IMG_0526 - CopyA blog post  by Steve Lewis, RESULTS Head of Global Health Advocacy,

Under the rain-filled skies, and the noise of police helicopters, there was a moment this morning when I doubted the wisdom of coming to Belfast for the G8 rally. But it has been a fine day, listening to live music and talking with activists from Africa about the intertwined links between hunger, undernutrition and tax dodging.

As David Cameron hosted a summit today on Tax and Transparency, and global leaders arrive in Northern Ireland for the G8 talks, over 5000 of us filled a Belfast park to make clear our message that both the global food system and the global tax system are broken, and that this must not be allowed to continue.

To understand the links between Tax evasion and hunger I spoke to Suzanne Matale from the Zambian Council of Churches. Zambia is one of 22 African countries with the highest burden of child undernutrition. Millions of children and women suffer from one or more forms of malnutrition, including underweight, and multiple micronutrient deficiencies. A massive 45% of children under-5 are stunted in Zambia (low height for age), meaning their life-chances are permanently impaired. So surely this means Zambia is a very poor country?

“Not at all”, said Suzanne, a church pastor and mother-of-four children. “Zambia is officially a middle-income country. We have rich mineral wealth, so it’s a paradox. Wealth is  generated but is not being mobilised in ways that help the people improve their living conditions. Wealth is syphoned out of the country or used for a small urban elite. It is not used in ways that help people restore their dignity.”

Suzanne Matale

Suzanne explained how multinational companies have mined huge deposits of copper and other ores in Zambia – but these companies pay very little in taxes. “In Zambia it’s not a case of no resources – but poor administration of our resources. We have some ministers who act more like Public Relations managers for big investors. They act in the interests of the companies not the country. That is why there is no funding for health care or to invest in improving agriculture.”

I told Suzanne that over the last few months we have worked hard in the UK to raise awareness of undernutrition as a neglected development issue. New research from the respected Lancet medical journal has shown that undernutrition contributes to 45% of all child deaths. So is Zambia a very crowded country? Is the problem really about overpopulation?

“No no” said Suzanne sharply. Zambia is three times the size of the UK but has a population of only 13 million. “We have enough land for everyone – but there is no investment in small farmers. It is a fertile country, but the state has no funds to spend on developing rural infrastructure or small farmer development”.

A study by Christian Aid shows that tax dodging costs poor countries $160 billion a year. This is money that should be spent building schools and hospitals. A specific study on Zambia looked at the accounts of 4 large Swedish companies operating in the country, and found that, “despite the fact that all four corporations have substantial operations in Zambia, there is no information about Zambia in the corporations’ annual accounts statements. And none of the corporations wishes to reveal any figures regarding profit and tax payments in Zambia.”

The Dutch independent research organization SOMO has carried out similar research. Their 2013 report shows that ‘Dutch double taxation treaties leads to huge revenue losses in developing countries because they reduce taxation on income’. (

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has spoken out strongly against tax evasion, but it is too early to say yet if todays Summit will have an effect. There was good progress this morning when UK Overseas Territories  agreed to a clampdown on tax evasion. Meeting in  Downing Street they signed up to a series of actions aimed at promoting transparency and exchange of information between tax jurisdictions. But the result is in the balance and depends on the actions of the G8 leaders. A statement from ‘Enough Food for Everyone IF’  said  “The prime minister’s promise to make the global tax system work for the world’s poorest is in jeopardy unless the G8 commit to making public… the information poor countries need to collect their missing billions”.

How does Suzanne see this progress? “In the end, the children in Zambia die needlessly” she explained. “I believe that all people have the right to the fundamentals of life – to food, to health, to development. This is a situation where global leaders – and our leaders in Africa – need to put our  house in order.”


Photo credit: Steve Lewis RESULTS

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of RESULTS UK.