• G20: ‘Civil society is treated as a second-class partner; its recommendations often go unheard’

    CIVICUS speaks with María Emilia Berazategui, Transparency International’s Global Advocacy Coordinator, about the role of civil society in international and inter-governmental forums and the degree to which it can influence decision-making processes, and the successes achieved and challenges encountered in 2019 by the C20, the engagement group for civil society within the G20. Before joining Transparency International, María Emilia led the area of Political Institutions and Government at an Argentine civil society organisation, Poder Ciudadano. In 2018 she was appointed C20 Sherpa under the presidency of Argentina. In 2017 and 2019 she was a member of the C20 Steering Committee, and in 2018 and 2019 she was the co-Chair of the C20 Anti-Corruption Working Group.

    Emilia Berazategui 

    What is the C20, and why does it matter?

    The C20 (Civil-20) is one of the G20’s official engagement groups, and it the natural space for civil society organisations (CSOs) to advocate at the G20 level.

    There are two additional ways in which CSOs can participate in G20 processes: by attending the G20 Working Group meetings, as guests, to present thematic recommendations, and by being present at the G20 International Media Center when summits take place, which allows them to engage directly with the media covering the G20 summit and disseminate their messaging around key themes.

    The C20 is a global civil society space, without a permanent structure and with a presidency that rotates annually, in line with that of the G20, for CSOs from all over the world – from grassroots and local groups to large international CSOs – to influence the G20 collectively. According to the recently adopted C20 Principles, its aim is to ensure that world leaders listen not only to voices representing the government and business sectors, but also to the proposals and demands of civil society, and that they are guided by the core values of human rights, inclusion and sustainable development.

    Civil society engagement with the G20 matters because we are only 10 years away from the 2030 deadline to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and the gap between the actions taken by governments and the measures that need to be taken to achieve them is immense. Most of the challenges we face – political polarisation and extremism, human rights abuses and civic space restrictions, extreme inequality, systemic corruption, gender disparities and gender-based violence, intersectional discrimination, the lack of decent employment, the health crisis and the negative impact of digitalisation and technology in our lives – not only remain unanswered but continue to deepen.

    Governments and multilateral institutions have a central role to play in finding shared solutions to common challenges. World leaders need to come together urgently to find those solutions, and despite all of its challenges, the G20 is one of the few spaces that provides them with the opportunity to do so.

    Sadly, in the last few years we have seen little evidence of any real progress from G20 leaders. Commitments are made in front of the world’s media but are quickly forgotten and rarely implemented once they return home. A recent report by Transparency International exposing issues of money laundering and anonymous company ownership found deeply troubling weaknesses in almost all G20 countries.

    What can civil society contribute?

    Civil society engagement with the G20 can help because civil society brings a set of unique skills to the table.

    First, in trying to make sure that policy outcomes serve the common good, we hold governments accountable. So when governments commit to something, we will hold them to their promises. Sometimes they resist, but other times we succeed in strengthening champions inside governments who really want to get things done.

    Second, we contribute our expertise. Civil society groups are not just watchdogs. We are innovators, technologists, researchers and policy experts who can help support policy implementation to achieve the best possible results. Civil society can also contribute to increased transparency and the credible evaluation of outcomes.

    Third, civil society functions as a bridge, helping translate technical jargon into language people actually use, explaining what change means and bringing citizens’ perspectives back to decision-makers. Governments should talk to civil society about their plans so we can provide feedback on how those plans will impact on people.

    Last but not least, civil society provides much-needed balance. One of the greatest weaknesses of the G20 is the lack of openness to having civil society represented at the same table where business interests sit. This raises the question of whether the G20 values the interests of corporations more than those of citizens. This certainly does nothing for trust, and it shows why people around the world believe that governments are too close to business or only act for the benefit of a few private interests.

    How much space do international forums such as the G20 offer for civil society to influence policy-making in reality?

    The G20 is often described as elitist, as a group of economic powerhouses – although not all the largest economies take part in it – trying to rewrite the rules of global economic governance, operating largely behind closed doors in an opaque way. It’s no wonder that many in civil society instinctively feel that we should oppose the G20 rather than engage with it.

    The G20 invites a variety of guests to take part in its meetings, including representatives from different regional groupings, guest states and international organisations. However, its record of speaking to citizen groups and civil society is mixed at best. Despite all that we have to offer, we do not sit at the same table; we are treated as second-class partners and our recommendations and ideas on important issues often go unheard.

    Experiences vary widely across the various working groups that comprise the G20. For instance, despite all the knowledge that civil society has on financial issues, the G20 International Financial Architecture Working Group has systematically closed its doors to civil society participation. On the other hand, we are lucky to have a standing item on the agenda of the Anti-Corruption Working Group, in which governments speak to business and civil society on the same footing. Still, while we appreciate this, we think that both this working group and the G20, in general, need to improve their engagement with civil society significantly.

    Despite all these limitations and challenges, during 2019, when the G20 presidency was in the hands of Japan, civil society managed to influence the G20 in some areas including the protection of whistleblowers, making infrastructure spending more transparent and on gender and corruption.

    In 2019, the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group adopted two important documents: the High-Level Principles for the Effective Protection of Whistleblowers, which was much in line with civil society’s recommendations and included an unprecedented recognition by the G20 of the gender-specific aspects of whistleblowing, and a Compendium of Good Practices for Promoting Integrity and Transparency in Infrastructure Development, also aligned with civil society recommendations.

    Through the Compendium, the G20 also recognised that transparency regarding who the ultimate owners of companies are is critical to the fight against corruption. In line with civil society suggestions, they recommended implementing company beneficial ownership registers to reduce the possibility of public funds being used to favour specific individuals or companies, and to identify conflicts of interest.

    Overall, what would you say were the main successes of civil society engagement with the G20 during 2019?

    In one word, the main success of civil society engagement during 2019 was its continuity. Civil society was able to maintain a similar degree of engagement with the G20 as it had in 2018, when Argentina chaired the G20. In 2018, and for a short period of time, civil society won access to some G20 Working Group meetings, although unfortunately, not to the working groups that are part of the so-called G20 Finance Track, and to the G20 Media Center. This allowed civil society to access, for the first time ever, some sessions that used to be held behind closed doors. In addition, we got G20 local representatives, including the G20 Sherpa, to attend the C20 in-person meetings.

    Civil society's 2018 call for G20 delegates to move from words to action passed from Argentina to Japan. This had an echo on social media, through the hashtag #G20takeaction. In order to continue strengthening civil society participation and ensure an increasing impact within the G20, in 2019 the C20 agreed a set of principles that enshrined transparency, collaboration, independence, internationalism, inclusiveness and respect for human rights and gender equality as central pillars of the engagement group’s practice. This was a very important milestone in the C20’s history.

    And what were the challenges and what needs to improve?

    Despite these successes, there is an urgent need for the G20 to change the way it engages with civil society. At the G20, governments discuss policies that have a huge impact on our lives. As civil society, we should be allowed to bring to the table the voices of citizens, real and diverse. These are the people who will be affected by the public policies promoted in this forum.

    The few times we have managed to gain access to G20 meetings, the experience has usually not been positive. We make great efforts to be there. After finding the resources and traveling many hours, we wait – sometimes for a very long time – outside the meeting room until they finally let us in. Once inside, we  share our ideas and recommendations as quickly as possible in order to ensure there is time for dialogue with the delegations, which itself is rarely an open and honest conversation. After a short while, we are diplomatically ushered out of the room so that, having ticked the civil society participation box, negotiations can continue.

    The G20 still has a long way to go to ensure effective civil society participation. G20 leaders need to stop thinking that inviting civil society representatives to a couple of meetings amounts to the fulfillment of their obligation to consult widely and open themselves to scrutiny. They need to acknowledge the unique skills that civil society brings to the table and move towards more meaningful and sustained engagement with civil society.

    They can do this in many ways. First, they can, and should, invite civil society as well as business representatives to additional sections of various Working Group meetings, to provide insights and guidance on a thematic basis, and not just during a single, short session dedicated to listening to all of our concerns. Additionally, they should share the agenda of those meetings with us. It may sound crazy, but more often than not we are invited and go to meetings without knowing what is being discussed, so we are not necessarily sending the most appropriate person or preparing the most relevant or detailed contribution.

    Second, the G20 delegates should consistently meet with domestic civil society throughout the year, both prior to and after G20 Working Group meetings. This already happens in some G20 countries but not all of them.

    Third, G20 representatives need to be more open and honest in their exchanges with civil society. When G20 delegates speak to civil society, mostly they only share limited information on what they are doing to address major global challenges, which sometimes simply amounts to propaganda. How about they asked us what we want to discuss and what information we’d like to receive? Or how about they provide honest and direct feedback on the proposals and recommendations we shared with them?

    G20 leaders seem to be unaware that good communication and access to information are key. There is no permanent G20 website. Instead, every presidency establishes its own, which isn’t updated afterwards. The digital landscape is littered with redundant G20 websites. This makes documents hard to find for civil society, media and researchers seeking to inform themselves about G20 activities. In 2017, when Germany chaired the G20, the German government took an excellent initiative: it compiled all existing anti-corruption commitments in one location. This should be normal practice. For transparency and accountability, all G20 Working Groups should publish minutes and agendas of their meetings. And they should systematically consult with civil society so we provide an input into the draft documents they are planning to adopt and suggest key topics the G20 should focus on.

    What changed in terms of civil society engagement when the G20 presidency passed on to Saudi Arabia for 2020?

    Despite its limitations and weak engagement with civil society, the G20 has been a relevant space to bring our concerns directly to governments and advocate with them to tackle the most critical issues we face. Unfortunately, in 2020 the space for civil society engagement became significantly reduced when the presidency of the G20 and all its Engagement Groups, including the C20, passed to Saudi Arabia – a decision taken by G20 governments in 2017 in Hamburg, Germany.

    Saudi Arabia is a state that provides virtually no space for civil society and where independent civil society voices are not tolerated. It systematically suppresses criticism from the media, regularly arrests and prosecutes human rights defenders, censors free speech, limits free movement and tortures and mistreats detained journalists and activists. This makes civil society participation ethically dubious.

    In addition, the C20 principles emphasise a series of elements that the Saudi presidency is unable to provide, such as inclusion of a variety of truly independent civil society actors, from local to global, the transparency of decision-making procedures and the guiding values of human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment. By participating in the very limited space that the Saudi government would be able to provide, we would only help launder Saudi Arabia’s international reputation. The Saudi government has already recruited expensive Western public relations advisors and spent millions of dollars to polish its tarnished image.

    In response, an overwhelming number of CSOs from all over the world have joined their voices together and decided to boycott the C20 hosted by Saudi Arabia this year. At Transparency International we are looking forward to re-engaging fully with the C20 process next year, when the presidency will pass to Italy.

    Civic space in Saudi Arabia is rated as ‘closed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with Transparency International through itswebsite andFacebook page, and follow@anticorruption and@meberazategui on Twitter.



  • G20: ‘El activismo global debe reconectarse con las experiencias reales de la gente en los territorios’

    Corina Rodriguez EnriquezEn diciembre de 2018 miles de personas marcharon contra las políticas neoliberales en Buenos Aires, Argentina, mientras se celebraba la Cumbre de Jefes de Estado del G20. Tanto durante la cumbre como en el proceso que la antecedió, la sociedad civil argentina, latinoamericana y global hizo uso tanto de los espacios institucionales de participación como de acciones autónomas y protestas callejeras para hacer oír su descontento.CIVICUSconversa sobre las acciones en torno del G20 con Corina Rodríguez Enríquez, economista e investigadora argentina e integrante delComité Ejecutivo de Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), una red de feministas del sur global que trabaja por la justicia económica, ecológica y de género, así como por el desarrollo democrático ysostenible.

    ¿Quiénes salieron a protestar contra la cumbre del G20 en Argentina, y qué tácticas utilizaron?

    Las acciones de protesta callejera durante el G20 no fueron un evento aislado, sino que estuvieron en continuidad con las reacciones que generó la reunión de la Organización Mundial de Comercio (OMC) que también se realizó en Argentina el año anterior. No se organizaron específicamente ante el G20 sino que son parte de un proceso de resistencia más amplio protagonizado por una articulación de organizaciones sociales que lleva la voz contra el proceso de globalización financiera. Yo formo parte de una organización feminista del sur global, DAWN, y por lo tanto estuve involucrada sobre todo en el trabajo desde lo que llamamos el Foro Feminista, un subgrupo dentro de esta articulación de organizaciones. Lo que se organizó en ocasión del G20 fue muy similar a lo que se había hecho ante la OMC, una semana de acciones que inicialmente se pensaron como acciones ante al G20 pero terminaron siendo acciones contra el G20. Hubo distintas clases de acciones e intervenciones. Desde el Foro Feminista aprovechamos el contexto para tener una jornada específica de formación en economía feminista, así que entre otras cosas DAWN lideró la Escuela de Economía Feminista. Hubo un par de días en que se organizaron jornadas de debate más académico, las cuales funcionaron en la Facultad de Ciencias Sociales de la Universidad de Buenos Aires. Hubo mesas sobre los diversos temas que se discuten en estos espacios multilaterales, desde extractivismo hasta economía digital. Y luego hubo un par de jornadas de acciones más callejeras: la primera fue un día completo de debates y paneles en carpas montadas en la calle, una de las cuales fue la del Foro Feminista. Allí hicimos un conversatorio, un tribunal donde se presentaron casos de violaciones de derechos humanos por parte de empresas trasnacionales, y una asamblea del Foro Feminista para discutir estrategias y perspectivas. El tribunal es una forma de manifestación pública similar a la que realiza la Alianza Global por el tratado vinculante sobre empresas transnacionales y derechos humanos: un espacio donde se expone la denuncia y se deja claramente en evidencia lo que la justicia debería hacer al respecto.

    El último día de la semana, cuando ya estaba en curso la cumbre del G20, se hizo la marcha de protesta, en un contexto bastante restrictivo, ya que el gobierno argentino, que presidía la reunión, había militarizado la ciudad de Buenos Aires y establecido una zona de exclusión, con lo cual la marcha transcurrió bastante lejos de donde se estaba haciendo la cumbre.

    En términos muy generales, las consignas de la semana de acción se centraron en la denuncia de las implicancias para los derechos humanos del tipo de políticas que promueven los gobiernos de los países que integran el G20, y fundamentalmente los efectos de las decisiones del capital concentrado y las acciones de las empresas multinacionales en los territorios. Denunciamos que la actual dinámica global conduce a un aumento escandaloso de las desigualdades y a la permanente violación de los derechos humanos, con evidencias de casos concretos, muchos de ellos vinculados a las acciones de empresas extractivas. El otro gran mensaje es el de la resistencia: tenemos que resistir colectivamente las políticas que están impulsando los países que forman el G20 y construir colectivamente otra economía y otra sociedad.

    ¿Fueron protestas de organizaciones y movimientos sociales locales, o se trató de una protesta auténticamente global?

    La resistencia es global. Si bien en el caso de Argentina la participación de organizaciones y activistas del exterior fue mayor durante la reunión de la OMC que cuando se hizo la del G20, yo lo atribuyo más bien al hecho de que el G20 involucra a menos cantidad de países. Además, el G20 no está en el radar, y por lo tanto en la agenda, de tantas organizaciones, no solo en Argentina sino también en la región y en el mundo. Pero la coalición global que se movilizó en esta oportunidad fue la misma que también sale a la calle cuando se hacen las reuniones del Fondo Monetario Internacional y el Banco Mundial, entre otros organismos rectores de las finanzas globales.

    Tanto en la reunión de la OMC como en la del G20, en las que yo pude participar porque tuvieron lugar en Argentina, hubo una presencia sobre todo argentina y latinoamericana. Entiendo que esto se explica tanto por la distancia física que nos separa del resto del mundo como por la potencia que tiene el activismo sobre estos temas en América Latina.

    Más allá de los participantes que por diversas razones hayan querido o podido estar, lo que hace global a la protesta contra el G20 es precisamente la naturaleza del blanco al que apunta. El G20 es la unión de las economías más grandes y concentradas del mundo. Contando a los países de la Unión Europea, que conjuntamente integran el G20, éste da cuenta del 85% del producto bruto mundial. Las decisiones que toman y los acuerdos a los que llegan los gobiernos de los países que lo integran afectan a todo el mundo. Es natural entonces que las resistencias al G20 tengan carácter global, aunque mantengan color local y modifiquen su composición en función del lugar donde se realicen las cumbres anuales.

    En ese sentido, evidentemente no todos estamos siempre en todas partes, pero pasamos a integrar la resistencia cuando el G20 se reúne en nuestros países, y esperamos que las organizaciones y movimientos sociales de otros países lo hagan a su vez. DAWN es una organización del sur global y tiene integrantes en Argentina, de modo que era natural que nos involucráramos ante la reunión del G20 en Argentina. Pero no estamos contemplando en lo más mínimo movilizarnos el año que viene cuando el G20 se reúna en Japón. Para nosotros esta vez era fácil participar y no hacerlo hubiera sido desperdiciar la oportunidad de ser parte activa de esta coalición de resistencia de la que ya participábamos de otras maneras y en otras instancias. Nos pareció que teníamos que aprovechar que esto ocurría en Buenos Aires para que nuestra resistencia pública sirviera para informar a la ciudadanía sobre qué es el G20 y que implicancias e impactos tiene, además de contrarrestar la narrativa exitista que diseminó el gobierno argentino. Pero la acción frente al G20 no está entre nuestras prioridades estratégicas: no andamos siguiendo al G20 por el mundo. De hecho, lo de este año fue una relativa anomalía, porque hay pocos países del sur en el G20. Esperamos que el año que viene la sociedad civil japonesa tome la posta; sería natural que la resistencia contra el G20 pase a ser protagonizada por organizaciones y activistas de Asia. Si bien algunas organizaciones más grandes que están basadas en el norte tienen la posibilidad de ir a todos lados, la lógica indica que en cada caso la movilización sea sobre todo local y regional.

    Además de recurrir a la acción callejera, ¿cómo utilizaron los espacios institucionales para la participación de la sociedad civil dentro del G20?

    No todo el movimiento de resistencia contra el G20 tiene la misma posición frente a estos espacios. La postura de DAWN es aprovecharlos, y como representante de DAWN yo participé en el Observatorio de Defensoras de Derechos Humanos de las Mujeres, coordinado por Mabel Bianco, presidenta de la organización feminista argentina FEIM (Fundación para Estudio e Investigación de la Mujer). El objetivo del Observatorio era hacer, durante el año de la presidencia argentina del G20, el seguimiento del cumplimiento de los puntos del plan de implementación de acuerdos básicos aprobado por el grupo W20 (Mujeres20) en Berlín, Alemania, el año anterior. Hicimos algunas actividades locales y nacionales, produjimos policy briefs y otros materiales escritos para incidir sobre quienes iban a participar de las reuniones y negociar las declaraciones en el marco del G20. Trabajamos sobre todo con los grupos de afinidad de G20, y en particular desplegamos mucha actividad alrededor de las reuniones de los grupos de trabajo y las cumbres del C20 (el foro de sociedad civil) y el W20. También hubo participación feminista en otro grupo de afinidad, el T20 (el foro de think tanks), que tenía una task force de género.

    La participación en el W20, en particular, fue muy controvertida y trabajosa dentro del movimiento feminista, y nosotras de hecho no fuimos delegadas, aunque sí participamos desde adentro para sentar posiciones en el W20. Esto supuso muchas discusiones con compañeras que consideran que estar adentro es legitimar y convalidar. Son argumentos atendibles, pero mi conclusión después de haber estado tanto adentro como afuera es que fue un acierto que nosotras nos mantuviéramos adentro y algunas compañeras de otras organizaciones aceptaran ser delegadas, porque caso contrario la declaración del W20 hubiera sido mucho peor de lo que fue. Fue muy importante que hubiera voces feministas adentro, y esas voces fueron las nuestras, porque la persona nombrada por el gobierno argentino para liderar el W20 era una mujer de negocios con una mirada no solamente nada feminista, sino también bastante paternalista y completamente divorciada de la realidad en que vive la mayoría de las personas.

    En suma, el resultado del trabajo de estos grupos de afinidad depende en gran medida de quién los lidera, y no sorprende que haya sido mucho más productivo el trabajo en el C20, que acabó emitiendo una declaración mucho más positiva que el propio W20 en relación con los derechos de las mujeres.

    En una época de creciente nacionalismo económico y populismo de derecha, ¿cómo puede la sociedad civil ofrecer una crítica progresista del neoliberalismo globalizado que tenga eco en la ciudadanía enojada que actualmente abraza el populismo?

    Ojalá tuviera una respuesta. Creo que el activismo global, y en particular el que se despliega en estos espacios multilaterales, está fuertemente desconectado de la experiencia en los territorios. El progresismo en general tiene grandes dificultades para entender las experiencias y las opciones de las personas – por ejemplo, porqué en Brasil la gente votó por Jair Bolsonaro, o porqué en Filipinas siguen apoyando a Rodrigo Duterte. Las personas que vivimos en una posición de relativo privilegio somos generalmente incapaces de imaginar cómo vive la gente en las barriadas pobres de nuestras grandes ciudades. Deberíamos hacer un esfuerzo para entender la racionalidad de una mujer con un hijo quemado por la droga que quiere que vengan los militares a sacar a los narcotraficantes a los tiros de la villa. En suma, el activismo global debe reconectarse con las experiencias reales de la gente en los territorios.

    En términos generales, el contexto actual es hostil y la prioridad es la resistencia. No creo que estemos en una etapa proactiva de construcción de alternativas, sino que el imperativo número uno es resistir y proteger los pequeños avances que se fueron consiguiendo con tanto esfuerzo a lo largo de décadas en materia de fortalecimiento de derechos e institucionalización de políticas de igualdad. Si bien en última instancia la preservación de esos avances dependerá de la construcción de una narrativa alternativa que permita poner freno a las fuerzas regresivas, lamentablemente aún no hemos llegado a ese punto. Así como estamos, el esfuerzo de construcción de una narrativa alternativa sería extremadamente superficial. El progresismo, al menos en América Latina y posiblemente también en otras latitudes donde la extrema derecha está en ascenso, necesita con urgencia hacer una autocrítica, sin la cual difícilmente pueda avanzar en ninguna dirección. Si experiencias como la del PT en Brasil, que en sus orígenes fueron tan esperanzadoras, acabaron dejando un terreno fértil para que la gente optara por alguien como Bolsonaro, el progresismo tendría mínimamente que preguntarse qué es lo que se hizo mal, como prerrequisito para poder construir una nueva narrativa progresista.

    Como feminista y latinoamericana tengo mis esperanzas cifradas en el hecho de que en la región el feminismo lleva años trabajando en el territorio y está más que nunca antes nutrido por las diversas experiencias de vida de las mujeres reales y de las personas en general. Es por eso mucho más plural y menos clasista que nunca antes. Si acaso queda un movimiento social que, en este contexto desolador, tiene un nivel de vitalidad prácticamente incomprensible, es el feminismo. Eso lo está convirtiendo en uno de los actores sociales más relevantes tanto para sostener la resistencia como para construir la alternativa.


    Contáctese con DAWN a través de supágina web o su perfil deFacebook, o siga a@DAWNfeminist en Twitter. 


  • G20: ‘Global activism must reconnect with the real experiences of people on the ground’

    Corina Rodriguez EnriquezIn December 2018 thousands of people marched against neoliberal policies in Argentina, where the Summit of the G20 Heads of State was being held in the capital, Buenos Aires. Both during the summit and in the process leading up to it, Argentine, Latin American and global civil society worked in institutional participation spaces while organising autonomous actions and holding street protests to make their discontent heard. CIVICUS speaks about action around the G20 with Corina Rodríguez Enríquez, an Argentinian economist, researcher and member of the Executive Committee of Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), a network of feminists from the global south working for gender, economic and ecological justice, and for democratic and sustainable development. 

    Who came out to protest against the G20 summit in Argentina? What tactics did they use?

    Street protest during the G20 summit was not an isolated event. It has to be viewed in continuity with the reactions provoked by the meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) that was also held in Argentina the previous year. It was not organised specifically before the G20 but was part of a broader resistance led by coordinated social organisations that raise their voices against the process of financial globalisation. I belong to a feminist organisation of the global south, DAWN, and therefore I was involved in particular in the work done by what we call the Feminist Forum, a subgroup within this network of organisations. What we organised on the occasion of the G20 was very similar to what had been done before the WTO - a week of action that was initially thought of as action vis-a-vis the G20 but ended up being action against the G20. Various kinds of actions and interventions were staged. We at the Feminist Forum took advantage of the context to hold a specific day of training in feminist economics, so among other things DAWN led the School of Feminist Economics. There were a couple of days in which more academic debates were held, which took place at the School of Social Sciences of the University of Buenos Aires. Roundtables were organised dealing with the various topics that are discussed in these multilateral forums, from extractivism to the digital economy. And then there were a couple of days of street action: on the first full day, debates and panel discussions were held in tents pitched on the street, one of which was the Feminist Forum’s. In there we held a discussion, staged a tribunal where cases were presented of human rights violations perpetrated by transnational companies, and held a Feminist Forum meeting to discuss strategy and perspectives. Tribunals are forms of public actions similar to the ones staged by the Global Alliance for a Binding Treaty on Transnational Corporations and Human Rights: a forum where complaints are presented and it is made clear how justice should be done about it.

    On the last day of the week, when the G20 summit was already underway, we marched in protest, and we did so in a rather restrictive context, since the Argentine government, which presided over the summit, had militarised the city of Buenos Aires and established an exclusion zone, forcing the protest to remain quite far away from the summit site.

    In very general terms, the mottoes of the week of action focused on denouncing the implications for human rights of the type of policies promoted by the governments of the countries that make up the G20, and fundamentally the impacts of the decisions made by concentrated capital and the actions of multinational companies on the ground. We affirmed that current global dynamics are leading to a scandalous increase in inequalities and to the systematic violation of human rights, and provided clear evidence, mostly from cases related to the actions of extractive companies. The other overall message is one of resistance: we need collectively to resist the policies driven by G20 countries and collectively build an alternative economy and a different society.

    Were these protests by local organisations and social movements, or were they global protests?

    Resistance is global. Although in the case of Argentina there was greater participation by foreign organisations and activists during the WTO meeting than the G20 summit, I attribute this to the fact that the G20 involves fewer countries. In addition, the G20 is not on the radar, and therefore on the agenda, of that many organisations, not only in Argentina but also in the region and around the world. But the global coalition that mobilised on this occasion was the same coalition that takes to the streets during meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among other global finance governing bodies.

    Both during the WTO and G20 summits, both of which I was able to participate in because they were held in Argentina, there was a strong Argentine and Latin American presence. I think this can be explained by two factors: the physical distance that separates us from the rest of the world and the strength that activism around these issues has in Latin America.

    Regardless of which activists were for whatever reason able or willing to attend, what makes protest against the G20 global is precisely the nature of its target. The G20 includes the largest and most concentrated economies in the world. Including the countries that form the European Union, which are collectively a member of the G20, it accounts for 85 per cent of the world’s gross product. The decisions made and agreements reached by the governments of its member countries affect the entire world. It is therefore only natural for resistance against the G20 to have a global character, even though it takes its local colour and its composition varies according to where the annual summits are held.

    In that sense, even though obviously not all of us are always everywhere, we become part of the resistance when the G20 meets in our country, and we hope that the organisations and social movements of other countries will do the same when their turn comes. DAWN is an organisation of the global south and has members in Argentina, so it was only natural for us to get involved when the G20 meetings were held in Argentina. But we are not in the least contemplating mobilising next year as the G20 gathers in Japan. This time around it was easy for us to participate, and not doing so would have been a wasted opportunity to be an active part of this resistance coalition in which we had already been taking part in other ways and on other occasions. We thought we needed to take advantage of the fact that this was happening in Buenos Aires so that our public resistance would serve to inform citizens about what the G20 is and what its implications and impacts are, as well as countering the narrative of success disseminated by the Argentine government. But action against the G20 is not among our strategic priorities: we will not be following the G20 around the world. In fact, this year's summit was a relative anomaly, because few countries of the global south are members of the G20. We hope that next year Japanese civil society will take over; it would only be natural for resistance against the G20 to be led by Asian organisations and activists. While some larger organisations are based in the global north and have the means to go everywhere, logic indicates that in each case mobilisation will be primarily local and regional.

    In addition to resorting to street action, how did you take advantage of institutional spaces for civil society participation within the G20?

    Members of the resistance movement against the G20 don’t have a unified position regarding those spaces. DAWN's decision is to take advantage of them, and as a representative of DAWN I participated in the Observatory of Women’s Rights Human Rights Defenders, which was led by Mabel Bianco, president of the feminist organisation Foundation for Studies and Research on Women (FEIM). Throughout the year when the government of Argentina presided over the G20, the aim of the Observatory was to monitor compliance with the implementation plan for the basic agreement points approved the previous year by the W20 (Women20) group in Berlin, Germany. We held some local and national-level activities and produced policy briefs and other written materials to influence those who would participate in the meetings and negotiate the G20 statements. We mainly worked with the G20 affinity groups, and in particular we deployed a lot of activity around the meetings of the working groups and summits of the C20 (the civil society meeting) and W20. There was also feminist participation in a third affinity group, the T20 (of think tanks), which included a gender taskforce.

    Participation in the W20 in particular was very controversial within the feminist movement, and it was hard. We did not attend as delegates, although we did participate from within to set our positions in the W20. This provoked many discussions with colleagues who believed that inside participation has a legitimising and validating effect. These are worthy arguments, but my conclusion after having been both inside and outside these spaces is that it was a good idea for us to stay within and for some colleagues of other organisations to accept the role of delegates, because otherwise the W20 statement would have been much worse than it actually was. It was very important that there were feminist voices in there, and that those voices were ours, because the person that the Argentine government appointed to lead the W20 was a businesswoman with a perspective that was not only not in the least feminist, but also quite paternalistic and completely divorced from the reality in which most people live.

    In sum, the result of the work of these affinity groups depends largely on who leads them, and it was not surprising that work was much more productive within the C20, which eventually issued a much better statement regarding women’s rights than the W20 itself.

    At a time of rising economic nationalism and right-wing populism, how can civil society offer a progressive critique of globalised neoliberalism that resonates with the angry citizens currently embracing populism?

    I wish I had an answer to that. I think global activism, and particularly the kind that unfolds in these multilateral spaces, is strongly disconnected from people’s experiences on the ground. Generally speaking, progressives have great difficulties in understanding people's experiences and choices, such as why people in Brazil voted for Jair Bolsonaro, or why people in the Philippines continue to support Rodrigo Duterte. People who live in a position of relative privilege are usually unable to imagine how people live in the slums of our metropolis. We should make an effort to understand the mentality of a woman whose son is being killed by drugs and wants the military to come in and take drug traffickers out. In short, global activism must reconnect with the real experiences of people on the ground.

    Generally speaking, the current environment is hostile and resistance is the priority. I do not think we are yet at a proactive stage in which alternatives are built; our number one imperative is to resist and protect the small achievements that we secured through so much effort over decades and that have strengthened rights and institutionalised equality policies. Although in the final analysis the preservation of these achievements will depend on whether an alternative narrative is built that allows us to bring regressive forces to a halt, unfortunately we have not yet reached that point. As we are now, any effort to build an alternative narrative would be extremely superficial. Progressive movements, at least in Latin America, and possibly elsewhere where the extreme right is on the rise, urgently need to do a critical self-assessment, without which they will hardly be able to move in any direction. Given experiences like those of the Workers’ Party in Brazil, which initially inspired so much hope but ended up creating fertile ground for people to turn to someone like Jair Bolsonaro, progressives should at least wonder what was done wrong, as a prerequisite for putting together a new progressive narrative.

    As a feminist and a Latin American woman, I have my hopes set on the fact that in our region feminism has been working on the ground for years and, as a result, today more than ever it is nourished by the diverse life experiences of real women, and of people more generally. That is why it is much more plural and less class-biased than ever before. If there is one social movement that still has a vitality that is practically incomprehensible in this bleak context, it is feminism. That is turning it into one of the most relevant social actors both to sustain resistance and to build an alternative.

    Get in touch with DAWN through itswebsite andFacebook page, or follow@DAWNfeministon Twitter.


  • G20: Why civil society should be at the table


    by Inés M. Pousadela, Senior Research Specialist

    As the G20 – the world’s wealthiest and most powerful states – meet in Argentina throughout 2018, in preparation for their leaders’ summit in late November, the important role that civil society plays in creating healthy and peaceful societies should also be on their agenda. As the host of this year’s summit, Argentina has an opportunity to engender better understanding and recognition of why it is crucial to enable civil society’s work and open up more space for civil society in the G20 processes.

    Difficult conditions for civil society

    These are not easy times for civil society, and this should concern all of us. The difficulties that civil society is facing are similar to, and have the same roots as, those that democracy is going through.

    Read on: C-20 Argentina 2018


  • It's time for G20 leaders to embrace civil society

    By Cathal Gilbert 

    There is a growing list of critical problems in the G20's inbox, namely a faltering global economy, terrorist threats in a majority of G20 member states, and a patched-up climate change agreement. Solving these problems will take more than 20 heads of state and their economic ministers. The role of the private sector is widely acknowledged, but the power of civil society is often dismissed. Addressing these expensive and expansive issues requires the will and contribution of the people.

    Read on: Al Jazeera


  • Le G20 doit placer les droits de l'homme au cœur de sa réponse à la pandémie COVID-19

    Avec l'épidémie du COVID-19, la communauté mondiale est confrontée à l'une des crises les plus difficiles depuis des décennies. À la mi-mars 2020, plus de 200 000 personnes ont été infectées et plus de 8 000 personnes ont perdu la vie. L'impact économique commence seulement à se faire sentir et affectera probablement les moyens de subsistance de millions de personnes dans le monde. Il s'agit d'une crise mondiale qui doit être traitée par des mesures claires, justes, coordonnées et concrètes - des mesures que le G20 peut et doit mettre en œuvre.

    La réponse politique à la précédente crise financière mondiale, il y a un peu plus d'une décennie, a été largement perçue comme étant déséquilibrée et comme ayant conduit à des résultats socialement injustes, notamment l'augmentation de la pauvreté, la perte de millions d'emplois et la stagnation ou la baisse des revenus des travailleurs.

    Droits économiques et sociaux

    Tout porte à croire que le prochain ralentissement économique sera encore plus rapide et plus grave que lors de la crise précédente. Outre la crise de la santé publique, une réponse politique décisive des gouvernements sera essentielle pour assurer la sécurité sociale - y compris les indemnités maladie, les soins de santé et le congé parental.

    - à tous les membres de la société, y compris ceux qui travaillent dans des conditions précaires et qui sont les plus touchés par les nombreuses mesures de contrôle introduites jusqu'à présent. Une coopération et une assistance internationales coordonnées sont également vitales pour que les États disposant de moins de ressources soient également en mesure de réagir efficacement à la pandémie de COVID- 19.

    Dans ce contexte, nous nous félicitons de l'annonce d'un sommet virtuel extraordinaire du G20 et demandons instamment aux dirigeants du G20 d'adopter et de mettre en œuvre d'urgence des politiques et des plans concrets et mesurables afin de lutter contre la pandémie de COVID-19 dans le pays et à l'étranger, de protéger la santé des personnes et de réduire ses répercussions économiques, tout en assurant une transition juste et axée sur les droits de l'homme vers une économie sans carbone. Ces mesures doivent garantir l'accès de tous à des soins préventifs et à des traitements de bonne qualité et abordables, y compris pour les personnes les plus exposées ou les moins aptes à mettre en œuvre des mesures préventives du fait de leur pauvreté, de leur absence de domicile ou qui vivent ou travaillent dans des environnements où elles sont plus exposées au virus. Ce faisant, les dirigeants du G20 doivent garantir :

    L'accès à l'information

    Toutes les personnes et communautés touchées ont droit à des informations facilement accessibles, opportunes et significatives concernant la nature et le niveau de la menace pour la santé, les mesures possibles pour atténuer les risques, des informations d'alerte immédiate sur les conséquences futures possibles et des informations sur les efforts de réponse en cours.

    Les informations devraient être disponibles dans les langues nécessaires pour répondre aux différents besoins des personnes concernées, et par le biais de médias et dans des formats facilement compréhensibles et accessibles, afin que les personnes concernées puissent prendre des décisions en connaissance de cause et participer pleinement aux efforts de réponse.

    Comme l'a déjà reconnu le G7, l'accès du public à des informations fiables et en temps réel est essentiel pour prévenir et atténuer les crises de santé publique. Les dirigeants du G20 doivent s'engager à partager des informations en temps réel et à publier des données ventilées par sexe sur les effets du virus sur les femmes, et garantir l'accès à la protection contre la violence domestique et aux services de santé sexuelle et reproductive.

    L'espace civique et la liberté des médias

    Les droits humains des individus et la liberté des médias sont tous deux essentiels en temps de crise. Un journalisme responsable peut contribuer à stopper la propagation de la désinformation et ainsi renforcer la confiance du public dans le gouvernement, ce qui est essentiel pour réagir efficacement aux crises. La contribution et le contrôle des organisations de la société civile sont également essentiels, à la fois pour renforcer la responsabilité globale et pour améliorer la qualité et l'intégration du processus décisionnel public.

    Nous assistons déjà à des luttes internationales pour le contrôle de la théorie autour du virus, en particulier entre les deux plus grandes économies nationales du monde - les États-Unis et la Chine. Ces tentatives de "concurrence" pour la vérité doivent cesser. Il est vital que les médias, nationaux et étrangers, puissent rendre compte librement de la crise, présenter au public des faits - même si ces faits sont inconfortables pour ceux qui sont au pouvoir. Pour que des leçons puissent être tirées de cette crise et appliquées à la prévention et à l'atténuation de la prochaine, le public doit rester informé sur la vérité tout au long de la crise.

    La transparence à propos des prises de décision

    Dans un environnement de pression et d'incertitude sans précédent, il existe un risque élevé que les décisions publiques soient récupérées ou déformées par des intérêts privés pour leur propre profit. Les gouvernements doivent justifier les choix qu'ils font, à la fois pour contenir la pandémie et pour stimuler leur économie. Une urgence de santé publique ne doit pas être prise comme une occasion de contourner la responsabilité. Aujourd'hui, plus que jamais, les décisions des gouvernements doivent être "ouvertes par défaut". Comme l'a affirmé le Conseil de l'Europe, "les garanties fondamentales de la primauté du droit, la surveillance parlementaire, le contrôle judiciaire indépendant et les recours internes efficaces doivent être maintenus même pendant l'état d'urgence".

    Déjà avant la crise actuelle, il était clair que les gouvernements devaient renforcer l'équilibre des pouvoirs, limiter l'influence des gros capitaux en politique et garantir une participation large et inclusive à la prise de décision politique. Les politiques publiques et l'allocation des ressources ne doivent pas être déterminées par le pouvoir économique ou l'influence politique, mais par une consultation équitable et une allocation budgétaire impartiale. C'est pourquoi les gouvernements doivent s'attaquer de toute urgence aux circuits par lesquels les intérêts privés peuvent exercer une influence excessive sur la prise de décision publique.

    Au fil des années, les pays du G20 se sont engagés à mettre en place un large éventail de politiques, allant de la lutte contre les conflits d'intérêts à la protection des lanceurs d'alerte. Ce qu'ils n'ont pas encore fait, c'est de les mettre en œuvre de manière adéquate dans la pratique. S'ils sont mis en œuvre de manière efficace et complémentaire, les engagements existants peuvent permettre de relever de nombreux aspects du défi qu'une influence excessive posera à une réponse efficace et durable à long terme à la crise actuelle.

    En outre, les parlements, les gouvernements et les organisations internationales devraient reporter toute mesure non urgente en cours qui nécessite une consultation publique, jusqu'à ce qu'ils aient mis en place des mesures alternatives efficaces pour assurer la participation du public au processus décisionnel.

    En outre, pour éviter les abus de pouvoir, tout état d'urgence déclaré par les gouvernements nationaux devrait être limité dans sa durée et sa portée, et les pouvoirs d'urgence ne devraient être exercés qu'aux fins pour lesquelles ils ont été accordés.

    Nous appelons tous les gouvernements et les autres acteurs concernés à veiller à ce que toutes les réponses à l'épidémie de COVID-19 soient conformes au droit et aux normes internationales en matière de droits de l'homme, en tenant compte des besoins spécifiques des groupes et personnes marginalisés et des plus exposés, et à ce que les risques spécifiques en matière de droits de l'homme associés à toute réponse particulière soient pris en compte et atténués.


  • Open letter to the G20 Finance Ministers

    Dear G20 Finance Ministers,

    As you meet this week, we are writing to you to encourage you to take concrete actions in order to build a better future through a just recovery by investing in people and ensuring that funds being made available reach those that need them the most.


  • Por qué no participaremos en el proceso de la sociedad civil del G-20 en 2020

    La cumbre anual del G-20 parece a menudo una tertulia de los gobiernos más poderosos del mundo. Los líderes de 19 de las mayores economías nacionales, más la Unión Europea, se reúnen, se dan la mano delante de las cámaras y alcanzan imprecisos acuerdos, muchos de los cuales no implementan. Las cumbres llaman la atención de los medios de comunicación internacionales y, con frecuencia, de manifestantes de todo el mundo que quieren que esos gobiernos rindan cuentas.

    Menos conocido es el largo ciclo de reuniones preparatorias de la cumbre de los líderes del G-20. A pesar de las muchas limitaciones y dificultades del proceso, para muchas voces ajenas a los gobiernos –en especial los sindicatos, los grupos de defensa de derechos y la sociedad civil–, esas reuniones son oportunidades excepcionales de formular recomendaciones sobre políticas directamente a las autoridades e influir en la agenda mundial sobre asuntos que afectan a miles de millones de personas. En los últimos años incluso ha habido dentro del G-20 una serie especial de reuniones para la sociedad civil, conocidas como Civil 20 (C-20).

    Sin embargo, en 2020, las organizaciones de la sociedad civil guardaremos las distancias respecto al proceso oficial del C-20, que estará auspiciado por Arabia Saudí y tendrá lugar allí.

    El anfitrión saudí del G-20 ha intentado dar una imagen de país moderno y atractivo para los inversores extranjeros. El gobierno ha contratado los servicios de gran número de asesores occidentales sobre relaciones públicasy ha gastado millones de dólares en limpiar su imagen y eliminar las críticas en los medios de comunicación internacionales. Al mismo tiempo, internamente Arabia Saudí detiene y procesa de manera habitual a defensores y defensoras de los derechos humanos, censura la libertad de expresión, limita la libertad de circulación y tortura y somete a malos tratos a periodistas y activistas detenidos. Utiliza una imprecisa legislación antiterrorista para silenciar a quienes critican al gobierno, llegando incluso a imponer la pena de muerte. En octubre de 2018, el brutal asesinato del periodista y disidente Jamal Khashoggi en el consulado saudí en Estambul conmocionó al mundo. Las mujeres sufren discriminación sistemática en la legislación y en la práctica. Además, las defensoras de los derechos humanos que se atreven a defender los derechos de las mujeres son sometidas a persecución judicial y detención arbitraria.

    En vez de una reforma real, lo que intenta hacer el gobierno saudí es blanquear su terrible historial en materia de derechos humanos con la celebración de grandes eventos internacionales en el país. Entre ellos figuran el G-20 y, por medio de una ONG autorizada por el gobierno, el C-20. Como organizaciones de la sociedad civil presentes en la mayoría de los países del mundo (pero en absoluto en Arabia Saudí), no podemos participar en un proceso con el que se intenta dar legitimidad internacional a un Estado donde la sociedad civil no tiene prácticamente cabida ni se toleran sus voces independientes.

    En junio de 2019, el C-20 estableció un conjunto de principios, entre ellos una estructura básica y mecanismos operativos, para garantizar sus sostenibilidad y eficacia. Los principios del C-20 hacen hincapié en: la inclusión de actores diversos de la sociedad civil, abarcando desde el ámbito local hasta el mundial; la transparencia en la toma de decisiones; la libertad y la independencia frente a la influencia indebida de todo actor ajeno a la sociedad civil; la inclusividad y la diversidad, y los derechos humanos, la igualdad de género y empoderamiento de las mujeres como valores rectores. Las mayoría de estos principios no estarán presentes en 2020, y, lo que es aún más preocupante, estamos viendo ya que la presidencia saudí del G-20 los menoscaba.

    Aparte de un número simbólico de organizaciones que tratan temas considerados inofensivos por el gobierno saudí, prácticamente ningún actor de la sociedad civil del país podrá participar en el próximo C-20 de Arabia Saudí, pues las autoridades saudíes no permiten la existencia de partidos políticos, sindicatos ni grupos de derechos humanos independientes. La mayoría de los activistas de la sociedad civil progresistas están siendo juzgados o cumplen largas penas de prisión por haber expresado sus opiniones, o se han visto obligados a exiliarse para evitar la cárcel o algo aún peor. No tienen posibilidad de regresar al país, pues correrían peligro si lo hicieran. Sin estas voces críticas e independientes en el foro, la credibilidad el C-20 se ve gravemente comprometida.

    Los actores extranjeros e internacionales de la sociedad civil tendrían también grandes dificultades para participar libremente en un C-20 organizado por Arabia Saudí.

    Las leyes y políticas vigentes en el país no sólo afectan directamente a la libertad de asociación, expresión y reunión pacífica, sino que tienen también un efecto disuasorio, capaz de silenciar a determinadas categorías de activistas que, si expresaran abiertamente sus opiniones, pondrían en peligro su propia seguridad. Además, en noviembre de 2019, la agencia saudí de seguridad de Estado clasificó el feminismo y la homosexualidad como delitos. Aunque luego se rectificó el anuncio, todavía siguen encarcelados y procesados por su trabajo destacados defensores y defensoras de los derechos de las mujeres y de cuestiones de género de Arabia Saudí. Esas leyes y prácticas contradicen los principios del C-20 sobre diversidad, igualdad de género y empoderamiento de las mujeres, y reprimirían la libertad de expresión en los debates sobre los derechos de las mujeres, los derechos sexuales y reproductivos y los derechos LGBTI.

    A esta situación se suma la grave falta de libertad de prensa en Arabia Saudí. Dadas las estrictas medidas de control de los medios de comunicación, censura y vigilancia de las redes sociales, ningún debate mantenido en un C-20 dirigido por Arabia Saudí se haría jamás extensivo a la población del país en general sin las restricciones del discurso aprobado por el Estado. Incluso si tales debates fueran posibles, sin medios de comunicación libres todo debate significativo del C-20 llegaría sólo a un público limitado. Esta limitación es incompatible con los principios rectores del C-20 de inclusividad, apertura, transparencia y participación.

    En anteriores cumbres del G-20 ha habido protestas de activistas del país anfitrión y de otras partes. La libertad de reunión pacífica es un derecho, pero en un país donde toda concentración de personas, incluidas las manifestaciones pacíficas, está prohibida, es imposible que este derecho fundamental se respete.

    El proceso del C-20 dirigido por Arabia Saudí es deficiente en muchos aspectos, pero sobre todo en lo que respecta a garantizar los principios fundamentales del C-20. Incluso en esta temprana etapa del proceso del C-20 de 2020 hemos observado ya una acusada falta de transparencia por parte de los organizadores. El nombramiento de los presidentes de los grupos de trabajo y los diversos comités ha sido opaco y no consultivo, y se han tomado decisiones arbitrarias que han excluido a grupos internacionales con experiencia. El proceso del C-20 dirigido por la Fundación Rey Jalid, que está vinculada a la familia real saudí, no puede ser considerado transparente, inclusivo ni participativo, como exigen los principios del C-20.

    En un momento en que el mundo se enfrenta a una amplia variedad de desafíos, las voces independientes son más necesarias que nunca. Cuando un Estado limita el espacio civil hasta hacerlo prácticamente inexistente, no se puede confiar en que garantice las condiciones básicas necesarias para que la sociedad civil internacional intercambie ideas y colabore libremente en cualquier tema, y mucho menos en los temas que considere delicados u ofensivos.

    Aunque este año no participaremos en el C-20, nos comprometemos a hacer esfuerzos conjuntos para garantizar que en 2020 se escucha a esas voces. 


  • The G20 must put human rights at the heart of its response to COVID-19 pandemic

    In the COVID-19 outbreak, the global community is facing one of the most challenging crises for decades. As of mid-March 2020 more than 200,000 people have been infected and over 8,000 people have lost their lives. The economic impact is only starting to be felt, and will likely affect the livelihoods of millions worldwide. This is a global crisis that needs to be addressed with clear, fair, coordinated and concrete measures - measures that the G20 can and should implement.

    The policy response to the previous global financial crisis a little over a decade ago was widely seen to have been lopsided and to have led to socially unfair outcomes, including increasing poverty, the loss of millions of jobs, and stagnating or dropping incomes for workers.

    Economic and Social Rights

    The indicationsare that the coming economic downturn will be even swifter and more severe than in the previous crisis. In addition to dealing with the public health crisis, a decisive policy response from governments will be essential to provide social security – including sick pay, health care and parental leave

    – to all members of society, including those in insecure forms of labour who are suffering the brunt of many of the control measures introduced to date. Coordinated international cooperation and assistance is also vital to ensure that states with fewer resources are also able to respond effectively to the COVID- 19 pandemic.

    In this context, we welcome the announcementof a G20 extraordinary virtual Summit and urge G20 Leaders to urgently adopt and implement concrete and measurable policies and plans in order to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic at home and abroad, protect people’s health, and reduce its economic impacts, while ensuring a just and human rights-centred transition to a zero-carbon economy. Such measures must guarantee access for all to preventive care and good quality and affordable treatment, including those most at risk or less able to implement preventive measures through poverty, homelessness, or living and working in environments where they are more exposed to the virus. In doing so, G20 Leaders should guarantee:

    Access to information

    All affected individuals and communities are entitled to easy, accessible, timely and meaningful information concerning the nature and level of the health threat, possible measures to mitigate risks, early warning information of possible future consequences and information on ongoing response efforts.

    Information should be available in the languages necessary to meet the various needs of those affected, and through media and in formats that can be easily understood and accessed, so that those affected can take informed decisions and fully participate in the response efforts.

    As has already been recognisedby the G7, public access to reliable and real-time information is key to prevent and mitigate public health crises. G20 leaders should commit to real-time information sharing and to publish gender-disaggregated data on how the virus is impacting women,and ensure access to protection from domestic violence and to sexual and reproductive health services.

    Civic space and media freedom

    Both the human rights of individuals and media freedom are essential in times of crisis. Responsible journalism can help arrest the spread of misinformation and thereby shore up public trust in government, which is key to effective crisis responses. Input and oversight by civil society organizations is also critical, both to strengthen overall accountability and to boost the quality and inclusiveness of public decision- making.

    We are already seeing international battles for control of the narrative around the virus, in particular between the world’s two largest national economies - the USA and China. Such attempts to “compete” over the truth have to stop. It is vital that the media, domestic and foreign, are able to report freely on the crisis, to present the public with facts – even if these facts are uncomfortable to those in power. For lessons to be learned from this crisis and applied to the prevention and mitigation of the next, the public must remain informed of the truth throughout.

    Transparency around decision-making

    In an environment of unprecedented pressure and uncertainty, there is a high risk that public decisions will be captured or distorted by vested private interests for their own gain. Governments must provide reasoned justification for the choices they make, both to contain the pandemic and to boost their economies. A public health emergency should not be taken as an opportunity to bypass accountability. Now, more than ever, government decisions must be “open by default”. As the Council of Europe has affirmed,“fundamental safeguards to the rule of law, parliamentary oversight, independent judicial control, and effective domestic remedies, must be maintained even during a state of emergency.”

    Already before the current crisis, it was clear that governments must strengthen checks and balances, limit the influence of big money in politics and ensure inclusive and broad input in political decision- making. Public policies and the allocation of resources should not be determined by economic power or political influence, but by fair consultation and impartial budget allocation. That is why governments must urgently tackle the channels through which private interests can gain undue leverage over public decision- making.

    Over the years, G20 countries have committed to put in place a wide range of policies, from tackling conflicts of interest to protectingwhistleblowers. What they have not yet done is adequately implement these in practice. If implemented in an effective and complementary way, existing commitments can address many aspects of the challenge that undue influence will pose to an effective and sustainable long- term response to the current crisis.

    In addition, parliaments, governments and international organizations should postpone any ongoing non- emergency related measures that require public consultation, until they have put in place effective alternative measures to ensure public participation in the decision-making process.

    Furthermore, to avoid abuses of power, any state of emergency declared by national governments should be limited in duration and scope, and emergency powers should be exercised only for the purposes for which they were granted.

    We call on all governments and other actors involved to ensure that all responses to the COVID-19 outbreak are in compliance with international human rights law and standards, taking into account the specific needs of marginalized groups and people and those most at risk, and that the specific human rights risks associated with any particular response are addressed and mitigated.