Excerpt: Unemployment, poverty and marginalization are some of the key concerns for people globally, say Zeynep Bodur Okyay, C20 Chair, and Meryem Aslan, C20 Secretariat  

Please note that this article was originally published as part of the G20 Research Group’s publication G20 Turkey: The Antalya Summit. Please see the original article here. You can also download the full publication for free here.

Civil society’s engagement with the G20 has dramatically improved in recent years. What started out as an informal engagement in 2008 has turned into an organised policy and advocacy platform formally recognised by the G20 during Russia’s presidency in 2013. The Civil 20 (C20), one of the six formal engagement groups, seeks to communicate concrete and substantive policy propositions to G20 leaders in order to promote sustainable and inclusive development.


Broad consultation

The C20 process in Turkey – the third C20 ever – is an important milestone in further institutionalising the group, and in establishing parameters for engagement. Informed by lessons learnt from Russia and Australia, C20 Turkey adopted a multi-stakeholder approach from the outset. In addition to facilitating broad-based consultation with civil society organisations from around the world and ensuring that the process is independent, open and transparent, the C20 has been running multiple dialogues with other official engagement groups including the B20, T20 and L20, while also negotiating terms of engagement with the G20 presidency. 

From the outset, C20 Turkey has made engaging a broad spectrum of organisations from a wide range of countries a key goal so that global civil society concerns can engage with G20 processes. C20 Turkey convened organisations from 91 countries, representing almost 500 organisations and almost 5,000 individuals who have worked together for the past year to develop joint, evidence-based policy propositions to G20 leaders for 2015. The work of the C20 to create such broad-based engagement is vital to developing representative, legitimate recommendations to promote sustainable development and tackle inequality. Strong civil society engagement is fundamental to ensuring the accountability of public policies and institutions.It fosters respect for the rights, dignity and privileges of all people, while helping to galvanise the political will of leaders to fulfil their obligations to their constituencies.


Four priorities for 2015

In early 2015, C20 Turkey facilitated a consultation process to identify, the issues of greatest concern to women, men and young people around the world. Unsurprisingly, unemployment, poverty, lack of access to fundamental public services such as health and education, and exclusion from decision-making were the main concerns expressed. Based on this consultation, the C20 developed its agenda for 2015, which focused on four priorities: inclusive growth, gender equality, sustainability and governance (particularly international taxation and anti-corruption).

This focus was in response to the persistent inequalities that lead to marginalisation, including of women, people living with disabilities, ethnic and religious minorities, and people living in poverty. Inequality threatens growth by hampering the chances of integration into economic and social life by limiting opportunities, decreasing productivity, and creating obstacles in the geographic and social dispersion of development.

C20 Turkey’s focus on inequality was translated into policy recommendations in many areas that underpin the G20’s work on financial regulatory reform, transparent cross-border tax policies, infrastructure connectivity and global governance reform, which significantly affect disadvantaged and excluded citizens within and beyond G20 countries. The access available to women, men and young people to the benefits of growth is largely determined by these policies in an interlinked manner.

The G20’s 2009 Framework for Strong, Sustainable and Balanced Growth addressed how, where and what growth the G20 is committed to achieve. Hence C20 Turkey’s recommendations have tried to address the question of who growth is for. Its policy propositions indicate that this can only be done through focusing on growth that truly includes all.

In the current work of the G20, inclusive growth is equated with reducing income inequality; lowering North-South inequalities in income, access to energy and development; increasing equal opportunities such as access to education, social protection and finance; access to infrastructure; gender equality; and the need to internalise externalities in measuring growth. This equation can be observed in the national growth strategies that were developed as part of the G20’s commitment under the 2014 Australian presidency to increase growth by 2%. These strategies include measures that would not only promote growth, but also make it inclusive. Employment, increased investment in infrastructure, measures to address informality, social protection and social services, and reduced labour force exclusion for vulnerable groups are included in national growth strategies to ensure inclusive growth.

In particular, several specific measures promote women’s labour-force participation: promoting affordable childcare services, including comprehensive and accessible pre-school opportunities for low-income families and after-school programmes; enhancing paid-leave conditions; introducing parental leave; enhancing women’s representation in leadership positions in private and public sectors; addressing the gender wage gap; and increasing opportunities for women entrepreneurs.


Advancing inclusiveness

Yet, despite commitments in successive G20 communiqués, individual national growth strategies rarely mention phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, energy efficiency, climate change action, specific support to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or finance for adaptation or mitigation. Instead, increasing energy self-sufficiency and security is the predominant feature. 

Despite the long-term discussion and progress made so far, anti-corruption and the reform of national and international tax systems are generally considered important for increasing economic growth and competitiveness, but without sufficiently considering the inclusiveness of that growth or of social equality. The C20’s policy propositions could help advance the discussion on inclusiveness, and ensure better linkages among the various policy fields and the need to address policies in a comprehensive, systematic and consistent manner. These recommendations were unanimously endorsed by the 500-plus civil society delegates at the C20 Summit on 15-16 September in Istanbul.

One major achievement of the C20 this year has been to facilitate a more broad-based, participatory policy consultation and development process than ever before. Nevertheless, civic participation in international decision-making has not evolved in a linear fashion, nor has it been easily or fully granted. Instead, it requires constant negotiation and renegotiation of how civil society influences the social, economic and political spheres.

For this reason, the 2015 C20 Communiqué emphasises the rights to organise and to speak out freely against poverty, inequality and injustice, and urges all G20 members to protect and facilitate the legal, political and social space so that civil society can exercise these rights without fear of retribution.

A renewed commitment by G20 members to protect civil society platforms where citizens can participate and hold governments and large corporations to account, coupled with collective action to act on this commitment, would place the G20 in a position of leadership in responding to the global demand for more inclusive, participatory and responsive systems of governance. Such transparent and inclusive governance systems across institutions and at all levels, including the G20, are essential conditions for implementing all policy measures necessary to address inequalities, including those arising from gender inequalities, climate change, corruption and unjust international tax systems, and to achieve an inclusive economic development that responds to the needs of all.