Peter I. Hajnal
G8 Research Group
Peter, what do you think about the Russian NGOs possibilities to influence the G8 2006 summit agenda – to be heard by G8 leaders and to make them really discuss the items proposed by NGOs?
This is a difficult question. It was very encouraging that during the March Civil G8 Forum not only the Russian Sherpa but all 9 Sherpas were there to listen to the voices of civil society and answer at least some of the questions raised from the floor. Equally, it is good that Sherpa Shuvalov is travelling to other G8 countries to meet with NGO representatives abroad. So, there is a willingness to listen, and I believe it is likely that the Sherpas will discuss among themselves the various civil society concerns. But the question is: how much of this will the herpas actually communicate to the leaders? And an even bigger question, one that only the final outcome of the actual St. Petersburg summit can answer, is this: beyond just being aware of civil society concerns, are the leaders prepared to modify any of their collective decisions at St. Petersburg? And a further, equally difficult question: after the G8 summit, will civil society monitor the implementation of any promises made by the leaders at St. Petersburg? And will civil society communicate with the leaders after the summit about this? I hope so, and I know that Civil G8 plans a follow-up meeting.
As for the summit agenda, I think the chances of civil society to influence the leaders to change the agenda are very small. But, if the leaders take seriously the concerns of civil society, they will then take into account those concerns when deliberating their existing agenda at the summit. On the same subject: there are some major civil society concerns on subjects not on the main agenda of the summit (but still likely to be discussed by the leaders) - one example is Africa, another is the fight against terrorism versus the protection of human rights. Again, I hope that the leaders will hear the voice of civil society in this regard.
Finally, at certain previous summits, contacts on the highest official level with civil society groups took place, for example British Prime Minister Tony Blair met, before the Gleneagles summit, with a few NGO representatives - this was separate from the Chatham House consultations, and probably happened at the Prime Minister's initiatives. President Chirac also met with some NGO people ahead of the Evian summit, and the Japanese Prime Minister before the Okinawa summit.
I do not know whether President Putin has any intention to do anything along the same lines, but if he does, I think that would also be at his own initiative. Also, this kind of high-level contact usually seeks out specific NGO subject expertise on major agenda items.
What does the Russian civil society have to do to “hand on the baton” to German NGOs which will be prepare the “civil part” of the G8 2007 summit?
A good beginning was the presence of the German Sherpa, as well as the presence of German civil NGO representatives at the March Civil G8 forum, so the Germans are aware of civil society issues that are valid not only this year but in subsequent years as well. "Handing over" to German civil society will become particularly important later this year, in light of the actual results of St. Petersburg.
Another aspect of this continuity is the strong potential role of civil society groups that have been involved in G8-related dialogue; for example, the Forum international de Montreal that has been active in promoting civil society-G8 dialogue since 2002, and Chatham House, with its 2005 stakeholder consultations. Also, civil society organizations such as Civicus and others will, no doubt, continue to monitor, and try to influence, future summits, including the German one next year.