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Global Viewpoint

Small global taxes would make a big difference for world's 'bottom billion'

France's Bernard Kouchner, Japan's Katsuya Okada, and Belgium's Charles Michel discuss innovative financing to fund development projects that will help lift up the world's poorest people.

By Bernard Kouchner, Katsuya Okada, Charles Michel / August 31, 2010

Do you know the realities of today’s world? A billion people don’t have access to drinking water; a billion people suffer from hunger; nearly one million people die each year of malaria, 1.3 million of tuberculosis, and 2 million of AIDS; and poverty keeps some 72 million children out of school and prevents them from realizing their potential.

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To tackle such global issues, the UN set out the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which the international community should achieve by the year 2015. A wide range of financial resources that are sustainable, predictable, and additional to the traditional Official Development Aid (ODA) need to be mobilized to meet the global development needs including the MDGs. Given the relentless urgency, we must act.

We are determined to find an effective way to finance development that would be alongside – and not in place of – public aid. In a world marked by substantial gaps in development and standards of living, we must promote innovative approaches and instruments.

Innovative approaches

Actual measures for innovative financing include, among others, taxes on airline tickets to finance access to essential medicines through UNITAID, a fund hosted by WHO, and bonds secured by government pledges to finance for immunization (GAVI). Such measures have mobilized resources to fight against the three major infectious diseases (HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria) and to scale up immunization programs. They have produced remarkable results. Moreover, efforts to encourage voluntary contributions such as donations by citizens, consumers, and companies have been made.

The Doha Conference in November 2008 called on the world to change the dimensions of innovative development financing. New instruments that are based on global activities are becoming available to us – broad-based financing that could, through miniscule contributions repeated numerous times, change the dimensions of hope, if properly coordinated.

Toward the UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals this September, we will endeavor to have more countries understand the interest of innovative development financing, whose success has already generated more than $3 billion since 2006.

France has promoted innovative development financing from the start. With Spain, Brazil, Chile, and others, it launched the Leading Group on Innovative Financing for Development in 2006, and 60 member states have already joined. Japan assumed the presidency of the Leading Group in June and will hold the eighth plenary meeting in December. Under its presidency of the European Union, Belgium decided to put the issue on the development agenda. Discussion on innovative development financing must now be further extended to the global political arena through the efforts of the Leading Group including Japan, Belgium, and France.