‘Hey big bosses, we have a say,’ says C-20

‘Hey big bosses, we have a say,’ says C-20

“What is it? It sounds like a vitamin,” said the mother of C-20’s sherpa, as he was trying to explain his new task. “Actually, it is a good metaphor; we are like a vitamin to the G-20,” Melih Özsöz said when I met with the members of the steering committee last week. C stands for Civil-20, and it is one of the engagement groups of the G-20, the international forum of the 20 biggest economies in the world.

Ahead of the G-20 summit in Antalya which will be held in mid-November, engagement groups are holding their own summits. That of the C-20 is taking place this week. The C-20 was first recognized officially as an interlocutor in 2013 during the Russian presidency of the G-20. But during both the Russian and the succeeding Australian presidency, the members of the C-20 were designated by the governments.

A true activist who is familiar with the G-20 summits, Meryem Aslan from Oxfam Turkey did not wait for the government to move but instead got ahead of the government to initiate the formation of the C-20 during Turkey’s presidency. With the Economic Development Foundation (İKV) on board, together with 13 other NGOs, the C-20 was accepted as the interlocutor by the government and set out to work by first holding an online global survey to find out the priorities. The steering committee believes they have reached 2,500 people from 91 countries representing 400 organizations to set priorities.

Sustainable development and tackling inequalities are key concepts in the C-20. With these two overarching concepts and with the results of the survey, four working groups were established regarding governance, inclusive growth, gender equality and sustainability.

I can’t go over all the policy recommendations that will be finalized during the summit, but let me elaborate a bit more on the issue of inclusive growth since the emphasis on inclusiveness is set to become the landmark of the Turkish presidency. This issue was also highlighted at the B-20 summit, which covers the business side of the G-20 meetings.

Contrary to earlier predictions, economic growth does not guarantee an automatic reduction in discriminatory outcomes for economically excluded sections of the society. So far, the “how,” the “what” and the “where” of growth was outlined. The C-20 says it is now time for the G-20 to approach the question of who growth is for.

In other words, “it is the people, stupid,” the C-20 has told the leaders of the G-20 who have become obsessed by the numeric growth rate.

“Who is benefiting from growth?” This is the essential question, said Aslan. “The economies should work for the many, not the few.”

The G-20 has committed itself to lifting the G-20’s GDP by at least an additional 2 percent by 2018. The C-20 says that in addition to this target, the G-20 should incorporate measurements of inequality in their national growth strategies, such as an index that tracks the income growth rates of the poorest 40 percent against higher income brackets. In other words, when governments make public how much growth they have registered, they should also announce numerically how they performed on the poorest, how much they closed the gap between the poorest and the richest and how much they reduced inequality, said Çiğdem Nas, the chairperson of the working group for inclusive growth.

The C-20 will tell leaders to focus particularly on the most excluded groups, including young people, women, people with disabilities, minorities, indigenous peoples and migrants.

It is encouraging to see that some issues have come under focus as imminent priorities in several outreach groups, like the B-20 or the Y-20 on youth. Women’s empowerment and youth unemployment are among the top issues that G-20 leaders will be told to prioritize.

We will see to what degree they will endorse the policy recommendations of the engagement groups and, more importantly, to what degree they will take action.

At any rate; 14 civil society organizations that have worked in the steering committee seem to have benefited from this whole exercise. “It added a global perspective to us; it raised our awareness about the global common issues of the civil society,” said C-20 sherpa Özsöz.