3 August 2015


The 193 Member States of the United Nations has reached agreement on the draft outcome document that will constitute the new sustainable development agenda that will be adopted this September by world leaders at the Sustainable Development Summit in New York.

Concluding a negotiating process that has spanned more than two years and has featured the unprecedented participation of civil society, countries agreed to an ambitious agenda that features 17 new sustainable development goals that aim to end poverty, promote prosperity and people’s well-being while protecting the environment by 2030.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the agreement, saying it “encompasses a universal, transformative and integrated agenda that heralds an historic turning point for our world.”

Mr. Ban said the September Summit, where the new agenda will be adopted, “will chart a new era of Sustainable Development in which poverty will be eradicated, prosperity shared and the core drivers of climate change tackled.

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In their annual Social Justice Statement to mark Social Justice Sunday in September the Catholic Bishops of Australia are urging all Australians not to succumb to a ‘globalisation of indifference’ that takes away the ability to understand the plight of people fleeing violence and persecution and to respond with generosity and compassion.

The Social Justice Statement challenges Australians to think again about their national response to asylum seekers, especially those who come to Australia by sea recently described by Archbishop Mark Coleridge as 'a moral failure and an international disgrace'. It invites all to recognise the desperation that has driven these people to seek refuge far from their homes.

The Statement takes its inspiration from the actions and words of Pope Francis on his 2013 visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa, where he met the survivors of a refugee tragedy and mourned for those who had died. As he said in his sermon at Lampedusa:

‘Immigrants dying at sea, in boats which were vehicles of hope and became vehicles of death.  ... These brothers and sisters of ours were trying to escape difficult situations to find some serenity and peace; they were looking for a better place for themselves and their families, but instead they found death. ... Has any one of us wept for these persons who were on the boat? For the young mothers carrying their babies? For these men who were looking for a means of supporting their families?’
With almost 60 million people around the world displaced and in flight, the escalation of the crises in countries such as Iraq and Syria has seen the highest level of displacement since the Second World War. In Australia, the response has been a hardening of heart in immigration and border security policy based on deterrence and detention – the ‘turning back the boats’ approach. 
The Bishops appeal to Australia’s history of welcoming those seeking asylum and protection and propose an alternative approach to the current focus of detention and deterrence. The statement calls for important changes, including: respectful and informed policy debate; onshore processing; regional cooperation to expand protection and resettlement places; a substantial increase in our humanitarian intake; and assurances that no person is ever deported to danger.

Visit the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council website  for order forms and details about Social Justice Sunday.

(the title of the statement given in the headline of this story is taken from the words of Australia’s national anthem 'For Those who’ve come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share …`)


Many multi-national companies use complicated corporate structures involving layers of tax haven entities and accounts to disguise or alter the character of their income in ways that (often legally) reduce their corporate tax bill, a process known as ‘tax avoidance’ (in contrast to ‘tax evasion,’ which is illegal). These strategies can be wildly successful, bringing their tax bills down to zero or even triggering a tax refund from the government, while they enjoy massive profits.

Apart from closing loopholes in tax treaties and tax laws one at a time,a way to bring public pressure to bear on rampant tax avoiders, is to require them to own up to their tax schemes. Global Financial Integrity (GFI) has campaigned for all multinational companies to be required to publicly disclose basic financial information, such as their sales, profit, taxes paid, and number of employees, in each individual country in which they operate -  “country-by-country reporting”. If implemented this will not only help both rich and poor countries better enforce and amend their tax laws,(GFI estimates that a conservative US$991.2 billion left developing countries in illicit financial outflows in 2012 alone) but it will also make free markets more transparent for investors and the public at large.

In a significant step forward in Australia that has also been the focus of a campaign of groups such as the Justice and International Mission unit (JIM)of the Uniting Church, Baptist World Aid  and the global Tax Justice Network, companies with more than $1 billion of revenue globally, but which operate in Australia will now be required to provide ether financial details on a country-by-country basis to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) from 2016. The ATO can then share the information with tax authorities of other countries however the information will not yet be made available to the public.


In the face of overwhelming evidence of persistent poverty, deepening inequality, ecological destruction,  unprecedented loss of biodiversity and accelerating climate change governments have set 2015 as the year when they chart a new course for humanity – a path toward “sustainable development” that “leaves no one behind” and protects the planet.

At the same time however many of these same governments, particularly the more powerful ones among them, are also currently negotiating new “free trade” deals across regions such as the Transpacific Partnership Agreement, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, Trade-in-Services-Agreement and Economic Partnership Agreements, that will have far-reaching implications and that are likely to further concentrate power and wealth in the hands of the 1% that currently own almost 50% of the world’s wealth.

Edmund Rice International (ERI) recently added its name to a letter to all government leaders demanding that governments
- Uphold the primacy of human rights
- Tackle inequality and the over-concentration of wealth
- Rein in corporate power, and
- Address the climate crisis

The full text of the letter can be seen here

In a separate but related issue, the first UN Intergovernmental working group meeting on a proposed business & human rights treaty took place in Geneva in July. The working group is mandated "to elaborate an international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights."

Parallel to this meeting Franciscans International  joined with a number of partner organisations staged an event to enable affected communities to have their perspectives taken into consideration.

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