Peter I. Hajnal. Civil Society’s Growing Role Vis-À-Vis The G7/G8
Presented at the G05 Global Democracy: Civil Society Visions and Strategies Conference, Montreal, 31 May 2005
Peter I. Hajnal, University of Toronto
NO COPYING WITHOUT AUTHOR'S CONSENT
The G7 had its first summit meeting in 1975 in Rambouillet, near Paris, to deal with urgent issues affecting the economies of these highly industrialized, democratic countries. These countries are France, the US, Britain, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada. Russia joined as a full member in 1998. The G7/G8 has always been an institution or forum of government leaders of these countries. But non-state actors – civil society as well as the business sector – have sought FROM `en_en_en_the` early years of the G7 to make their concerns and voices heard by the leaders and their ministers and other officials. This presentation focuses on the place of civil society in this process, highlighting both sides of the equation: civil society and the G8 itself. Civil society will be taken here to mean the non-governmental, non-profit sector.
The G7/G8 is a relatively informal, flexible and non-bureaucratic institution that lacks the two main characteristics of more structured international governmental organizations (IGOs): a constitutive intergovernmental agreement, and a secretariat. Therefore, civil society-G7/G8 relations, must also be more or less informal in nature, compared with the long-established, well-defined NGO relations with more structured international organizations such as the United Nations and other formally-constituted international organizations.
G7/G8 Interaction with Civil Society: A Brief History in Four Acts
Phase 1 (1975-1980): Civil Society and the G7 More or Less Ignore Each Other
In the early years of summitry, interaction between civil society and the G7 was rather limited. Some academic civil society organizations (CSO)s, such as the Trilateral Commission, started discussing the summit as early as 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. At least some G7 governments, therefore, were already aware of civil society concerns but there was little publicity or apparent impact on G7 leaders and their support apparatus. Similarly, on the other side, the power and importance of the G7 as a discrete entity does not appear to have been widely recognized during this phase by most NGOs and broader civil society.
Phase 2 (1981-1994): Civil Society Recognizes the G7
As the summit agenda expanded to embrace many issues beyond the early focus on macroeconomic policy co-ordination, civil society began to see the G7 as a legitimate target both for lobbying and for opposing. Many of these new G7 issues have been crucial to a wide variety of NGOs and civil-society coalitions; for example, the environment, education and health. Moreover, it was becoming common public knowledge that the G7 was indeed a powerful group that had evolved into a major global institution.
In addition to pre-summit lobbying of individual G7 governments by business, labour and agricultural representatives, initial civil-society reaction to the G7 also took the form of alternative or parallel summits which, for some years were generally known as “The Other Economic Summit” (TOES), and sometimes “people’s summit” or “citizens’ summit”. The first alternative summit, called the ‘Popular Summit’, met in Ottawa on 18-19 July 1981 and was well attended. It called for disarmament, criticized the conservative economic policies of Western countries, and supported revolutionary struggle in El Salvador and Namibia. The first TOES proper was organized by the London-based TOES/UK — later called New Economics Foundation — and took place simultaneously with the 1984 London G7 Summit. In 1985, 1986 and 1987 TOES sent delegations to the G7 summits, and starting with 1988, TOES met in an event parallel with the summit. Its presence then declined in favour of more focused, issue-oriented civil-society approaches to the G7 and later to the G8. Each year’s TOES met in the G7/G8 summit city and consisted of a civil-society coalition with varying membership. These counter-summits ran workshops and demonstrations, and produced press releases and often a counter-communiqué critical of the official G7/G8 communiqué. International TOES seem to have virtually disappeared for a while, but at least one national TOES, TOES/USA, reappeared at the time of the 2004 Sea Island Summit. A much stronger people’s summit emerged in later years.
In many instances, civil society took issue-specific approaches. For example, the environmental movement lobbied the G7 as early as 1988. In 1990 at Houston a coalition of NGOs led by the World Wildlife Fund issued a report card on compliance with G8 environmental commitments, and in 1991 an “Enviro-summit” met in London near the official G7 summit site.
Phase 3 (1995-1997): The G7/G8 Recognizes Civil Society
The G7 itself was slower to acknowledge civil society formally. The first time the terms “civil society” and “NGO” were used in official G7 documents was at the time of the 1995 Halifax Summit. The Halifax communiqué refers to NGOs and civil society in the context of promoting sustainable development and the reform of international financial institutions, adding that the UN and the Bretton Woods institutions should “encourage countries to follow participatory development strategies and support governmental reforms that assure transparency and public accountability, a stable rule of law, and an active civil society”. In the same document, the G7 undertakes to “work with others to encourage ... improved coordination among international organizations, bilateral donors and NGOs” (Sections 26, 37). Subsequent summits spoke out even more strongly about the positive role of civil society.
Other levels of the G7/G8 system also embraced the civil society connection. When G7 environment ministers met in Cabourg, France in May 1996 before that year’s Lyon Summit, one of their main themes was the mobilization of civil society. Later, additional ministerial fora (the G8 environment ministers, the Trade Ministers Quadrilateral, and others), as well as various G7/G8 task forces and expert groups, have expressed their willingness to engage civil society along with other stakeholders. Thus, during this phase, the G7/G8 system recognized the growing importance of civil society, and supported the developing relationship with it.
Phase 4 (1998-present): Civil Society Grows Stronger and More Sophisticated
During this phase, which was marked by Russia’s full membership in the G8 FROM `en_en_en_the` 1998 Birmingham Summit onward, civil society, in its relations with the G8, became more powerful and sophisticated in its methods but also began to attract fringe groups with anarchistic tendencies. The Birmingham Summit was a milestone in G7/G8 interaction with civil society. There 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 for poor countries. In a precedent-setting G8 reaction, the host leader, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, on behalf of the G8, responded to the petition in a separate summit document. Additionally, Blair paid tribute to the Jubilee 2000 for conducting a dignified campaign and demonstrations in the city of Birmingham, and for making a persuasive case for debt relief. Jubilee and its successor organizations have been supported by world-renowned celebrities ranging FROM `en_en_en_the` Irish rock music star Bono to Pope John Paul II, the Dalai Lama and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Jubilee’s skilful tactics and strategies helped put debt relief firmly on the international negotiating table.
The trend of largely peaceful demonstrations continued before and during the 1999 Cologne and 2000 Okinawa summits. But demonstrations and street theatre are just one aspect of civil society action, although they tend to garner the most media attention. Year-round lobbying and advocacy, as well as preparing and disseminating policy papers, are among other facets of work by NGOs and other CSOs. In the course of such activities, NGOs often consult governments, international organizations, academic experts, businesses and other stakeholders. In many cases, this type of action has enabled civil society to make a real impact on official policy.
The 2001 Genoa Summit marked an ominous turn of events. Although the vast majority of demonstrators were peaceful, extreme anarchists got into the play and introduced violence which, in turn, provoked violent police reactions, resulting in a number of injuries and the death of one Italian demonstrator. Ever since then, the peaceful majority of demonstrators have gone to great lengths to distance themselves FROM `en_en_en_the` violent few who only hurt the cause of mainstream civil society.
The Aftermath of 9/11
Only a few months after the Genoa Summit came the 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 tactics of civil society and other protester groups. In any case, G7/G8 leaders for a number of years had already expressed their wish to stage smaller, more intimate and more focused meetings, with fewer officials in attendance and perhaps fewer media personnel around. The internal summit reform had begun at the 1998 Birmingham Summit when leaders first met without their foreign and finance ministers. This practice has continued ever since. And, in the post-9/11 era, security for the leaders became paramount for summit host countries. So, G8 summits since Kananaskis 2002 have met at remote places (although there are early precedents of summits held far FROM `en_en_en_urban` centres: the very first summit in the Château de Rambouillet outside Paris in 1975 and the first Canadian-hosted summit at Montebello, well away FROM `en_en_Ottawa`, in 1981). This has had the advantage of easier security for the G8 leaders but also the disadvantage of the leaders meeting far FROM `en_en_en_the` media, the public, and civil society.
In the lead-up to the Kananaskis Summit, the Canadian host government provided several important initiatives to contact or otherwise cooperate with civil society. Here are three examples:
• First, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade held hearings that allowed ample CSO representation and produced a report that included 20 recommendations on assistance to poor countries, financial reform, debt relief, human rights, African issues, aid, health and education, international trade and investment, sustainable development, terrorism, accountability, and G8 reform. Recommendation 14, in particular, called for a true partnership with civil society in the G8 Africa Action Plan.
• Second, also before the Kananaskis Summit, Canadian sherpa Robert Fowler organized a series of useful consultation meetings across Canada with strong civil society representation.
• Third, the government launched a special website dedicated to the Summit (www.g8.gc.ca), and provided generous funding for the G6B (“Group of 6 Billion”) People’s Summit, held at the University of Calgary.
A high-level dialogue under the aegis of the Forum international de Montréal (FIM) took place in May 2002 in Montreal and Ottawa, bringing together civil society representatives FROM `en_en_Brazil`, Canada, Colombia, France, The Netherlands, the Philippines, Senegal, UK, Uruguay, US and Zimbabwe with representatives of the governments of Canada, France, Japan and the UK. The topics discussed were the global democratic deficit and civil society engagement; the NEPAD consultative process, and future G8-civil society dialogue building on multi-stakeholder experiences. Civil society dialogue with governments other than the host country government proved more difficult but there were successful efforts by some large international NGOs, such as Oxfam and Greenpeace, to establish pre-Kananaskis dialogue with other G8 governments.
FIM has continued this successful dialogue process with the relevant host-country and other G8-country officials prior to the 2003 Evian and 2005 Gleneagles summits. 2004 at Sea Island, hosted by the United States, was an exception, with no willingness on the part of the host government to accommodate civil society.
But it is useful to recall this: the record of civil society activism shows that while government initiatives may be important, civil society does not take its cues FROM `en_en_en_government` but develops strategies on its own terms. There were numerous NGO meetings in preparation for Kananaskis. Online activism was evident, illustrated by several websites, such as those of G8 Activism (http://g8.activist.ca; no longer an active site) and Partnership Africa Canada (http://partnershipafricacanada.org). Established websites of major international NGOs and coalitions also picked up coverage of G8-related campaigns and other activities.
Pre-Kananaskis street demonstrations were largely peaceful, with an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 demonstrators in Calgary and a much smaller number near Kananaskis itself. The pre-summit meeting of G8 foreign ministers in Whistler, British Columbia, had also passed without incident. My colleague at the University of Toronto, Professor John Kirton, has cited the following reasons why Kananaskis was a peaceful Summit: the remote and isolated location, the small number of protesters, the professionalism and non-threatening tactics of Canadian security forces deployed at Kananaskis and Calgary, and the Canadian political culture that tends to eschew anarchism and extremism. I would add another, equally important factor: civil society’s own efforts to distance itself FROM `en_en_en_violent`, disruptive elements and to monitor demonstrations to make sure that they remained peaceful. Furthermore, the three main agenda items of the Kananaskis Summit (Africa, the economy, and terrorism) lent themselves to meaningful civil society participation.
Many civil society organizations were represented in Calgary by North American (Canadian and US) affiliates rather than members FROM `en_en_en_international` headquarters. This can be attributed to various causes but the cautious approach of Canadian immigration and police authorities after September 11 was one major factor. Amnesty International (AI) expressed its disappointment at the refusal of Canadian authorities to grant accreditation to its observer of the policing at the G8 summit; AI was nonetheless ably represented in Calgary by Amnesty Canada.
For the first time in G7/G8 summit history, Kananaskis produced no communiqué but only a brief, informal Chair’s Summary. This was a result of long-standing aversion by some G8 leaders to lengthy, pre-scripted communiqués that only imperfectly reflected what the leaders had actually talked about. The Kananaskis Chair’s Summary made no direct mention of NGOs or civil society, but the G8’s Africa Action Plan included several explicit references to civil society, while other parts of the Plan implied civil society involvement. The G8 leaders “encourage South-South cooperation and collaboration with international institutions and civil society, including the business sector, in support of the NEPAD” (para. 10). Under the heading “Promoting Peace and Security”, the leaders commit to “[w]orking with African governments, civil society and others to address the linkage between armed conflict and the exploitation of natural resources” (point 1.5); and under “Strengthening Institutions and Governance” the leaders record a further commitment to support “African efforts to involve parliamentarians and civil society in all aspects of the NEPAD process” (point 2.1).
The Kananaskis document A New Focus on Education for All incorporates the report of the G8 Education Task Force, and recognizes that all stakeholders, including local communities, private providers and NGOs should be “seriously engaged in the development and implementation of education plans”. In another example of the recognition of civil society’s role on the ministerial level, the Chair’s Summary of the post-Kananaskis G8 Development Ministers’ Meeting points to the need for greater engagement of civil society in development strategies, especially concerning the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) for developing countries.
The G6B People’s Summit in Calgary was a success for the civil society movement: 1,400 people attended, and there were excellent presentations given to full audiences. But the only connection with the official G8 Summit happened during the open session on the final day of the G6B, with then Foreign Minister Bill Graham and International Co-operation Minister Susan Whelan present. Minister Graham accepted the G6B’s recommendations and later transmitted them to the Summit host, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. By the way, it was interesting that the proceedings of G6B influenced the news media quite a bit, due to the fact that the G8 leaders did not make themselves accessible to the press.
Leading up to the Evian Summit he hosted, French President Jacques Chirac gave a prominent place on the Summit agenda to dialogue with civil society by making it one of the Summit’s four major themes: democracy, through ongoing dialogue with civil society and with other States. (The other themes were: solidarity, with particular emphasis on the Partnership for Africa’s development, and access to water for all; the spirit of responsibility that not only Governments, but all economic actors, especially business corporations, need to display in the financial, social, environmental and ethical spheres; and security, in order to strengthen the fight against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.)
President Chirac held a series of meetings at the Elysée Palace with CSOs, including some groups critical of the G8. In his desire to head off the kind of violent protests seen at Genoa, he initiated meetings prior to the summit with groups such as trade unions and environmentalists. French authorities have provided facilities near Evian for the 2003 counter summit.
In their efforts to step up security to protect the G8 leaders, French and Swiss authorities created a 15 kilometre exclusion zone around the summit site in order. Various types of demonstrations took place in connection with the Evian Summit. At one point some 50,000 demonstrators blocked traffic on bridges and highways around Geneva, and on both the Swiss and French sides of the border, but were unable to prevent the arrival of G8 leaders or delegations at the Summit site. Demonstrators also staged a peaceful march FROM `en_en_Annemasse`, France and another FROM `en_en_Geneva`. The two demonstrations met on the Swiss side of the border and continued to march together into France. Although the majority were peaceful, there was some violence in Geneva and Lausanne, with smashing of windows and looting of stores. There were the inevitable clashes between some radical groups and moderate, peaceful demonstrators. The large demonstrations were generally peaceful but, once again, the media paid much attention to the violence.
Almost all meetings during the Evian Summit acknowledged civil society. For example, the topics of the general opening meeting with the participation of the ‘enlarged dialogue’ partners (the G8 leaders plus leaders of the 12 invited countries, the UN and several other international institutions), included civil society involvement, peace and security, environment and sustainable development. The afternoon meeting in the first day of the Summit, of the G8 leaders and the UN Secretary-General, focused on NEPAD, received the report of the African Personal Representatives (APRs) to the leaders, and took stock of the G8 Africa Action Plan including aspects of official development assistance (ODA), agriculture, security, and water – all of serious concern for civil society. The morning meeting of the second day, restricted to the G8 leaders, discussed the state of the international economy, trade issues, corporate responsibility, debt relief, social rights, the environment, and prevention and responses to financial crises – several of these issues are of interest to civil society as well. The lunch meeting of G8 leaders dealt with political issues including terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and other weapons, as well as regional issues, notably the Middle East peace process, the aftermath of the Iraq war, and North Korea. Their afternoon meeting discussed debt, African development, development assistance, water and sanitation issues, the environment, and so forth. Finally, the leaders’ closing session of the Summit on the morning of 3 June was a working meeting to finalize the statement and communiqués.
The counter-summit, the Sommet pour un autre monde (Summit for Another World), was held in Annemasse, France, 29-31 May 2003, with about 4,500 participants. It was based on the premise that although the individual heads of state or government of G8 countries are legitimate actors in their own countries and have the right to meet, the G8 summit has no place in a democratic “global governance”; rather it is the UN that should be strengthened and reformed, so that it can play a real part in maintaining peace, enhancing development, promoting individual and collective rights and protecting environmental equilibrium. The counter-summit held a number of round table discussions FROM `en_en_en_a` civil society perspective, dealing with issues many of which were also dealt with by the G8 Summit: NEPAD, corporate social and environmental responsibility, global taxes for financing development, local and global effects of globalization, rules for a global environmental governance, debt, trade and development, arms transfers and human rights, AIDS, anti terrorism and human rights, and water. The counter-summit ended with a “debt and reparation tribunal,” a concert on the theme “for another world, drop the debt,” and a communiqué entitled “un G8 pour rien! [a G8 for nothing!]” This communiqué passed a negative verdict on the Evian Summit. While acknowledging that the G8 leaders recognized the growing gap between rich and poor as well as the deterioration of social conditions and the environment, and the increasing number of armed conflicts, the alternative summit argued that the neoliberal, trade-centred policies of the G8 countries were actually the cause of these global disorders. On debt, the alternative summit criticized the extent of actual debt relief and demanded immediate debt cancellation for the poor countries and debt relief for medium-income developing countries. On corruption, the counter-summit, while acknowledging the importance the G8 countries were placing on this issue, called upon them to do something about fiscal havens instead of just concentrating on the responsibilities of the South. The counter-summit was the single most important focal point of civil society mobilization around the Evian Summit, but the fact that Annemasse was so distant FROM `en_en_en_the` G8 Summit itself, and the tight control by French authorities, meant that media had little or no access to transport to get to the alternative venues.
Yet another parallel event, “the poor people’s summit,” was organized by the Mali chapter of Jubilee 2000 and took place in the village of Siby in that country. The 400 attendees included members of NGOs, farmers, herders, women’s groups, teachers and students FROM `en_en_en_six` African and four non-African countries. One participant, Mohamed Thiam, a representative of Transparency International in Mali, had this message for the G8 leaders attending the Evian Summit: “You leaders of G8, you have many riches, we have nothing. I think you can help us, not by giving money, but by being honest and equal”. He added that “debt, unfair trade and good governance [were] themes in Siby just as ... in France, and that “the leaders of the world have to hear the voice of African civil society.” This counter-summit issued a declaration entitled “Appel du Forum des Peuples: Consensus des peuples face au consensus du g8 [Appeal of the Peoples’ Forum: Peoples’ Consensus versus G8 Consensus], Siby 2003.”
Sea Island 2004
The Sea Island Summit broke with a long tradition in G8-civil society relations. The US host government did not engage with civil society organizations, provided no facilities for CSOs in Savannah (the locus of the media centre, some 80 kilometres of Sea Island itself) or elsewhere and did not permit even major, widely-respected NGOs to distribute their literature in the media centre. Even those NGOs whose representatives are usually and legitimately accredited to summits as journalists were unable to do so. However, some CSOs managed to communicate their views and literature through the good offices of friendly journalists. As well, Oxfam and DATA held a press conference outside of the media centre, and Greenpeace and other NGOs linked up with local grassroots organizations in Savannah. Other NGOs submitted articles to Georgia newspapers. So, the ability of CSOs to get their message out may have been hindered but could not be suppressed. Particularly important, there was a strong and very capable African civil society presence in the US before and during the Sea Island Summit.
The very tight security in Sea Island as well as in Brunswick and Savannah turned out not to be needed against demonstrators, of whom there were very few in the streets. Demonstrators and participants at the parallel summit were vastly outnumbered by security personnel – a disproportionate presence. On the first day of the Summit, a peaceful protest march was organized by the International Festival for Peace and Civil Liberties to oppose the Iraq war and the US Patriot Act. Turnout was estimated from 100 to 500. Among the reasons for the very low participation was a new Georgia law, initiated by Governor Sonny Perdue, which enabled the halting of protest at the discretion of the police or the National Guard. There was concern that the pre-emptive state of emergency, requiring a permit issued by the state for any assembly of more than six people in the streets of Georgia, was curtailing civil liberties.
The TOES counter-summit in Brunswick, organized by TOES-USA, was similarly disappointing. Conference venues and accommodations were placed off limits by the authorities “for security reasons”. Finally, five days before the conference Governor Perdue gave permission for access to a venue, at Coastal Georgia Community College in poor and badly-polluted Brunswick. The result was that despite a good intellectual lineup of speakers, the audience at the conference numbered no more than 75 for each of the 24 sessions held over three days. One forceful speaker at the TOES meeting was Barbara Kalema who outlined achievements by Africans, such as the peer review mechanism for NEPAD and greater regional integration, but criticized the G8 for failing to take real steps toward market access for Africa and for the decline of development assistance.
Modes of Civil Society Action vis-à-vis the G7/G8
This brief survey of the history of civil society-G7/G8 interaction shows that civil society actions have been of four main types:
• dialogue with summit country leaders and officials;
• demonstrations, advocacy, and compliance monitoring;
• parallel summits; and
• actual partnership.
In all these, civil society groups have used information and communication technology, an inexpensive and powerful tool, purposefully and efficiently. In addition, civil society has developed and employed a high level of expertise in using the mass media to disseminate its message and exert its influence, just as governments have used the media for their own purposes.
Here are a few comments on each of these forms of civil society action:
• Dialogue is an important means not only of exchanging useful ideas and sharing common positions, but also of giving both G8 governments and responsible civil society groups greater legitimacy in the political process. Dialogue implies willingness on the part of civil society groups to cooperate, though not necessarily to agree, with G8 governments.
• Demonstrations. Peaceful demonstrations are a democratic right and the governments of countries that call themselves democratic should not only permit but also facilitate such demonstrations, regardless of whether or not a host government agrees with particular groups or their objectives. Of course, providing the necessary level of public security is also a government responsibility, but it should be done in a professional, non-confrontational and sensitive manner. Demonstrations can involve a whole range of civil society, FROM `en_en_en_advocacy` groups that prefer cooperation to protesters who do not wish to cooperate, and, on the other end of the spectrum, 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.
• Parallel summits (people’s summits), 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 groups that wish to cooperate as well as those that do not. Ideally, the summit host government should provide premises (a meeting room of sufficient size) at a central location, with telephone, internet, food, and other usual conference facilities. Constructive proposals of these parallel summits can then usefully transmitted to the G8 heads for consideration. A related point is providing working space for civil society groups. During some past summits, these groups arranged for premises where they could meet, discuss, prepare documents and interact with journalists and government officials. In one case (Okinawa 2000) the Japanese government actually provided such an NGO centre.
• Multistakeholder groups, including appropriate NGOs, are good examples of mutually useful partnerships. As with dialogue, partnerships imply willingness to cooperate, though not necessarily agree, with G8 governments and private-sector stakeholders. The DOT Force (Digital Opportunities Task Force) was perhaps the best example of a successful multi-stakeholder partnership connected with the G8. It was active between 2000 and 2002. Interestingly, the “Broader Middle East” initiative, the centrepiece of the US agenda for the Sea Island Summit, acknowledges civil society a number of times. The declaration on “Partnership for Progress and a Common Future with the Region of the Broader Middle East and North Africa” welcomes reform declarations FROM `en_en_en_the` region’s civil society and commits G8 governments to a multi-stakeholder partnership in various programmes including the proposed “Forum for the Future”. The “G8 Plan of Support for Reform” in the area calls for multi-stakeholder approaches including, among other suggestions, civil society to civil society dialogue and civil society participation in the “Forum for the Future” and the also-proposed “Democracy Assistance Dialogue”. Let us hope that a real multi-stakeholder partnership on Africa emerges FROM `en_en_en_the` Gleneagles Summit. I would make a general observation about this: public goods, including successful summits that enjoy public support, cannot be achieved solely by the G8 governments. The G8 needs a multi-stakeholder approach, productively involving governments, the private sector and civil society.
Prospects for Gleneagles and Beyond
The British hosts, in preparing for the Gleneagles Summit, have already started the process of dialogue with civil society and seem open to further productive interaction. The two central themes of Gleneagles – Africa and climate change – both are of great concern to civil society and there are a number of NGOs that wish to convey their views and have the expertise and skill to do so. African NGOs themselves 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. The British take Africa very seriously, as evidenced by their Africa Commission Report of 11 March 2005. The report has taken an integrated approach to the multitude of African issues, and has been communicated to G8 governments as well as NGOs and the private sector. The precise nature of the relationship of this report to the NEPAD project and the G8 Africa Initiative launched at Kananaskis is not entirely clear, though indications are that the Africa Commission’s findings are consistent with the G8 Africa Initiative and is intended to reinforce, not rival, NEPAD. Our colleague FROM `en_en_FEMNET` in Nairobi, Muthoni Wanyeki, helped to clarify this relationship. She characterized NEPAD as, in a sense, an exchange between Africa and the rich developed world – “this is what Africa can do and these are the developed world’s responsibilities”; the Africa Initiative was the G8’s response to NEPAD; and the Africa Commission’s report is not only a good document but also a means to leverage NEPAD at the Gleneagles Summit and beyond.
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 `en_en_en_peaceful` and fruitful exchanges to more confrontational ones.
So, with Gleneagles, the usual pattern of G8-civil society interaction has already resumed, after the anomaly of the US-hosted Sea Island Summit of 2004. The continuing dialogue initiative of FIM, resumed after the hiatus of 2004: led by FIM and Chatham House (RIIA), with a few other groups, there was a very useful and productive session in London on March 23, 2005, just before the second sherpa meeting in preparation for the Gleneagles Summit which will take place from 6 to 8 July of this year.
At this meeting, called the 2005 G8 Stakeholder Consultation, 18 civil society representatives met with five sherpas and four sherpa assistants for G8 members that did not send their sherpas to the consultation session. This consultation was the first such meeting in which all G8 governments were represented, showing an increasing realization of the benefits of the dialogue process. Civil society representation included participants FROM `en_en_Africa`, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and North America, bringing together expertise on Africa and climate change. Trade unions and youth groups were not present; neither were representatives of the business sector. Discussion topics included: debt relief (civil society representatives called for a commitment by G8 countries for 100% debt relief for African countries); meeting the aid target of 0.7% (some G8 countries have met this target, others have not committed to it or have opted for different aid formulas); trade (where civil society representatives wished to link any agreement at Gleneagles with the Doha Development Round of the WTO, including adequate provisions for agriculture); governance; and climate change (where the underlying science needs to be agreed on, targets for action need to be set, and climate change should be linked to Africa at Gleneagles). A number of specific recommendations were given to the sherpas. The meeting with the sherpas was preceded by two days of preparatory meetings. Further consultations have been foreseen to follow up after Gleneagles and, in future, extend the dialogue process to the Russian-hosted summit of 2006 and the German-hosted summit in 2007. (The “Summary Note” of this consultation is available at . Chatham House plans to issue the final report, 2005 G8 Stakeholder Consultation – Process, Perspectives and Recommendations, in 2006.)
Various demonstrations and other events are being planned before and during the Gleneagles Summit. A large demonstration, with possibly as many as 200,000 participants is planned to take place in Edinburgh on 2 July. Various NGO groups and coalitions are expected to participate, including Make Poverty History (a coalition of some “400 charities, campaigns, trade unions, faith groups and celebrities who are united by a common belief that 2005 offers an unprecedented opportunity for global change”), Dissent (an anti-G8 “network of resistance”), G8 Alternatives and other groups. As a high-profile initiative, Bob Geldof, Bono and other prominent musicians have launched “Live 8” concert series, recalling their “Live Aid” concert to help relieve the Ethiopian famine twenty years earlier. It is likely that these events will be largely peaceful, but this does not mean that there will be no confrontation; Dissent (www.dissent.org.uk) has already announced that it is planning “a public day of blockades on July 6th which aims to isolate the G8.” Dissent is also planning “a day of action on July 8th against the real causes of climate change.” (http://www.dissent.org.uk/component/option,com_frontpage/Itemid,1). Yet another planned event (and this has the potential of confrontation) is the Faslane Nuclear Base Blockade on 4 July, in an attempt to block the gates of the base and close it down for the day. This is being organized by Trident Ploughshares, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and the Scottish CND, in collaboration with G8 Alternatives.
A parallel summit is also planned. This will be the G8 Alternatives Summit, and it is scheduled on Sunday the 3rd of July in Edinburgh “to present a serious ideological challenge to the corrupt policies and ideology of the G8.” It will feature eight plenary sessions and some 36 workshops and seminars. The plenary sessions will discuss war and imperialism; the attack on civil liberties; Africa; climate change; asylum and immigration; nuclear issues; corporate globalisation and privatisation; and aid, trade and debt. Speakers will include author Mark Curtis, Susan George of ATTAC France, the journalist George Monbiot, Trevor Ngwane of the Anti-Privatisation Forum (South Africa). Dita Sari, President of the National Workers' Struggle, Indonesia, Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector, and writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, son of the author Ken Saro-Wiwa who was executed by the Nigerian government.
As with other summits, Gleneagles, too, is preceded by a series of ministerial meetings in 2005, at least some of which are opportunities for civil society input through dialogue or demonstrations. The following is a list of ministerial and other related meetings leading up to the Gleneagles Summit:
• February 1-3: Scientific Conference on Climate Change, Exeter, UK
• February 4-5, 2005: G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, London
• March 10-11, 2005: G8 Employment Ministers Meeting, London
• March 15-16: International Energy/Environment Ministers Roundtable, London
• March 17-18, 2005: G8 Environment and Development Ministers Meeting, Derbyshire, UK
• April 7-8: Africa Partners Forum, Abuja, Nigeria
• April 15-16, 2005: G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, Washington
• May 11-12: Workshop on Innovation and Research for Energy - WIRE, Oxford, UK
• May 21-22: G8 BMENA Education Ministerial, Amman, Jordan
• June 10-11, 2005: G8 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Pre-Summit Meeting, London
• June 15-17, 2005: G8 Justice and Interior Ministers Meeting, Sheffield, UK
• June 23: G8 Foreign Ministers Pre-Summit Meeting, London
But this continuity goes beyond G8-based meetings; Tony Blair announced the British agenda for the Gleneagles Summit at the World Economic Forum in early 2005, and it is likely that the summit itself will refer to the UN General Assembly’s “Millennium Development + 5” summit in September 2005 and the WTO ministerial meeting on the Doha Development Round, to be held late in the year.
Some Considerations for the Russian-hosted Summit in 2006
• Summit themes. Early indications are that the main themes for the 2006 summit will be international energy security, health, education, demography, and the environment. In each 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; the economic, health and educational well-being of people; and democratic, sustainable development. In this connection, it is important to remember that while it is for the host G8 government to set the thematic focus for their summit, there is a process of continuity at work. Africa is a case in point: G8 involvement has been well-established for several years and carried over to Sea Island last year even though it had not been a central theme for the US host government; Africa is in a central position again at Gleneagles. It would be surprising if Africa were not again an important subject of deliberation at the Russian-hosted summit.
• Kinds of civil society groups. These tend to vary greatly in composition and constituency. As in the past, it is likely that grassroots NGOs will be present, but so will larger, specialized Russian NGOs (for instance, environmental groups), as well as Russian affiliates of large international NGOs and the international NGOs themselves.
• Dialogue with civil society. There are early indications that the Russian host government is willing to hold pre-summit dialogue with civil society representatives. If this indeed turns out to be the case, 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.
• Ministerial meetings before the summit. Presumably, there will be meetings of energy, environment and other ministers between January 2006 and the time of the summer summit. These may provide other useful venues for productive interaction, including dialogue, with civil society.
G8 Reform Proposals
For a number of years there has been growing perception that the G8 has lost its original purpose and is badly in need of reform. Proposals have ranged FROM `en_en_en_the` outright abolition of the G8 to institutional strengthening, membership changes, restriction of its agenda, and transformation into a completely different kind of institution. One interesting development is the proposal to turn the G20 finance ministers’ forum into a leaders’ level group of 20, or L20. The idea is being promoted enthusiastically by Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin who, in his previous post as finance minister, was the first chairman of the financial G20. The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), a Canadian think tank, has been examining the ramifications of this potential transformation of the G20 into the L20. Such a new L20, if it comes into being, would be more broadly representative than the G8, bringing to the table important developing countries, especially China, India and Brazil, and countries with emerging economies. Therefore it is seen as more legitimate and more efficient than the G8; also as an institution that would be a catalyst for broader reforms of global governance. The contributors to the CIGI project outline three main scenarios of achieving the L20: having an L20 replace the G7/G8 through a “giant leap”, incrementally increasing the membership of the G8 through a G9 and G10 to an eventual L20; and creating an L20 that would operate alongside a continuing G8. Lately, it seems more likely that the L20 may start quite modestly, perhaps with a one-off leaders’ meeting with a limited agenda.
Another interesting initiative was presented last year by Peter Kenen, Jeffrey Shafer, Nigel Wicks and Charles Wyplosz. They also see the G7 (and they are addressing mostly the financial and economic G7 rather than the full G8) as a group with diminishing legitimacy and problems with representativeness. They propose establishing a new G4 that would bring together the US, the euro zone, Japan and China (so it would exclude present G7 members Canada, Italy and the UK). This G4 would have a limited agenda dealing mostly with exchange rate problems and adjustments. They also suggest the establishment of a Council for International Financial and Economic Cooperation, another new body with membership not more than 15, which would set agenda and provide strategic direction for the international financial system and would oversee multilateral institutions of international economic cooperation. This council would include the systemically important countries, represented by their finance ministers. The heads of the UN, IMF, World Bank and WTO would be invited to the meetings of this council. So, these two groups together would more or less amount to a kind of G20. It is difficult to say at this point what chances these two sets of proposals have but I see a problem FROM `en_en_en_the` civil society point of view. Both proposals assume a top-down approach, which would leave little room for civil society participation.
Where Do We Go FROM `en_en_Here`?
There has been a fair amount of examination and re-examination of the state and future of the G7/G8-civil society nexus, particularly after September 11. Former Canadian foreign minister (now defence minister) Bill Graham, said this at a conference a couple of years ago: “[a]t all levels of governance, the support of civil society is vital for ensuring the integrity and soundness of policy making.” He added that “international institutions must move beyond secret meetings of experts if they are to be recognized as legitimate and effective.” What are some of the ways in which this interaction can evolve in a positive direction?
Earlier I referred to my colleague John Kirton. He, too, takes issue with the trend of the post–11 September G8 summits to retreat to remote, isolated locations for meetings where the G8 are cut off FROM `en_en_en_the` media and civil society as a whole. He says that by doing that, the G8 leaders are ‘making a major mistake’. He goes on to suggest eleven proposals to improve G8 governments’ interaction with civil society, and he does this mostly FROM `en_en_en_the` G8 governments’ point of view. These are his proposals: 1. upholding the 1975 founding rationale of the G7 as a group of heads of open democratic societies; 2. giving civil society a real voice in the lead-up to each summit; 3. informing the public about the G8 so as to promote transparency; 4. inclusion of parliamentarians in the summit process; 5. forming G8 study centres in each G8 country or region to promote local access to and analysis of the G8; 6. sponsoring scholarships to expose students to the G8 year-round; 7. educating the broad citizenry using the internet and other information and communication technologies; 8. not restricting media access to the leaders; 9. keeping or restoring the communiqué (and keeping it clear and credible); 10. inclusion of civil society on the summit site in a multistakeholder forum allowing access to the leaders; and 11. mobilizing the G8 ministerial meetings to promote dialogue with civil society.
After a good deal of thinking about the civil society-G8 relationship, I have developed a counterpart set of 11 ideas, indicating ways in which civil society, on its part, can enhance the success of its relations with the G7/G8 in order to promote social, economic and other global goals:
1. It is now widely recognized by everyone, including governments of G8 countries, that civil society is an increasingly important and powerful actor locally, regionally, nationally and globally. Civil society gives voice to those who have been marginalized or left behind by globalization, and it fights for the universal extension of the benefits of globalization. This remains true regardless of where the G8 Summit is held.
2. Networking. NGOs and CSOs have been most successful when working in coordination or coalition with like-minded groups. The greater impact of networks and coalitions is not merely the function of larger numbers; the whole tends to be more than a sum of its parts. The history of the Jubilee movement is a fine example of this.
3. Awareness of the interconnected nature of issues. Here, too, civil society has been most effective when it recognized and exploited such linkages, as was the case of the interconnectedness of education, health and debt relief. Although it is natural and sensible for NGOs and CSOs to concentrate their energies on what they know best, it is important to avoid the “single-issue” trap.
4. Building on successes and learning FROM `en_en_en_mistakes` in using information and communication technology (ICT). ICT has played a crucial role in transforming and empowering civil society. It has increased the scope and the speed of CSO activity tremendously. For many NGOs, ICT is the tool of choice. They have been able to use technology (the internet, videoconferencing, e-mail, text messaging, fax machines, mobile telephones, satellite hookups and other advances) strategically in fundraising, research, advocacy, service delivery, networking and coalition-building cheaply, efficiently and in a flexible manner. At the same time, it is important to keep in mind that ICT can be used against civil society, or misused by mischievous or irresponsible elements within civil society itself.
5. Knowing the G7/G8 system and process as thoroughly as possible. There still are many myths and misconceptions about the nature of the G7/G8 and its place in global governance. If NGOs and other CSOs are to succeed in ensuring fruitful dialogue with the G7/G8, it is incumbent on them to learn the structure and workings of the whole G7/G8 system, including ministerial, task force and sherpa meetings and their timing and agenda, as well as the G8 member governments’ summit-supporting institutions.
6. Starting the dialogue and lobbying early in the summit process. G7/G8 agenda-building is at least a year-long process, being formulated and honed gradually FROM `en_en_en_one` summit to the next. The main agenda items are generally set by the host of the next summit soon after the previous summit, although host governments have had to listen to other G8 governments. If CSOs hope to have any influence on the evolving summit agenda, they can do so more realistically if they get involved in the process early.
7. Readiness to be reactive or proactive, according to need. This implies, to cite just one example, taking advantage of issues that the G8 is seized of that are also of concern to CSOs, as well as lobbying to try to get other civil society concerns on the G8 agenda – this year, Africa and climate change.
8. Isolating potentially violent or disruptive elements. Seattle, Quebec City, Genoa, and Evian/Geneva/Lausanne showed again that violence and anarchy could do immense harm to the vast majority of civil society supporters who use peaceful and democratic methods. After September 11, it has become even more crucial for civil society to distance itself from, and isolate, the “uncivil society” of violent anarchists and others of similar bent. CSOs have shown that they can succeed in this, but it is important to remain vigilant and step up self-patrolling and other efforts at future events such as G7/G8 summits.
9. Weighing carefully the costs and benefits of self-inclusion or self-exclusion. Certain NGOs and other CSOs may choose on the grounds of principle or ideology not to participate in dialogue or other constructive interaction. In view of their limited human and material resources, CSOs also need to reflect on whether it is worth expending time and energy on dialogue and other interaction with G8 governments before and at summits and ministerial meetings. However, it is important to recognize that the price of this distancing is lack of influence with or impact on the G8.
10. When a host country is unwilling to interact with civil society (as at Sea Island in 2004), NGOs and other CSOs need to concentrate on other options to influence the G8: advocacy including the drafting and dissemination of policy papers, dialogue with receptive non-host G8 governments, and staging parallel events — in another country if necessary, following the pattern of the World Social Forum vis-à-vis the World Economic Forum.
11. The record of civil society activism shows that although government initiatives toward non-state actors are important, civil society does not take its cues FROM `en_en_en_government` but develops strategies on its own terms.