Mixed outcomes for UN talks in Ethiopia

Delegates gather for the opening of The Third International Conference on Financing for Development, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Monday, July 13, 2015. According to the organizers, the conference which runs from July 13-16 is intended to gather world leaders to "launch a renewed and strengthened global partnership for financing people-centered sustainable development". (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene)

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The United Nations says development talks in Ethiopia have set a bold agenda, but aid agencies say Australia and other rich nations have missed a reform opportunity.

Negotiations on a final agreement at the Financing for Development conference wrapped up overnight, with the UN trumpeting what it calls a bold and groundbreaking agenda.

The agenda includes setting up a forum to identify infrastructure gaps, using technology to promote development, a social compact to favour poor people and renewed commitment to the UN aid target of 0.7 per cent of national income.

The conference did agree to strengthen the work of a UN committee of tax experts.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop welcomed the final agreement saying it reflected Australia’s development priorities, including a strong emphasis on boosting each country’s self reliance.

She said Australia is a founding partner of a tax initiative which commits the country to doubling investments to support developing countries to strengthen their tax systems by 2020.

Oxfam chief executive Helen Szoke said the agreement did not ensure there were proper safeguards for developing countries dealing with private sector-led development.

Despite tough talk on tax avoidance, Australia had been among the rich countries who had wasted an opportunity for greater tax reform, she said.

“They are returning home with a compromise, meaning rigged rules and tax avoidance will continue to rob the world’s poorest people,” Dr Szoke said.

“It is just not logical to ask developing countries to raise more of their own resources without also reforming the global tax system that prevents them doing this.”

The UN’s new development goals will be signed off in New York in September.

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