The G-20: Keeping its ear to the ground
For the past few years, the field of community engagement has been rapidly growing, giving people formerly excluded from decision-making “a seat at the table.” Inclusive processes implemented in preparation for the G-20 summit have certainly offering community members new opportunities to participate and be immersed in issues that affect their lives.
The leaders of the world’s 19 top economies plus the European Union gathered last weekend during the annual G-20 summit to discuss global economic challenges. As always, intense anti-globalization demonstrators have rallied against G-20 summits; the situation this year was not different. The atmosphere both inside the closed rooms and on the streets was equally charged.
“Shaping an Interconnected World” was the theme of this year’s G-20 summit, highlighting three goals: strengthening economic resilience, improving sustainability and assuming responsibilities.
The hottest topics on the table at the 12th G-20 summit held on July 7 and 8 in Hamburg were: climate change, gender equality, inclusiveness, equitable economic growth, free trade and helping migrants and refugees. However, countering terrorism and preventing radicalization conductive to terrorism remain a major priority for the G-20.
What does the preparatory process for this big of an event look like? Over the past few months, official meetings in different configurations have debated the main topics of the summit. Numerous sessions, meetings and events were organized at the level of line ministers and working groups, in addition to conducting dialogue with civil society groups.
This year’s preparation for the G-20 attached great importance to dialogue with various civil society groups. A wide range of consultative meetings aimed at gathering ideas, proposals and opinions included delegates from the scientific and research community, private sector, trade unions, women, youth and NGOs from the G-20 states.
In the run-up to the summit, many “20s” forums were held – Civil 20, Labor 20, Science 20, Women 20, Youth 20, Business 20 and Think 20 – involving civil society representatives from around the globe. The dialogue forums that extended from April to June came up with recommendations aiming at enriching the debates at the G-20.
The Civil 20 (C-20) is one of a seven threads of the G-20 dialogue. C-20 picked up on pertinent G-20 issues, hosting more than 450 individuals from over 200 NGOs from around 60 countries in workshops and plenary sessions entitled “The World We Want.”
The Youth 20 (Y-20), titled “Designing the World’s Future,” discussed the same topics as the world leaders including partnerships, global economy and Agenda 2030. Seventy young people from more than 30 nations came together to develop a joint position, innovative solutions and recommendations for the G-20 summit; a process aimed at tightening the connection between the Y-20 and G-20 summit.
The Women 20 (W-20) has been always an integral part of the G-20 process, with a view to promoting women’s economic empowerment. The main issue addressed by this year’s summit was: “How diversity and full participation are essential for fostering resilient, sustainable and viable economies and societies through women’s empowerment.” This year’s W-20 summit dwelled on the full access of women to labor markets and their financial and digital inclusion. Gender equality and women’s economic empowerment have always been at the core of the G-20.
The Think 20 (T-20) summit involves a group of think tanks in order to provide research and policy advice for the G-20 and highlight research-based, action-oriented policies and strategies designed to tackle global challenges. The 2017 Think 20 intellectual network called on the leaders of the G-20 countries “to expand their agenda of economic growth and macroeconomic stability to include a greater focus on social needs as well as environmental and climate protection.”
For the first time the science and research community was included into the G-20 process as the Science 20 (S-20). The aim of the summit was to come up with strategies and recommendations to improve global health.
With the high level of unemployment, the Labor 20 (L-20) summit discussed the future of work, including topics related to reducing inequalities and creating quality employment and fairer globalization and working conditions in the global supply chain. Both the L-20 and Business 20 (B-20) have been addressing G-20 leaders since 2011. The B-20 is the formal G-20 dialogue with the global business community, directing the global economy toward a “more sustainable and future-oriented path.”
Being an integral part of the entire G-20 process, the dialogue forums strive to deliver concrete, actionable recommendations to the G-20. In doing so they enable political decision-making based on actual needs and real-world solutions. Their final communiques are passed on to the G-20 presidency to take the right path toward policy formation.
Dialogue is very important for understanding the beliefs, attitudes and behaviors of the communities. Policy formulation based on inclusive processes is vital. However, what is really needed above all is courageous initiatives by decision-makers such as Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada and leader of the Liberal Party, who, addressing the audience of the Global Citizens concert in Hamburg, said, “Given equal opportunities, women and girls can change the world.”
It has been well-acknowledged that “one should visit one’s doctor before one has a serious medical problem.” It is “prevention” which deals with the root causes of the problems that could only be achieved through the participation of targeted communities.
The success or failure of the G-20 summit will ultimately be judged on its ability to deliver on the theme safeguarding a peaceful world. The accomplishment of any community outreach process is in its impact on policy decisions. Thus, the answer to the question “How many of these joint positions, solutions and recommendations came out in the summit’s final communique?” would be enough.
Rubina Abu Zeinab-Chahine is executive director of the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development.