greater transparency in the international financial system is gathering momentum, especially as many governments struggle to cope with the global financial crisis.

Tax havens which enable wealthy elites and companies to evade their taxation responsibilities are coming under increased scrutiny. According to the Task Force on Financial Integrity and Economic Development (an organisation allied with Edmund Rice International), developing countries lose more money through tax dodging than they receive in aid.

Several recent developments give encouraging signs that this problem may begin to be addressed, although resistance to improved transparency from vested interests is strong.

The chief of India's federal investigation agency estimates that Indians have illegally deposited $500bn in overseas tax havens. Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director AP Singh said Indians were the largest depositors in foreign banks with funds being sent to tax havens such as Mauritius, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and the British Virgin Islands among others. This flight of capital has helped widen inequality in India, although India is now playing a major role in the global crusade against tax crimes.

In 2009, the United States Department of Justice pursued both criminal and civil charges against the giant Swiss bank UBS for systematically offering wealthy Americans the opportunity to evade taxes. UBS agreed to a settlement on the civil charges and as part of the deal, offered to hand over the names of 4,450 tax evading Americans to the Internal Revenue Service.

Earlier this month, for the first time ever, US authorities charged a bank with helping Americans evade taxes. Wegelin & Co. is Switzerland’s oldest private bank.

Meanwhile Anti-poverty groups and supporters of financial transparency have urged the oil industry to drop its attacks on a new US law that will reduce corruption and reveal the money trail between industry and resource-rich governments. They also called on the public to take action by telling oil companies, such as Chevron, Exxon, Shell and ConocoPhillips, to stop fighting transparency.

"Countries around the world have suffered deeply from corruption, conflict and unfair foreign exploitation," said Simon Taylor, founding director of Global Witness. "By trying to water down these transparency laws, oil companies are in effect trying to gag millions of people who have a right to know how their countries’ wealth is being managed and who is getting the money" he said.

Oxfam America and ONE international have online petitions urging legislators in the US and Europe to resist corporate lobbying against proposed transparency laws.


Since 2007, violence against albino people in Tanzania has reached alarming levels. The killing and mutilation of albinos is associated with the belief that certain of their body parts have supernatural powers and can make a person rich or successful. Thus, the demand for albino body parts is fuelled by the lucrative trade linked to the practice of witchcraft in a country facing poverty and social challenges. While it is difficult to estimate the magnitude of this phenomenon, it is clear that children are increasingly becoming targets of such violent acts.

Albinism is a genetic disorder characterized by lack of melanin pigment in the skin, hair, and eyes. Albinos make up about one in 4,000 people in South Africa and perhaps one in 5,000 in Nigeria. Accurate data is unavailable for Tanzania but it is estimated to be one in 1,400, suggesting an albino community of about 30,000, however the Albino Association of Tanzania believes the total figure could be more than 150,000.

Children with albinism are continuously suffering from abuse and exploitation which in most cases end in fatality. They are often rejected by their families and communities who consider them as a "curse", and they are subjected to extreme discrimination and stigmatization.

Edmund Rice International (ERI) has leant its support to a written submission by Franciscans International (FI) to the UN Human Rights Council on the plight of albino children in Tanzania.

The murder and mutilation of albino children constitutes a major violation of fundamental human rights. While the Government of Tanzania has highlighted its progress and commitment to addressing the situation of albino people in terms of prosecution and prevention, ERI shares the deep concern of FI about the protection of innocent victims. It believes that there is an urgent need to take immediate action at international, regional, and national levels towards the protection of this vulnerable group of children and the eradication of the practice.


The action of the Russian government in knowingly transferring arms and ammunition to the government of Syria in the current violent situation where there is clearly substantial risk of them being used to kill civilians and commit human rights abuses has been deplored by Control Arms a global civil society alliance campaigning for an Arms Trade Treaty.
According to the alliance these recent transactions underline the need for an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), a robust and comprehensive set of global rules to regulate the international trade in arms.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of people are killed, injured, raped, and forced to flee from their homes as a result of the poorly controlled global arms trade. In July 2012 governments will come together to negotiate a global treaty to better regulate this deadly trade. Diplomats have been meeting in New York in February for a final round of preparatory talks.

Visit the Control Arms website to learn about progress towards a treaty, to add your support for the campaign or to Speak Out and urge governments to control arms.


In his recent visit to Australia the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres has called for moral leadership, and a less populist and polarised debate in Australia about asylum seekers.

In view of the fact that Australia receives around 6,000 asylum seekers each year, a tiny percentage of the global total, and that the burden of assisting the vast majority of the world’s asylum seekers and refugees actually falls to some of the world’s poorest countries, the High Commissioner described Australia’s collective obsession with asylum seekers arriving by boat as being "out of proportion"

Whilst acknowledging that people smuggling had become "a nasty business" linked to organised crime and human rights abuses, which requires a government crackdown, he also said protection had to be extended to the victims, who often had no legal way to escape their situations.

These comments echo those put forward late last year by Phil Glendenning, Director of the Edmund Rice Centre in Sydney who said "our politicians have got to stop playing partisan politics with this issue. The level of leadership displayed by both major political parties on this issue has been simply appalling"

The Centre has also produced a downloadable document entitled 10 Essential Facts About Asylum Seekers to provide community education about this issue.

The Australian Government has also produced a useful Fact Sheet on asylum seekers and refugees.

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