Civil G8 2006

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Civil Society and G8

Peter I. Hajnal. Civil Society At The Gleneagles G8 Summit


Prepared for presentation at the Civil G8 Forum, 9-10 March 2006, Moscow

Peter I. Hajnal, University of Toronto (G8 Research Group

5 March 2006


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Background

In contrast with formal, structured international organizations – for example, the United Nations (UN) or the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – the Group of Eight (G8) and its predecessor, the Group of Seven (G7) is an informal, flexible and relatively nonbureaucratic forum. It is not based on a constitutive intergovernmental agreement, and lacks a secretariat. Thus, civil society-G7/G8 relations, too, are largely informal in nature, unlike the long-established, well-defined NGO relations with the UN and with many other formal international organizations. Practices and structures vary from country to country, and there are different government departments that have administrative units responsible for continuous monitoring, co-ordination and follow-up of G7/G8-related activities and issues, both at the summit level and at lower (ministerial and task-force) levels of the broader G7/G8 system. All this has implications for civil society interaction with the G7/G8 system and with individual G8 member governments. The history of that interaction may be divided into four phases.

The first phase, from the beginning of summitry in 1975 to 1980, saw limited interaction between civil society and the G7, although some academic CSOs started discussing the summit in 1978, and certain trade unions and other NGOs, especially in the United States, made approaches to their own government on issues that they wished conveyed to the summit as early as 1976. In the second phase, 1981-1994, civil society recognized the G7 – a powerful group that had evolved into a major global institution and whose agenda had expanded to take on many issues beyond the early focus on macroeconomic policy co-ordination – as a legitimate target both for lobbying and for opposing. In the third phase, 1995-1997, the G7/G8, on its part, explicitly recognized civil society. For the first time, the 1995 Halifax Summit used the terms “civil society” and “NGO” in official documents; the Halifax communiqué referred to NGOs and civil society in the context of promoting sustainable development and the reform of international financial institutions. Since then, all summits have referred to civil society in various contexts, and ministerial meetings and other levels of the G7/G8 system also took up the civil society nexus. The fourth phase, starting in 1998 and still continuing, has been characterized by civil society growing more powerful and more sophisticated. The 1998 Birmingham Summit was a watershed in this interaction. It was there that the Jubilee 2000 coalition lobbied for debt relief and organized a spectacular human chain of 70,000 peaceful demonstrators who surrounded the Summit site and presented a petition to the leaders, asking for debt cancellation. This prompted an unprecedented G7/G8 reaction: British Prime Minister Tony Blair, on behalf of the G8, responded to the petition in a separate document of the summit. In an additional statement, Blair paid tribute to the Jubilee 2000 campaign for the dignified manner in which it demonstrated in Birmingham, and for making a persuasive case for debt relief.

The 2001 Genoa Summit was a more ominous milestone in G8-civil society relations. It featured massive protests and was marred by violence. Summit venues and activities were severely restricted by the protests outside, and, as it was later reported, by concern with the danger of terrorist attacks on the leaders. The majority of civil society groups demonstrated peacefully, but there was also anarchist violence and overzealous police response resulting in many injuries and the death of one protester. Then, only a few months afterwards, came the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. In this new, more dangerous atmosphere, questions were raised about the way G8 meetings are conducted, as well as about the activities of civil society and other protester groups.

Nonetheless, vigorous civil society action continued, in various forms, after Genoa. But the 2004 Sea Island summit turned out to be something of an aberration in G8-civil society relations. The current US administration, host of that summit, was uninterested in engaging civil society and made it difficult for NGOs to demonstrate peacefully or even to communicate with the media. Still, the ability of CSOs to get their message out, though hindered, could not be suppressed.


The Gleneagles Summit

Consultations

The British hosts took up dialogue with civil society early in the process of preparing for Gleneagles. The two central themes of Gleneagles – Africa and climate change – have great resonance for civil society, and many NGOs were determined and well-qualified to convey their views and had the expertise and skill to do so, thereby giving the G8 governments valuable insights – as well as exerting pressure – on these crucial issues. African NGOs, for their part, have been increasingly active on the international scene and there are those among them who have participated in previous dialogue with officials of G8 countries. As for climate change, the environmental movement is among the oldest and most varied components of civil society, on local, national, regional and international levels. There is a long history of involvement with governments and international institutions including the G7/G8 on environmental issues, ranging from productive, fruitful exchanges to confrontations.

The seriousness of British interest in Africa was demonstrated by Tony Blair’s Commission for Africa. The Commission’s report of 11 March 2005 took an integrated approach to the multitude of African problems. The report was communicated to G8 governments as well as NGOs and the private sector. The relationship of this report to the NEPAD project and the G8 Africa Initiative launched at the 2002 Kananaskis summit is complex, but the Commission for Africa’s findings are consistent with the G8 Africa Initiative and are intended to reinforce, not rival, NEPAD. The UK G8 presidency provided a useful comparison between the recommendations of the report of the Commission for Africa and G8 commitments at Gleneagles, in areas corresponding to the major sections of the Commission for Africa report: governance and capacity-building; peace and security; “leaving no-one out”; growth and poverty reduction; trade; resources; and “how to make it happen”.

Chatham House (Royal Institute of International Affairs) launched a useful and productive G8 stakeholder consultation project early in 2005, in partnership with FIM, the Green Globe Network, Climate Action Network, and LEAD International. For FIM, this dialogue built on its initiative prior to Kananaskis and continuing with Evian in 2003 (only to encounter a hiatus at Sea Island in 2004).

The G8 stakeholder consultation involved a series of meetings throughout 2005. Two expert group meetings convened on 21 March, one on Africa and the other on climate change. The recommendations from these two meetings were forwarded at a consultation on 23 March in which 18 civil-society representatives met with five sherpas (and four sherpa assistants for G8 members that did not have their sherpas represent them at the session). This consultation was the first such event in which all G8 governments were represented, showing an increasing realization of the benefits of the dialogue process. Civil-society representatives included participants from Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and North America, bringing together expertise on Africa and climate change. Topics of discussion included debt relief, meeting the aid target of 0.7% of GNI; trade, governance, and climate change. A number of specific recommendations were presented to the sherpas. A workshop called Post Gleneagles Opportunities was held on 21 July. A workshop and panel discussion discussed the Africa Partnership Forum on 3 October, and another workshop and panel discussion on 10 October dealt with the climate change dialogue. Finally, on 7-8 November a conference, Delivering the G8 Agenda, was held to discuss implementation of the Gleneagles commitments. At that conference, the British and Russian sherpas consulted with representatives of the private sector and non-profit CSOs. The final report, 2005 G8 Stakeholder Consultation: Process, Perspectives and Recommendations, is due to appear in early 2006.

Immediately before, as well as during, the Gleneagles summit, host Tony Blair met with some representatives of civil society, and so did some of the other G8 leaders. These meetings included talks with Bob Geldof and Bono, who, unlike regular CSOs and the media, had the run of the Gleneagles Hotel and were able to “buttonhole” leaders and talk with them. Another instance of the British hosts’ receptivity to civil society was the granting of media accreditation to a number of CS representatives, and designated worktables for them in the media centre.


The Live 8 Concerts

Bob Geldof, Bono and many other stars of popular music staged the “Live 8” concert series, recalling their “Live Aid” concert to help relieve the Ethiopian famine twenty years earlier, but this time with the aim of raising awareness and giving voice to people, rather than asking for their money. Ten rock and pop concerts were held around the world on 1 July, attracting huge audiences; for example, the concert in London’s Hyde Park was attended by 200,000 fans, and 20,000 attended in Moscow. The final, 11th concert took place in Edinburgh on 6 July on the eve of the summit. The reported total number of those watching the concerts on television the world over ranged from 3 billion. The majority of people at the concerts were probably there for the free music, but they were now exposed to major global issues before the G8 – issues they would not likely have heard or cared about before. Dignitaries, including Kofi Annan and Nelson Mandela, used the occasion of the Live 8 concerts to add their voices to the mass appeal for greater debt relief, more and better aid, and fairer trade. Mandela appealed to G8 leaders for action, not words.


The role of celebrities

At Gleneagles, Geldof and Bono were very much in evidence at the Live 8 concerts, many public events, the Gleneagles Media Centre and the Gleneagles Hotel itself. At their press conference on 6 July held at the Media Centre, with the participation of Kenyan environmentalist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai, British screenwriter Richard Curtis and a few others. Bono and Geldof talked about their conversations with Blair, Bush, Martin, Schroeder, Chirac and Putin. At the end of the summit, immediately following Blair’s final press conference, Bono, Geldof, and fellow celebrities held their own press conference in the same briefing room as the host leader.

Other kinds of celebrities also approached summit officials. Several religious leaders, led by the Dalai Lama who, along with representatives of the Russian Orthodox church, the World Council of Churches, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Latin American Council of Churches and the Interreligious Council of Mexico, signed a “joint declaration on climate change and the defense of life.” The declaration was given to a UK summit representative on 5 July. Pope Benedict XVI added his voice to those supporting the Live 8 ideals.


The Make Poverty History (MPH) March

This large and almost entirely peaceful demonstration took place in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, on 2 July, with 225,000 people on the streets. Various NGO groups and coalitions participated, led by MPH, Dissent (an anti-G8 “network of resistance”), G8 Alternatives and other groups. MPH itself is under the overall umbrella of the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP). MPH marchers and their supporters around the world wore white wristbands calling for ending poverty.


The G8 Alternatives Summit

This parallel summit in Edinburgh began with an opening rally on 1 July, but staged its main events as an all-day programme on 3 July consisting of 8 plenary sessions plus 60-odd workshops and seminars. Its stated objective was to do ideological battle with the G8, rather than co-operating with it. 5000 tickets were sold to this event. Two of the counter-summit’s principal themes mirrored those of the G8 summit itself: Africa and climate change. The counter-summit followed the “altremondiste” tradition, and many of the presenters were socialists and communists from Scotland, England, Italy, the US, France, Africa and Asia. The themes of the plenaries were: "Resisting imperialism, resisting war"; “Fighting corporate globalization and privatization”; “Racism, asylum and immigration”; “Africa: can Blair and Bush deliver?”; “How do we get climate justice”, “Militarism and nuclearism”; “Aid, trade and debt”; “The attack on civil liberties and the war on terror”. The counter-summit ended with a rousing closing rally with the theme “Visions of a better world”.

Throughout, this counter-summit was highly critical of the G8. On debt, speakers accused G8 governments of impoverishing Africa in the first place, and they advocated African repudiation of debt rather than asking the G8 for a write-off of some debt owed by a few developing countries. On African economic growth, speakers asserted that earlier healthy economies had been ruined by neoliberal trade policies and privatization forced on the continent by the West. The highly successful Live 8 concerts and its main organizers did not fare much better: one speaker accused Bono and Geldof of having danced with the devil and slept with the enemy. Some speakers lamented the fact that G8 governments had congratulated the MPH demonstrators, drawing MPH a little too close to the powers-that-be.

Compared with the Live 8 concerts and the MPH march, the G8 Alternatives Summit received relatively little coverage in the mainstream media. This despite the participation of such stars of the anti-globalization movement as Susan George of ATTAC, Walden Bello of Focus on the Global South, activist Bianca Jagger, and firebrand British Respect Party MP George Galloway.


Other Events, Fora and Demonstrations

Two related fora involved children and young people. Just before the Gleneagles summit, the J8 (a secondary-school global-citizenship initiative across the UK), held a three-day forum in Edinburgh with some 100 young people from G8 countries participating. They discussed African trade and poverty, and climate change; their communiqué (available at ), was presented to Tony Blair on the first day of the G8 summit. There was also a “C8 children’s forum” supported by UNICEF, which met at Dunblane with 17 delegates aged between 11 and 18 from several (including some very poor) countries. The meeting made recommendations on poverty, education, violence against children, governance, HIV/AIDS, child labour, the environment, health and nutrition. Child delegates to the forum appeared at the final Live 8 concert in Edinburgh, and the C8’s recommendations were passed on to Tony Blair.

A less benign event took place in Edinburgh on 4 July when unauthorized protests by anarchists ranging from peaceful groups to the Black Bloc disrupted the centre of the city. The mixed group included a "Rebel Clown Army" staging a “Carnival for Full Enjoyment”, and various anarchists including the more violent kind that confronted police, resulting in a number of injuries and 70 to 100 arrests. Closer to the Gleneagles summit site, on 6 July, at Stirling and Auchterarder, groups of anarchists caused massive delays by blocking roads leading to Gleneagles and disrupting train service. There were some violent clashes with police, perpetrated mostly by the Black Bloc, particularly in Auchterarder where several hundred anarchists split off from a larger march of peaceful intentions. A few protesters managed to breach a steel fence around the Gleneagles complex; police brought in reinforcements and repaired the damage. A peaceful demonstration did take place later in the afternoon; the marchers were allowed to approach as close as 15 feet from the fence.


Civil Society Reaction to the Gleneagles Summit

A glance at the titles or headlines of end-of-summit press releases of a sample of NGOs and other civil society coalitions and organizations indicates their clearly critical tone: “Justice for Africa Postponed: The Campaign Continues” (ActionAid); “G8 Summit Agrees More Talk, No Action” [on Climate Change] (Friends of the Earth International); “The People Have Roared But the G8 Has Whispered” (Global Call To Action against Poverty); “A Major Missed Opportunity To Tackle Dangerous Climate Change” (Greenpeace, 7 July 2005, based on the leaked version of the Climate Change communiqué); “Bush Prevents Better Deal on Climate at G8” (Institute for Public Policy Research, UK); “G8 Outcome on Debt Cancellation: Still No Giant Leap” (Jubilee Debt Campaign); “This Is a Step Forward by Eight Men, Not Yet a Giant Leap for Children” (Save the Children UK); “G8 Failure To Act on Climate Change Puts Millions of Lives at Risk” (Tearfund); “G8 Turn Their Backs on the World’s Poor” (War on Want); “G8 Condemn Africa To Miss Millennium Development Goals” (World Development Movement); “G8 Fails To Set Climate Action Agenda” (WWF International). Nevertheless, a closer reading reveals a more nuanced reaction, with many NGOs and CSOs noting several significant and praiseworthy achievements of the Gleneagles summit.

On the whole, civil society reaction to the Gleneagles outcome on the major issues on the agenda shows that though tending to be negative on balance, several civil society groups have acknowledged and even praised progress in certain areas. For example, the World Development Movement, in its end-of-summit press release, termed the Gleneagles communiqué “an insult to the hundreds of thousands of campaigners who listened in good faith to the world leaders’ claim that they were willing to seriously address poverty in Africa.” On debt cancellation, WDM acknowledged that the announced cancellation initiative was a step forward but termed it inadequate and looked to whether G8 countries would make good on their promises.

Another example: MPH, responding to the Gleneagles communiqué, praised the aid increase as a step forward that would save lives, but called for the G8 to do much more to improve the amount and the quality of aid. Oxfam International (OI), more positively, noted with approval that the G8’s commitment to an extra $50 billion by 2010 could save the lives of 5 million children but cautioned that “50 million children’s lives will still be lost because the G8 didn’t go as far as they should have.” But OI contrasted the $50 billion aid increase announcement with the woeful lack of rich countries’ willingness to commit to reaching the aid target of 0.7% of GNI – a step that would amount to $250 billion of aid a year by 2010. On trade, GCAP called it “desperately disappointing that the G8 leaders failed to act properly” but acknowledged that they had at least recognized that “the current global trading system is unjust, unfair and must be changed.”

On climate change, Friends of the Earth International (FOE) lamented that the small steps on debt relief and aid for Africa would be undermined by the summit’s failure to address climate change. FOE welcomed Tony Blair’s leadership in putting climate change on the agenda and working to move forward on this crucial issue, but blamed the Bush administration for its lack of progress. By contrast, it noted with approval the separate statement on the threat of climate change, issued at Gleneagles by Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa. Greenpeace, too, applauded Tony Blair’s decision to place climate change on the Gleneagles agenda but criticized the US for remaining alone in the G8 in resisting the urgent need for action. It praised the joint statement of the five major developing countries at Gleneagles on what the essential steps were – building on Kyoto and sharing sustainable energy technology with developing countries – and commented on the split between the US on one side and the rest of the G8 on the other side. Greenpeace saw the way forward through the November 2005 Montreal meeting of states parties to the Kyoto Protocol. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) International emphasized that progress on poverty alleviation in Africa was likely to be undermined by G8 inaction on climate change. Moreover, WWF was concerned at the “G8’s failure to provide financial and technical support to the world’s five major developing countries … for a low carbon development path.”

On HIV/AIDS, MPH gave credit to the Gleneagles summit’s success “by responding courageously to the scale of the AIDS emergency” and pledging treatment to everyone needing it, by 2010, but pointed out that insufficient new aid would undermine this delivery target.


Civil Society’s Impact

One indicator of civil society’s impact on the G8 is acknowledgement in collective documents as well as by the G8 chair and his peers; and the space opened up by the leaders for possibilities of civil society participation in the implementation of summit undertakings. Here are some examples of references to civil society in summit documents: (curiously, the Gleneagles Africa communiqué makes no reference to civil society or NGOs, but other documents do) the Gleneagles Plan of Action: Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainable Development encourages the Carbon … to work with broader civil society [14(a)]. The BMENA (Broader Middle East and North Africa) partnership document (Partnership for Progress and a Common Future with the Broader Middle East and North Africa Region) has several references to civil society participation in strengthening democracy and promote development in the region. And the G8 Statement on Counter-Terrorism makes clear that of the G8’s “primary tasks is to work with civil society to foster the total ejection of terrorism by people at large.” (Para. 6)

Another indicator can be found in the chair’s comments. At his final press conference at the end of the summit, Tony Blair acknowledged that not everything he and the anti-poverty campaigners had wanted of Gleneagles was achieved, but added that this was “a beginning, not an end…. All of this does not change the world tomorrow.” But he paid tribute to the positive contributions of civil society, mass demonstrations, and celebrities, congratulating MPH: “I can’t think of a campaign that has been so brilliantly organised or struck such a chord with such a large number of people worldwide.”

Sir Nicholas Bayne, former British diplomat and scholar of G8 summitry, asserted in his evaluation of Gleneagles that the two defining features of Gleneagles were the London terrorist bombings and the solidarity of the leaders spurred by those deadly attacks; and the “widespread positive involvement of civil society.” Some media accounts also credit the role of civil society in pressuring the G8 particularly on the debt forgiveness and in influencing the leaders’ commitment to double aid to African and oher poor countries.

Civil society’s continued involvement in issues that were on the Gleneagles agenda did not stop at the end of the 2005 summit. It will continue as long as glaring inequalities and injustices persist. The Gleneagles meeting was no more than one (though central) event in a series of conferences both before and after G8 summit and, in some cases, in subsequent months and perhaps years.


Modes of Civil Society Interaction with the G7/G8

What are the main forms of the civil society nexus with the G7/G8 that have evolved over the years? The first mode of interaction is consultation. Dialogue with summit country leaders and officials is an important means of exchanging useful ideas, sharing common positions, and giving both G8 governments and responsible civil society groups greater legitimacy in the political process. Dialogue implies willingness to engage, though not necessarily to agree with, G8 governments.

Second, demonstrations, advocacy, and compliance monitoring. Peaceful demonstrations are a democratic right and the governments of democratic countries should not only permit but also facilitate such demonstrations, regardless of whether or not they agree with particular groups or their objectives. Provision of the appropriate level of public security is also a government responsibility, but it should be done in a professional, non-confrontational manner. Demonstrations can involve the whole gamut of civil society, from advocacy groups that prefer engagement, to protesters that do not wish to co-operate, and to the violence-prone minority that tend to take advantage of the opportunity presented by such events and can hurt the cause of the peaceful majority of civil society groups. Advocacy and compliance monitoring has been and will remain essential roles for civil society.

Third, parallel summits or people’s summits. These, too, are a legitimate democratic activity of citizen and NGO groups, and summit host governments should support rather than hinder this activity. These events attract both co-operative and non-co-operative groups. Ideally, the summit host government should provide suitable premises at a central location, with telephone, internet, food, and other usual conference amenities. Constructive proposals offered by such parallel summits can then be transmitted to the G8 heads for consideration. A related point is the provision of working space to civil society groups. During some past summits (for example in Genoa in 2001), civil-society groups have arranged for premises where they could meet, discuss, prepare documents and interact with journalists and government officials. In one case (Okinawa 2000) the host government actually provided such an NGO centre.

Finally, civil society partnership in G7/G8-initiated multi-stakeholder groups or task forces. Multi-stakeholder groups, including appropriate NGOs, are good examples of mutually useful partnerships. As with dialogue, partnership implies willingness to co-operate, though not necessarily agree, with G8 governments and private-sector stakeholders. Both the G8 and civil society groups need a multi-stakeholder approach, productively involving governments, the private sector and civil society in the provision of public goods. Perhaps the best example of such partnership was the DOT Force (Digital Opportunities Task Force), active between 2000 and 2002. The “Broader Middle East” initiative, originated by the Sea Island summit, included a declaration on “Partnership for Progress and a Common Future with the Region of the Broader Middle East and North Africa” committed G8 governments to a multi-stakeholder partnership in various programmes such as the “Forum for the Future”. Following the 2005 Gleneagles summit, multi-stakeholder partnerships should flow logically from the constellation of NEPAD/G8 Africa Action Plan/ Commission for Africa report. But this depends on the willingness of governments and others to implement summit undertakings.



Conclusion

Stronger participation than before of others outside the G8 members was a striking feature of Gleneagles. The series of Live 8 concerts, the MPH march, and fruitful dialogue between the leaders and civil society were at an unprecedented high level, and generated greater-than-ever global public awareness of the G8’s work, role and influence. The leaders acknowledged the impact of civil society and broader citizenry around the world on the work and continuing objectives of this summit. The role of celebrities (more in the case of rock music stars than for religious leaders) was striking. On the negative side, the “uncivil society” of disruptive anarchists and, on the far end of the spectrum, terrorists marred the proceedings but their actions were perhaps a backhanded acknowledgement of the G8’s importance on the part of such extremist groups.

What are the prospects for the Petersburg summit in 2006? The main agenda items are energy security, health/infectious diseases, and education health. In all three of these areas, civil society has much to offer for the consideration of summit leaders and their teams; for example, environmental concerns in energy exploration and use; and the economic, health and educational well-being of people.

It is hoped that the new Russian legislation on NGOs would not affect adversely the functioning of indigenous Russian NGOs as long as they work within Russian rules and legislation. In the process of dialogue with civil society, it will be important for the Russian government to allow civil-society groups to choose their own representatives, to be receptive to listening to civil-society concerns and proposals and, at the same time, to be willing to convey to the dialogue partners the views and positions of the host government and, as the case may be, of other G8 countries.

It is encouraging that President Putin has established a Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights, chaired by Ella Pamfilova who announced at a 2005 year-end press conference that major Russian NGOs had initiated the formation of a “Civil G8 2006” “to support the Russian leadership’s expressed willingness to co-operate with Russian and international civil society organisations during its G8 presidency.” In February 2006 the Civil G8 set up an Advisory Council of Russian and international experts to guide its programme and process.

The Civil G8 plans to prepare reports on NGO positions on topics of the G8’s St Petersburg agenda; organize and conduct national and international discussions, in order to set civil-society priorities and approaches vis-à-vis the official 2006 G8; evaluate projects, ideas and recommendations of social significance for the G8; and develop ideas and recommendations for subsequent G8 summits. This will be done through a series of expert meetings, NGO forums and other conferences, consultations with sherpas, and other means.

In the context of the broader G8 system, there will be meetings of energy, environment, education, health and other ministers between January 2006 and the time of the St. Petersburg summit. These can provide useful additional venues for productive interaction, including dialogue, with civil society.

Expert opinion

Halter Marek

02.12.06

Halter Marek
Le College de France
Olivier Giscard d’Estaing

02.12.06

Olivier Giscard d’Estaing
COPAM, France
Mika Ohbayashi

02.12.06

Mika Ohbayashi
Institute for Sustainable Energy Poliñy
Bill Pace

02.12.06

Bill Pace
World Federalist Movement - Institute for Global Policy
Peter I. Hajnal

01.12.06

Peter I. Hajnal
Toronto University, G8 Research Group