Frequently Asked Questions about the C20
What is the C20?
The Civil 20 Engagement Group (C20) brings the voices and demands of civil society to the G20 process with the aim of protecting the environment and promoting social and economic development, human rights and the principle of leaving no one behind.
The C20 has been working to ensure that world leaders listen to voices beyond those of government and business since it became on Official Engagement Group of the G20 in 2013.
The C20, as an Engagement Group, is independent and does not represent the official opinion of the G20 or any individual country.
How is the C20 related to the G20?
As one of just eight official, independent Engagement Groups associated with the G20, the C20 represents the voice of civil society to the G20.
The C20 provides a platform for civil society organizations around the world to bring forth a non-government and non-business voice and contribute in a structured and sustained manner to shape the G20’s policies and priorities.
Civil society organizations play an essential role in the G20 process, providing policy expertise, holding governments accountable, and providing balance against the influence of business and political interests.
Is the C20 independent of governments?
Yes. The C20 is the exclusive domain of civil society, mandated to carry out its work and develop its policy recommendations free from undue influence by any non-civil society actors, including government and private sector actors.
In 2019, the C20 adopted the C20 Principles to ensure the independence, sustainability and ongoing impact of its engagement with the G20, on behalf of civil society everywhere. The C20 Principles continue to guide the work in 2020.
The leadership structure of the C20, comprised of civil society leaders from 15 countries, provides oversight of the work to ensure the C20’s independence.
What are the C20 Principles?
The C20 Principles are: global character; transparency; independence; collaboration; human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment; inclusiveness; continuity; and predictability.
The C20 Principles continue to inform all the actions taken by the C20 during the Saudi Arabian Presidency in 2020.
Examples of how the C20 Principles are being lived during the Saudi Arabia C20, include:
- The most diverse C20 leadership structure to date, representing 15 nationalities – compared to 9 nationalities in the Japan C20, and 8 nationalities in the Argentina C20. These civil society leaders of diverse nationalities, demographics and beliefs reflect the global character of the C20 leadership structure which is available here: https://civil-20.org/leadership-structure/.
- A commitment to transparency and information sharing through publishing all final documents and maintaining an online forum where all civil society members can shape the C20’s policy direction. For the first time ever, the C20 action plan and advocacy strategy are publicly available online here: https://civil-20.org/category/documents/.
- Independence is overseen by the Steering Committee and International Advisory Committee and the work is led the Working Groups leads who come from different countries and backgrounds. All C20 work is independent of any government.
- An open dialogue to hold all C20 governments to account on human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment. For an example please see the Kick-off Meeting Communique here: https://civil-20.org/c20-endorses-inclusive-and-transparent-roadmap-for-2020-to-ensure-voice-of-civil-society-is-heard-in-g20-process/.
- Inclusivity by providing solutions for civil society representatives unable to physically attend meetings, to ensure their voices are heard, as well as working to promote access and participation by all members of civil society by ensuring all representatives can travel to the C20 meetings and other official meetings to ensure the voices of civil society are heard.
- The leaderships of the Japan C20 (2019) and Italy C20 (2021) are actively working together with the Saudi Arabia C20 to ensure continuity, predictability and a smooth transition process.
The C20’s work throughout the Saudi Arabian Presidency in 2020 will be guided by an action plan that was reviewed and endorsed through consensus and is publicly available here: https://civil-20.org/c20-action-plan/.
Will the C20 address human rights issues?
Yes. Human rights are a key C20 principle and the 2020 C20 will continue to advocate for respect for human rights.
During its Kick-off Meeting, C20 delegates called “for the international community to address the threats to peace and stability. It also called on governments to resolve the many crises affecting people both internationally and locally, including the climate emergency, threats to human rights, gender inequality, limits to freedom of expression, shrinking of space for civil society, economic inequality, and financial instability.”
C20 delegates also made this call to the G20 officials who were invited to address the meeting.
The C20 continues to call for respect for human rights, not just in G20 countries, and encourages all civil society actors to call on the respective government authorities for immediate action.
You can read the full Communique here: https://civil-20.org/c20-endorses-inclusive-and-transparent-roadmap-for-2020-to-ensure-voice-of-civil-society-is-heard-in-g20-process/
Can the C20 hold governments accountable?
While Engagement Groups, including the C20, have no formal power over government entities, the C20 brings a shared perspective from civil society organizations from around the world to the G20 heads of state.
The C20 works together to shape compelling recommendations and speak with the power of unity while encouraging action from individual civil society organizations.
Can C20 participants or topics be restricted/dictated by the host country? Are any topics off limits?
No. The C20, like other Engagement Groups, operates independently from governments, the G20 host country and the G20 Secretariat. Neither the host country nor any G20 nation can dictate the work of the Engagement Groups, or control the topics discussed or the recommendations made. The C20, like its counterpart Engagement Groups, frequently makes recommendations to the G20 which call for policy changes.
Are any individuals or groups disallowed?
No. All voices are welcome. That’s a hallmark of the C20 Principles. The C20 operates on a consensus model and nobody is barred from contributing to the discussions or participating in its meetings. On the contrary, diverse voices are all welcome.
In 2020, the C20 is committed to increasing the diversity of civil society organizations participating in person in the meetings and virtually through online discussions.
Recognizing that distance and cost often have a negative impact on grassroots organizations participating in international policy discussions, and many global civil society organizations’ voluntary commitments to reducing carbon footprint from air travel, all members of civil society are encouraged to participate in the online discussions to make their voices heard. Registration is open here: https://civil-20.org/registration/.
What areas will the C20 focus on?
In 2020, the C20 is focusing on the following areas:
- Anti-Corruption: Follows the progress of G20 on the anti-corruption action plans and advocates for transparency.
- Climate and Energy Sustainability: Promotes biodiversity and just transitions to clean, sustainable, and environmentally-sound energy systems
- Digital Economy: Calls for an update to the G20 Digital Government Principles to be inclusive of environmental and social dimensions.
- Education: Works consistently on promoting quality education, global citizenship education, education for innovation, financing for education.
- Employment and Social Protection: Dedicated to addressing the challenges of current and future job markets insuring that decent work opportunities exist for all.
- Gender: Works on mainstreaming gender across policies by focusing on eradicating gender-based violence, harassment and harmful stereotypes.
- Global Health: Works to insure inclusive and fair access Universal Health Care and quality healthcare systems and advocating toward financing R&D.
- Infrastructure: Promotes infrastructure investment while ensuring quality, transparency, climate-resilience, social and environmental safe guards.
- International Financial Architecture: Promotes fair global taxation systems, fiscal transparency, combatting illicit financial flows and tax evasion, with sustainable public debt.
- Local2Global: Speaks up for enhancing civic space for civil society organizations, and promotes the enablement of civil society organizations to achieve a positive impact on development.
- Trade and Investment: Calls for fair global trade for all developed and developing countries with investment as a force for sustainable development.
This year’s C20 has prioritized ensuring a robust participation by civil society in the G20 process, and opening up this participation to civil society organizations, particularly from the Global South.
Coming at a time of heightened global tension, the C20 is calling for the international community to address the threats to peace and stability. It also calls on governments to resolve the many crises affecting people both internationally and locally, including the climate emergency, threats to human rights, gender inequality, limits to freedom of expression, shrinking of space for civil society, economic inequality, and financial instability.
Who really runs the C20?
The C20 is run according to the structure and process outlined in the C20 Principles.
The C20 has a Chair and a Co-Chair, a Sherpa (or co-Sherpas), a Secretariat, a Steering Committee, an International Advisory Committee, Working Groups, and persons and organizations participating in the Working Groups. These are made up of civil society leaders from around the world.
These bodies bring together leaders from over 15 countries representing more than 30 civil society organizations.
The appointment of the Chair and Co-Chair is the prerogative of civil society in the host country and is recognized by the G20 Presidency. The Sherpa (or co-Sherpas) are chosen by the Chair and Co-Chair are endorsed by the C20 Steering Committee and International Advisory Committee. They also head the C20 Secretariat, which is dedicated to be responsible for the administrative, financial, and logistical coordination tasks.
The lead civil society organizations from the current, preceding host and the following G20/C20 host countries form the Troika (Japan, Saudi Arabia and Italy). The Troika invites civil society organizations and members to form the Steering Committee and the International Advisory Committee with careful consideration to diverse global representation, continuity from previous presidencies, and gender balance.
Doesn’t the host organization influence the C20’s work?
No. The C20 is being run by its leadership structure that represents 15 nationalities: Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Cameroon, Egypt, Germany, India, Japan, Italy, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Pacific Islands. They represent leading global organizations and also bring together coalitions of NGOs from under-represented regions.
As the G20 Presidency rotates, so does the leadership of Engagement Groups who are led by organizations from the local civil society. The host government of the G20 usually invites organizations from the country to form the Engagement Groups. The King Khalid Foundation, a Saudi- based foundation not associated with the government, was invited from amongst a selection of different organizations to serve as host.
Isn’t the C20 being run by a puppet of the government?
No. The King Khalid Foundation that is hosting the C20 has no governmental affiliation, it does not receive any financial support from the government of Saudi Arabia and it is not under the regulation or authorization of any government entity, as stated clearly in its Articles of Association.
The King Khalid Foundation was established in 2001 as an independent Saudi foundation. The Foundation has consultative status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council, ECOSOC, the highest status granted by the United Nations to non-governmental organizations. Supported by the family of the late King Khalid bin Abdulaziz AlSaud, the goal of the Foundation is to tackle inequality in Saudi society.
The King Khalid Foundation has created measurable impact in the Saudi society over the past decade:
- It has invested US $6.29 million in grant making to local non-profits in Saudi Arabia to create equal opportunities and income-generating opportunities to marginalized groups.
- Through its advocacy work since 2013, the Foundation has influenced 13 laws and policies in the Kingdom including on domestic violence, social protection, poverty and family justice reform.
- In 2005, the Foundation published a study on domestic violence and proposed draft legislation for the protection of women and children, which after 7 years of non-stop advocacy, the draft legislation was adopted into the current national legislation against domestic violence in the country.
Can civil society really participate in a process in a country where civic space is restricted?
Civic space is not just shrinking. It is under attack. The Civicus report People Power Under Attack 2019 shows that civic freedoms are being violated with 40% of the world’s population living in repressed countries at the end of 2019, as compared to 19% in 2018.
The C20 remains committed to protecting civic space and calling on governments to remove restrictions and enable civil society organizations to operate freely.
The Saudi Arabia C20 has established online platforms to enable all voices to participate in the policy discussions and all are welcome to participate in meetings.
While civic space in Saudi Arabia is still limited, the C20 will serve as a space to foster dialogue and provide a learning opportunity for those civil society organizations in the country to interact with global organizations. Limitation of civic space in the country does not rule out local civil society organizations agency and ability to influence change. The hosting of the C20 is an opportunity to embolden civic activities in the country.
The host organization, the King Khalid Foundation, has a track record in promoting the opening of civic space, and growth of the local civil society, through its grant-making social investments, capacity building efforts, its biannual report that looks at the main trends and challenges affecting Saudi civil society, and through its advocacy working calling on policy-makers to alleviate the restrictions on civil society organizations in the country.
How are representatives of the C20 leadership structure selected?
C20 Steering Committee members, International Advisory Committee members and Working Group leads, were selected in an open and transparent process that was consistent with prior C20 presidencies.
All major civil society organizations, including those involved in previous C20s, have been invited to participate.
Who is the Steering Committee?
The Steering Committee is the executive body of the C20 responsible for ensuring that the C20 is an open and diverse space that facilitates the transmission of a broad range of civil society views to the G20.
The Steering Committee composition must be both regional and gender-balanced, ensuring that local and international organizations are represented. Members come from 6 countries and represent 6 organizations.
Who is the International Advisory Committee?
The International Advisory Committee advises on strategic decision-making and disseminates C20 recommendations among key stakeholders to ensure transparency. Members of the International Advisory Committee come from 6 countries and represent 6 organizations.
As a member of civil society who is not in the leadership structure of the C20, can I influence its outcomes or contribute to the design of its meetings’ agenda?
Yes, the leadership structure was put in place to facilitate the consensus-building efforts to bring forth the views of global civil society to the G20. They do not dictate the agenda or take decisions without wide consultations with all members. Every draft of an outcome documents is circulated and discussed widely by all members, with an invitation to all civil society organizations to contribute their views.
In advance of any event, the C20 Action Plan directs that a call for proposals is announced to allow participation of all interested civil society organizations to develop sessions and panels for the events in an open and transparent process. Please follow the C20 Discussion Forums for these announcements.