Coordinator of the National Working Group of “Civil G8” Project
In March, 9-10, the International NGOs Forum “Civil G8 – 2006” was held in Moscow. More than 300 representatives of NGOs coming from dozens of states participated in this Forum. During two days they tried to clarify their positions and work out recommendations on the agenda of the G8 summit in St Petersburg.
Main issues of the discussion were the global energy security, fighting infectious diseases, education as well as the issues of fighting terrorism, non-proliferation of mass destruction weapons, international financing development etc.
Ella Pamfilova, the coordinator of the project’s National Working Group, made her comments on the Forum’s results.
In spite of the deficit of time and lack of experience in conducting actions of such a large scale, we managed to do the most important thing – to organize a discussion field for free exchange of opinions. As a result, a very interesting, productive and heated discussion took place.
It was difficult to unit the necessary participants – experts, NGOs representatives – able to discuss professionally such complicated issues as, for example, the global energy security. There are not so many NGOs deeply knowing the problem and having an according specialization. It was a risk to conduct a sort of narrowly professional meeting, where the different interests of industrial lobbying groups could come into conflict. But we managed to avoid it. We managed to arise over the narrow professional position and to analyze the situation and the problem from the point of view of the international community’s interests and needs, having in mind its long term prospect.
In spite of the lack of Russian NGOs’ experience within the framework of G8 and the large spectrum of the participants, we managed to work out resulting documents on all the Round table discussions. It’s a good beginning for the further activities.
From the very beginning of its activities the Civil G8 was considered as a self-developing process – not only a number of various activities. One could think that we’ve reached the aim – the recommendations are worked out, the next step is their transfer to Sherpas. But we saw enormous interest provoked by the discussion. Our work today is interesting for the increasing number of experts.
The problems under discussion have a strategic, a global nature and need further analyzing, composing joint efforts both of the states leaders and of civil community. Our Forum gave a good impulse for that, having generated the powerful stream of civil energy and we have to think now, how to act in the future.
The important result of the Forum is also the participation of all the G8 states’ Sherpas – for the first time! (Such format of meeting wasn’t in common practice before – usually it was a meeting with NGOs experts in narrow circle). And within the March Forum we had a 2 hours discussion!
It’s necessary to stress, that it was a DIALOGUE. Certainly, the Sherpas didn’t answer all the questions (but it wasn’t their task, we must admit). But the fact that the Sherpas were attentive about all the questions and recommendations of NGOs and asked us to provide them with all Forum’s materials sounds very optimistic. It means that they are interested in NGOs position and, as a result, our final documents will be passed to G8 leaders. Such experience is very important and the fact of such a dialogue is very useful for establishing a dialogue with G8 leaders.
In the future we don’t exclude the possibility of a narrower meeting with Sherpas with NGO experts to discuss specifically all necessary details. It is supposed to take place in May 2006.
The Forum was held at the atmosphere of full openness, Mass Media had also possibility to have access to interesting information. There was not any officials’ pressure or attempts to formalize the discussion process. The Forum was prepared by NGOs and the project’s National Working groups. So those coming to the Forum to fight hypothetical officials were in fact forcing an open door.
I hope, nobody can accuse us of thrust our opinion on other participants, to rule the discussion to the desired direction. The best confirmation for it is the prepared recommendations that are in many respects different from the official position.
The Forum was successful, because there was not any attempt to rule it into a desired direction. It was just a free and natural process of forming civil initiative, civil understanding of problems and preparing recommendations.
Some Russian NGOs constantly fighting against their adversaries and, as a result, to hear only their own opinion, had a good opportunity to learn tolerance and ability to conduct a friendly and effective dialogue with the opponent from our foreign colleagues.
Civil Forums, especially within the framework of G8, provide special format, special quality of communication: not only to come and express someone’s own opinion. During the preparation of recommendations within the sphere where there are many different opinions, it was very important to find a common point, an issue everyone is concerned in. Hope, we’ve made a first step.
Now we are working on our mistakes – discussing what we managed to do and what we failed to do at the Forum. We couldn’t invite some of our estimated foreign colleagues – just had no time. O hope that during our future actions the foreign NGOs will be more widely presented: there were only 100 – about one third of all the participants – at the match Forum.
We want Russian NGOs to establish closer contacts with their foreign colleagues. In this connection we must pay a special attention to regional NGOs that have less possibilities to establish international contacts. That’s why we plan to invite more of them to our future meetings and Forums. This time we couldn’t invite many of them and we would like to offer excuse for this.
What next? In many respects it depends on you, our colleagues – both Russian, and foreign. Contact us, send your questionnaires. We’ll try to take into account the maximum of your recommendations.
Thank you for your cooperation!