G20

To put that into perspective…

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IMG_1861The G20 communique says that if the $2 trillion initiative is fully implemented, it will lift global GDP by 2.1 percent above expected levels by 2018 and create millions of jobs.

That is good news by any measure.

Meanwhile, the Millennium Development Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality which was agreed to by all United Nations Member States in 2000 to reduce 1990 levels of child mortality by two-thirds before 2015 has acheived favourable progress, but will likely fall short of its objective.

A reduction of 3% was needed year by year to achieve the MDG4 goal.

Achieving the required reduction in child mortality would have saved millions of lives, and reduced the burden on developing countries significantly by addressing population, health, environmental, infrastructure and corruption issues.

One of the problem of the G20 declarations is that they are very broad on commitment to specific issues such as child survival. But it is not a case of either/or. We can lift global GDP by 2.1% above 2018 levels and work to improve child survival too! The good news is that both complement each other, and so are symbiotic goals.

How might we do this? That is the discussion to unfold during the Design Forum next year. In the meantime, good ideas about how to improve child survival are welcome.

Will the G20 Cut It? Four Lessons From Brisbane

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Tony Abbott and Vladimir Putin meet koalas before the start of the first G20 meeting in Brisbane. Photograph: Andrew Taylor/AFP/Getty Images
Tony Abbott and Vladimir Putin meet koalas before the start of the first G20 meeting in Brisbane. Photograph: Andrew Taylor/AFP/Getty Images

The G20 has been widely criticised in past years as being all talk and no action. When first framing the 10 City Bridge Run ahead of the Seoul G20 Summit in 2010, I asked “Will the G20 cut it?” at this link.

In the wake of the wash-up from the Brisbane G20 Summit, this question still is worth asking. What did we learn from Brisbane? Here is my analysis in four lessons:

Firstly, it is important to recognise that the G20 is a global economic institution. This means that the language will largely be around issues of trade, employment, debt, taxation and monetary policy. This does also include development issues relating to poverty as key to this equation. The G20 Development Working Group begins the 2014 Brisbane Development Update with a statement that is more than just a throwaway line:

Development remains a key element of the Group of Twenty (G20) agenda.

I sense that the G20 recognises both its ability and limitation to influence development through strengthening economic growth and resilience. This is at the heart of economic thought: how to best allocate the distribution of scarce resources.

The opening line from the G20 Leaders’ Communique flags the core priority of the G20, and consequently overshadows dilemmas this might bring in addressing issues of development:

Raising global growth to deliver better living standards and quality jobs for people across the world is our highest priority.

Secondly, the Summit is to some extent a forum of theatrics. It is misleading to think the G20 Summit as a dynamic roundtable to discuss all of the issues in detail. There is a lot of preliminary and behind-the-scenes discussions and negotiations that take place outside of the limelight to resolve how members of the G20 will orientate their national interest with the agenda for the Summit. It is more than a photo opportunity, and such gatherings are important.

Theatrics serve a purpose, and they also signal what people are keenly focused on. In focusing on one thing, they also steal a lot of the oxygen out of the occasion to more freely discuss a broader range of issues. In Brisbane, the theatrics was mainly seen through the grandstanding of and by Putin around the Ukraine incident. That is signalling how the Ukraine is fast becoming a place of heightened strategic value for leaders to communicate their sovereign will and power. The consequences of this grandstanding will not be immediately clear, but ripple through events that are yet to unfold.

Consequences are important, and the issue that receives the limelight will be at the expense of others that do not get discussed in depth. Obama flagged his theatrics publicly at a university address prior to the G20 to gain most favourable media attention to help sway his agenda.

Thirdly, wording is important and will ultimately drive action. The concluding G20 Leaders’ Communique and supporting documents give guidance for the future. If an issue doesn’t make the list, that would be troubling for those who see it as important. The question becomes one of what concrete and practical action will actually trickle down from this wording? 

The 2014 Brisbane Development Update was quite clear about what that G20 sees as an important priority, quoted here directly from the document:

Our work has continued to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Further, we reaffirmed our strong support for the ongoing intergovernmental efforts in the UN to conclude an inclusive and people-centred post-2015 development agenda and for its effective implementation. We reaffirmed the commitment of the international community to poverty eradication and a coherent approach to sustainable development, which integrates its three dimensions in a balanced manner. We underlined the central imperative of poverty eradication and are committed to freeing humanity from poverty and hunger as a matter of urgency. We look forward to the third Financing for Development Conference to be held in Addis Ababa in July 2015. We reaffirmed our commitment to ensure that G20 activities beyond 2015 are coherent with the post 2015 development agenda.

The wording from the G20 Leaders’ Communique shows that this responsibility is one that is for the United Nations to resolve, but one which has the support of the G20 for an ambitious post-2015 agenda: We support efforts in the United Nations to agree an ambitious post-2015 development agenda. The question of how an issue will strengthen economic growth and resilience is important to address to receive more attention.

Fourthly, who actually holds the G20 to account for their words? The declarations made at the conclusion of each Summit are not so much binding as aspirational guidance. The Seoul Consensus for the 2010 G20 Summit shown at the link at the beginning of this blog helped shape this central theme of a human bridge which supports the 10 City Bridge Run. The Seoul Consensus showed its priorities framed in the following statements:

We, the Leaders of the G20, are united in our conviction that by working together we can secure a more prosperous future for the citizens of all countries… The Seoul Consensus complements our commitment to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and focuses on concrete measures … to make a tangible and significant difference in people’s lives.

 

There is consistency between what was written in 2010 and most recently in Brisbane yesterday. This is comforting to know, and no small measure for optimism as we look to address child survival in the context of economic growth and resilience. Recent statements from Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop about embracing a new paradigm of development assistance through looking for innovative ideas is consistent with this as well to build concrete measures to make a tangible and significant difference in people’s lives through improving child survival.

The case for taking action is an ethical issue. It is a good thing to do and the right thing to do, as well as being just. It doesn’t need the imprimatur of the G20 to take action. As global citizens, the outcome from the G20 Summit in Brisbane indicates that the institution is something to be readily engaged with on this issue because we both share a common objective. Opening the conversation with countries from the G20 is an important step towards the Design Forum in 2015.

Legitimacy of G20: Self-appointed for the sake of G172?

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G20 countries
G20 countries

Last week the leaders of the G20 met in Seoul for the G20 Summit. For many, the ‘Group of 20’ (G20) is a largely self-appointed and barely legitimate body with no authority to assume its current role. Is this a valid perspective, and what does it mean for the ‘G172’ (the 172 member states of the United Nations)?

Over the next few blog posts I will examine the Seoul Summit Declaration in more detail from a development perspective. What decisions did the G20 make, and are there consequences for other countries excluded from the meeting which are unfair or favourable? What did the G20 Summit mean for influencing extreme poverty, and how does this relate to the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals?

Why the G20?

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The G20 Toronto Summit Declaration from June earlier this year stated:

We recognize that 2010 marks an important year for development issues. The September 2010 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) High Level Plenary will be a crucial opportunity to reaffirm the global development agenda and global partnership, to agree on actions for all to achieve the MDGs by 2015, and to reaffirm our respective commitments to assist the poorest countries.

In this regard it is important to work with Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to make them active participants in and beneficiaries of the global economic system. Accordingly we thank Turkey for its decision to host the 4th United Nations Conference on the LDCs in June 2011.

Narrowing the development gap and reducing poverty are integral to our broader objective of achieving strong, sustainable and balanced growth and ensuring a more robust and resilient global economy for all. In this regard, we agree to establish a Working Group on Development and mandate it to elaborate, consistent with the G-20’s focus on measures to promote economic growth and resilience, a development agenda and multi-year action plans to be adopted at the Seoul Summit.

The G20 as a representative body has the ability and political will to make global change happen very quickly, if it chooses to do so. But to do so requires effort and participation from us.

What are people saying about the G20?

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Participating G-20 nations Nations allowed ext...
Representation of G20

Looking ahead toward Seoul, what did people have to say about what took place in Toronto last June? Here are a few observations from the blog Sherpa from a range of NGO speaking on the broad topic of ‘development’:

  • The Global Campaign for Education expressed disappointment that the G20 did not progress further on a financial transaction tax that could go someway to filling the gap in funding left by the G8.
  • Save the Children called on the G20 to broaden their impact as a forum.
  • Save the Children US said the G-20 isn’t moving quickly enough to offer the kind of global economic leadership that ensures balanced growth and stability by improving the resilience of the world’s poor. The agency saw some encouraging language on narrowing the development gap, but it took no major, new action at this summit beyond establishing a working group and and reaffirming the importance of food security.
  • Oxfam says the G20 has drawn a blank on poverty.
  • WWF warned that sustainable economic recovery needed more than brief platitudes from the G20 on green recovery than what it delivered in Toronto. The agency said that the world leaders were still painting the economy in black and white but it must inlude green.
  • Actionaid UK said the G20 was bankrupt as the leaders lacked ideas and and any willingness to compromise. The organisation said the communique would be forgotten before the day was over.
  • World Vision applauded and welcomed the cancellation of Haiti’s International Financial Institutions (IFI) debt and the creation of  G20 Working Group on development. The organisation did express concern that the development agenda is taking a back seat to economic growth.
  • Tearfund said the G20 was a missed opportunity to show leadership on climate justice and to set a path to get back on track for a global deal post 2012.
  • Greenpeace said “important progress was made today in ending fossil fuels”.
  • Make Poverty History expressed concern that the G20 dealing with budget deficits through cutting back on government services will end up hurting the poor.
  • The ONE Campaign issues a statement at the end of the G20 Summit stating that the two working groups created in Toronto on development and on anti-corruption needed to focus on improving governance and mutual accountability.
  • The Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) said the G20 summit showed an unfortunate lack of political will to fight poverty by delaying key actions such as the Robin Hood Tax and investing in clean energy and ending fossil fuel subsidies. The group also said the G20 needs to include Africa as a regular member. The group welcomed the establishment of a Working Group on Development.

20 Days to Go: Why the G20?

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The G20 Summit in Seoul commences on 11 November. So too does the 10 City Bridge Run.

But why the G20? Isn’t that only about banking and a talk-fest among world leaders?

The 10 City Bridge Run forms a bridge conceptually between the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (in particular MDG 4: Reduce by two thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate) and the leadership of the 20 largest economies (19 countries plus the European Union).

This is what the G20 agreed upon following the last meeting held in Toronto in June this year under the heading of ‘Development’:

We recognize that 2010 marks an important year for development issues. The September 2010 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) High Level Plenary will be a crucial opportunity to reaffirm the global development agenda and global partnership, to agree on actions for all to achieve the MDGs by 2015, and to reaffirm our respective commitments to assist the poorest countries.

In this regard it is important to work with Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to make them active participants in and beneficiaries of the global economic system. Accordingly we thank Turkey for its decision to host the 4th United Nations Conference on the LDCs in June 2011.

Narrowing the development gap and reducing poverty are integral to our broader objective of achieving strong, sustainable and balanced growth and ensuring a more robust and resilient global economy for all. In this regard, we agree to establish a Working Group on Development and mandate it to elaborate, consistent with the G-20’s focus on measures to promote economic growth and resilience, a development agenda and multi-year action plans to be adopted at the Seoul Summit.

 

The website foe the Working Group opens a blank page. I want that to change.

The methodology used by the 10 City Bridge Run is about raising awareness of an individual’s capacity to act to influence extreme poverty. It involves:

  • Observing
  • Listening
  • Bridge building
  • Petitioning
  • Doing
  • Asking institutions what action they took after making public statements
  • Learning

Join me on this journey. It is not a spectator sport.

 

Heart of Darkness: G20 Protests

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G20 London protest - "Don't be stupid".
"Don't be stupid"

Searching ‘G20‘ on YouTube I was amazed to see almost every link that comes up was of confrontation between protestors and police.

Of course, the range of issues the G20 discuss is broad. It is not only about extreme poverty. That is only a small part of the summit agenda.

Do the protesters at the G20 present a credible alternative?

Watch the video clip here of Toronto:

Or this one from London: