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The Biggest Accounting Scandal of them all?

August 28th 11.00am (10am GMT)

The Biggest Accounting Scandal of them all?

Leading development, economic and environmental groups have joined forces to launch a set of simple measures of global quality of life. Oxfam, New Economics Foundation and BirdLife International urge world leaders to adopt a set of “headline indicators” at the Johannesburg Summit to guide global policy making for real sustainable development.

The three groups believe that global economic growth, the standard benchmark of progress, paints a badly misleading picture of worldwide wealth and health. Current measures of global economic growth hide or ignore rapid and alarming declines in the quality of the natural environment, and huge disparities in social welfare between the North and the South. Is this the greatest accounting scandal of them all?

Just as some companies boost their bottom line by counting costs as capital investment, national governments the world over ignore social and natural resource costs to create the appearance of economic wealth. In reality, that wealth is acquired at the expense of the environment, poor countries in the South and future generations everywhere.

In Johannesburg, the three groups will be urging the international community to adopt a small set of headline indicators which paint a picture, not just of global economic prosperity, but of social and environmental conditions too. 1

A few countries already do this to measure sustainable development at a national level. But, apart from the nearly fifty indicators proposed by the UN to track progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, no focused set of indicators has ever been agreed at a global level.

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Andrew Simms, Director of the New Economics Foundation says:

“The global economy is run using nonsense statistics. It is like a multinational corporation managed with creative accounting. The world needs a system to avoid an environmental Enron. We need a few key indicators that show real progress, and measure whether or not we are living within our environmental budget and increasing human well-being.”

Although the indicators proposed by the three organisations are not definitive, they provide a solid foundation on which Governments can build.


Editors’ Notes:

1. Measuring Real progress – Headline Indicators for a Sustainable World available from New Economics Foundation, Oxfam International Secretariat or RSPB Headquarters

Further Information:

UK Andrew Simms, New Economics Foundation, 020 7089 2800 / 2852 or mobile 07957 656 370
Oxfam GB, Patricia O’Rourke 07989-965359
In Johannesburg Cherry Farrow RSPB Press Officer 07801 632946
Alex Renton, Oxfam International (local mobile) 082 858 1517 or +66 1 733 5952

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