In the Home Stretch...
It is gradually becoming traditional that the preparatory activities for the summits of the G6, G7, and today the G8, include consultations with non-governmental organisations from these countries, held by the official structures to various degrees and in various forms. The stated goal of these consultations is to gauge the opinions of civil society with regard to the priority issues announced by the president country.
For the Russian presidency in 2006, these issues are: energy security, education and health. Other topics named as important for the global community include combating international terrorism, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, international trade, and development financing.
Although Russia is currently taking its first steps in this regard, its great interest in multilateral cooperation and commitment to achieving it compensate entirely for its lack of experience. And it was for this very reason that the Civil G8 2006 project was initiated by over 40 Russian civic organisations.
To preserve everything achieved in previous years through interaction between civic organisations and the G6, G7 and G8, and to attempt to move this interaction to a new level ¨C this was the objective set by Russian NGOs and their colleagues from other countries in announcing the launch of the Civil G8 2006 project. Continuity, transparency and openness were named as key principles for the new process, and for this reason, wide civil discussion of the official G8 summit issues was organised. Acting on the basis of his authorities as president of the forthcoming G8 summit, President Putin expressed his readiness to to ensure all necessary conditions for interaction and dialogue between Russian and international communities and the G8.
An open platform for partner-type dialogue
The initiators of the Civil G8 2006 project invited representatives from all civil society institutions interested in developing this interaction, from both the G8 countries and elsewhere, to take part in the consultation process. As a result of this process, the ideas, opinions, approaches and recommendations put forward were brought, in various forms, to the attention of officials and leaders of the G8 countries. The project's initiators expect this concentration of efforts by non-government organisations to give a new impulse to development of fruitful dialogue with regard to today's most pressing issues, and to enable future establishment of interactions between various sectors of society in the G8 countries, including Russia, and also worldwide, in order to solve the most important problems currently facing humanity.
The Civil G8 2006 project includes:
• Preparation of recommendations reflecting the various positions of civil organisations with regard to the official agenda issues for the St. Petersburg G8 summit.
• Organisation of public events both general and technical in nature, including on an international scale, with participation by independent experts able to facilitate more accurate definition of the priorities, positions and approaches of civil society institutions and national and international NGOs with regard to the G8 summit agenda issues announced by the president country for 2006.
• Performance of civil expert assessment of official G8 documents of particular public interest.
• Pooling of ideas and recommendations that non-governmental governments are ready to propose as specific 'orders' to the G8 leaders with regard to agenda formation for subsequent summits.
The concluding documents of the public events held as part of the Civil G8 2006 project, and also the conclusions, proposals and recommendations of the roundtables, conclusions of the expert assessments performed, and other documents prepared during the consultation process, are passed on to representatives of the G8.
One particular issue at this stage is formation of mechanisms for public monitoring of fulfilment of resolutions of the G8 leaders that are of particular public interest, or that affect the rights of significant numbers of civilians.
It is of crucial importance for the initiators of the Civil G8 2006 process that recommendations and positions be brought before the official bodies of the G8 in the name of the organisations participating in the project, and even more so, that no-one should have a monopoly right to represent civil society as a whole. Therefore, participation in the Civil G8 2006 consultations in no way restricts the rights of civic organisations to make proposals to the governmental structures of G8 member states by other means, using traditional opportunities and mechanisms for interaction with the authorities.
The objective of providing quality content for the consultation process based on previous experience, but also bearing in mind Russian specifics, served as a basis for formation of the project's Consultative Council, consisting of 49 respected representatives of international, Russian and national non governmental organisations from various countries. Its members may present both the viewpoints of their organisations and their own personal points of view.
Any content-based initiatives by civic organisations with regard to the issues for discussion are welcomed. Proposals can be made to any Consultative Council member.
Technical support for the consultation process, information support, and organisation and holding of forums is performed by the National Working Group for the Civil G8 2006 Project (Coordinator - Ella Pamfilova).
The main source of information for all participants of the Civil G8 2006 project, a discussion space open for free exchange of views, a repository of ideas and recommendations intended both for participants in the G8 consultation process and for experts, is the Civil G8 2006 website at www.civilg8.ru, with content in both Russian and English.
The process of consultation with non-governmental organisations during Russia's G8 presidency has been nominally split into three stages.
Initial stage (December 2005 - March 2006)
The key objective for this stage was to form a group of process participants consisting of NGO representatives and independent experts, and to gauge the various positions and viewpoints of non-governmental organisations with regard to the stated priority issues for the forthcoming summit.
During this stage a series of conferences, seminars and roundtables was held under the Civil G8 2006 banner, with participation by representatives of civil society and leading non-governmental organisations.
Meetings with regard to the specific priorities for the Russian presidency were arranged bearing in mind the events timetable for the official G8 preparatory process (meetings of Sherpas, ministers, etc). As part of the Civil G8 2006 project, on 16 February 2006 an international roundtable was held in Moscow with regard to the issues of energy security, education and health, with participation by representatives of foreign non-governmental associations and experts from the G8 countries. The roundtable materials formed the basis for development of recommendations to the G8 leaders at the 'Civil Society Institutions' Contribution to the G8 Summit Agenda' International NGO Forum (9-10 March, Moscow, 320 participants, including around 100 from foreign NGOs, over 100 from Russian regional NGOs and the rest from Russian national NGOs). A meeting between forum participants and Sherpas from all the G8 member states, including the European Commission representative, an event without precedent in the entire history of interaction with the G8, formed part of the forum's working process. At this meeting, which lasted over two hours and was made open to the press, NGOs' positions were outlined with regard to the agenda issues discussed at all the forum's roundtables: energy security, education, preventing the spread of infectious diseases, human security, development financing and international trade, and defence of intellectual property.
Core stage (April - July 2006)
On the eve of the summit, the civic organisations involved in the consultation process held a second series of conferences, seminars and roundtables, which, as at the previous stage, were linked to events taking place as part of the official G8 preparatory process. This format allowed the NGOs to have more of an influence on the official structures' formation of approaches to summit agenda items.
On 18 May 2006, a second meeting of experts and international NGO representatives with Sherpas from all the G8 countries took place in Moscow as part of the Civil G8 2006 project. Civil organisations from Russia, Canada, the UK, Germany, the USA, France, Africa and Latin America were represented at this meeting, which was charged in its own right with continuing a tradition established during the Canadian and British presidencies.
In 2003 and 2005 representatives of international NGOs met with Sherpas from the G8 states in a semi-official capacity to discuss the most significant global development issues affecting civil society. The participants of the Moscow meeting presented and provided to the Sherpas the recommendations developed during the March NGO forum, emphasising the necessity that governments fulfil their obligations previously undertaken in the G8 format. The Sherpas spoke on a whole range of G8 issues and gave answers to questions from the NGO representatives. Every single attendee of the meeting participated in the discussion, which lasted over two hours in the form of topic-based dialogue.
On 19 May the participants of the Sherpa event visited Kazan (capital of Tatarstan, one of Russia's republics), where a number of meetings were held as part of presentation of the Civil G8 2006 project to regional NGOs. The delegates discussed civil society issues and exchanged opinions with their Tartar colleagues.
On 3-4 July 2006 the project's key event took place in Moscow - the Civil G8 2006 International NGO Forum. Over 500 NGOs from all over the world participated (both from the G8 states and from Central Asia and Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America). Major international organisations were also represented: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, Transparency International, Social Monitoring, Oxfam, Action Aid, Civicus and more. The purpose of the forum was to discuss problems affecting international communities on the eve of the St. Petersburg G8 summit of 15-17 July 2006, to elaborate the positions put forward by the non-governmental organisations at the March conference, and to prepare proposals in the form of 'orders' for consideration in agenda formation for subsequent official G8 summits. The NGO representatives were not limited solely to discussion of the stated priority issues for the Russian presidency, and indeed, the discussion went significantly beyond these issues. The forum was split into nine working groups for the topics of global energy security, education, infectious diseases, human rights, global security, the environment, social integration, and civil society interaction with business. Following these discussions, forum participants met with the head of the G8 president state, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who heard the recommendations from civil society representatives and provided answers to the most pressing questions affecting the global community. The summary documents adopted on conclusion of the forum were passed on to the G8 leaders, placed on the Civil G8 2006 website (www.civilg8.ru) and distributed to a wide range of non-governmental organisations and other interested parties.
Concluding stage (August - December 2006)
The main Civil G8 2006 objectives for this stage were to form mechanisms for public monitoring with regard to the realisation of summit resolutions, to wrap up and summarise the consultation process, and to develop recommendations for the representatives of the 2007 president country.
Seminars and roundtables for civic organisations involved in the consultation process are planned to continue in this concluding stage, taking place in parallel with events held under the official G8 talks process. On completion of each of the forums, the civic organisations will present the concluding documents to the corresponding official meetings of various levels. This format also allows interested civil society institutions to draw attention to ideas not sufficiently reflected in the concluding documents of the St. Petersburg summit.
Based on the stated principle of continuity, an international NGO roundtable on development of Africa (one of the stated priorities for the British presidency of the previous year) is planned for 24-25 October 2006 as part of the Civil G8. The event is specially timed to coincide with the Africa Partnership Forum (Moscow, 26-27 October 2006), and has the following goals:
1) Develop civil society proposals with regard to official agenda issues for the Africa Partnership Forum.
2) Elaborate other problems which, from an international civil society point of view, are important for Africa's development;
3) Discuss opportunities to improve the Africa Partnership Forum's interaction with non-governmental organisations.
In the course of the roundtable a unique meeting of the representatives of international civil society, and first and foremost of the African NGOs with all the co-chairmen the Africa Partnership Forum took place.
The conclusion of this stage, and of the entire process of NGO consultation under the Russian presidency, will be the 'Realisation of the G8 Summit Agenda for 2006' NGO Conference (late November-early December), with possible participation by the Russian and German Sherpas, and also, based on the principles of continuity and succession, handover of the 'civil baton' for societal accompaniment to the 2007 summit to representatives of German NGOs.