What Can We Hope for From the G20 Agenda?

Germany took over the G20 presidency in December last year. As such, the German government has presented an ambitious agenda. It will be rated against the outcomes of this agenda for the coming years.

The German G20 Agenda

The German G20 presidency has set remarkable goals: It wants to push for forward-looking international cooperation, advertising the “advantages of globalisation” better to the ordinary citizen. This should be reached by minimising economic, ecologic, social and political risks as well as creating stronger, more sustainable and inclusive growth. Compared to the nationalist resentments as presented by Brexit, the new US administration and forecasts for elections in France, the Netherlands and other European countries, this may be seen as a noble goal. However, globalization as we know it also has been a disadvantage to many people around the globe. Neoliberal globalization is not the alternative to nationalist and protectionist tendencies, but one of the conditions for more Trumps to come.

More closely, the G20 agenda builds on shaping an interconnected world. G20 members strive to reach this through building resilience, improving sustainability and assuming responsibility. Beyond the ‘classic G20 issues’ such as financial markets and investments and newer topics such as climate and energy, topics like the 2030 Agenda, global health and empowering women play a central role.

Challenges to the G20

However, this agenda is being challenged by a number of factors: The neoliberal globalization model of the last twenty years obviously results in massive inequality and many people see their living standards decrease, their jobs gone, their livelihoods threatened. The G20 leaders realize the massive and rising discontent with their model of globalization. People are no longer accepting this model, all across the democratic world protest movements challenge the neoliberal consensus. Globalization as we know it is in crisis, and that is no surprise. Globalization does not need to explained and communicated better, people understand it very well. It needs to be changed.

At the same time, the G20 can only make decisions by consensus. On many issues, it will be very difficult to reach broad agreement amongst members as diverse as China, France, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the US. Chancellor Merkel cannot only work on her G20 agenda: The G20 Summit in July 2017 will be just before German federal elections (to take place in September 2017). Will she preside over a successful summit reassuring voters that leaders have understood the concerns of the people and the challenges of the future and that they will act accordingly? Or will she preside over a failed summit of leaders that cannot agree on anything?

In order to be ultimately successful, the G20 will need to reach consensus on some issues. In every democratic country, civil society has been active to promote policies of sustainability, social justice and democratic participation. The C20 brings together these civil society voices and tries to make them heard in the G20 process. This website will present our key demands and positions.

Civil Society Participation is Indispensable

Stability and sustainability will not be reached solely through economic wealth and social security created at governmental level: An independent and strong civil society is needed to actively participate in politics in order to reach sustainable development in a country and globally. In many G20 countries (and indeed beyond), there is however a development to limit the influence of civil society. Thus, it is great that the German G20 presidency has invited many so-called engagement groups to give their input to the G20, including civil society organisations (C20), women organisations (W20) and youth organisations (Y20). Yet, these groups still do not get formal access to many G20 meetings, which the engagement groups of the business community (B20) and think tanks (T20) are part of many meetings. If the German government wants to promote sustainable development through the G20, it will need to work on many ends.

One of the most important outcomes of the 2016 G20 Summit in Hangzhou actually happened the day before: China and the US together ratified the Paris climate change agreement. What will be the memorable outcome of the 2017 G20 Summit?