Handing over to Germany...
Russia's G8 presidency has come to an end, and the Civil G8 2006 project is complete.
As this laborious yet, as it now appears, successful year comes to an end, I would like to take stock of the year, and to express our gratitude to the project's Russian initiators – around 40 non-governmental organisations looking to create a new mechanism for the public to influence the G8, as well as to our foreign colleagues (overall, during the course of the year over 2 thousand non-governmental organisations from all over the world have been involved in the process).
We thank the representatives of the foreign NGOs for their participation in the project, and for the contribution they have made to its formation and development. This has been particularly valuable to us since Russia was acting as G8 president this year for the first time. In the absence of any prior experience, it was this support from our foreign colleagues that allowed us to feel sufficiently sure of ourselves to attempt to realise such ambitious initiatives.
I would like to express particular gratitude to our colleagues from Canada (J. Kirton, M. Koch and P. Hajnal of the G8 Research Group of the University of Toronto, N. Martin of the Montreal International Forum, and more), the UK (P. Ritchie of Chatham House, S. Babb and F. Addarii of ACEVO, N. Colloff and S. Kline of Oxfam GB, T.Rees of LEAD International, F. Dodds of the Stakeholder Forum for Sustainable Development, E. Argo of the Global African Diaspora Coalition, and others), Germany (J. Maier, M. Bricke and P. Guenther of the German NGO Forum on Environment and Development, S. Vashist of the International Climate Action Network, and more), the USA (B. Pace, World Federalist Movement, L. Salamon of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies, S.Solnik of the Moscow division of the Ford Foundation, N. Alexander of the Citizens' Network on Essential Services (CNES), V. Menotti of the International Forum on Globalisation and others), France (M. Halter, founder of the French Colleges in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, F. Ferrier of Coordination SUD), Italy (S. Marelli of the Italian NGO Association, B. Barbieri of FISH- Italian Federation to Overcome Handicap and more), and Japan (Takashi Shimosawa of the JANIC, M. Obayashi of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies, and more).
We are also grateful to the global network-type non-governmental organisations (Greenpeace, WWF, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam, International Council of Women, CIVICUS, Social Watch, Consumers International, ActionAid International, Transparency International, Global TB Campaign, Results Educational Fund), whose leaders and representatives (Gerd Leipold, James Leape, Irene Kahn, Carroll Bogert, Barbara Stocking, Laura Finne-Elonen, Kumi Naidoo, Roberto Bissio, Richard Lloyd, Ramesh Singh, Huguette Labelle, Lucia Fry) for their participation in the July Forum and meeting with President Putin, this year's G8 president.
Particular satisfaction can be derived from the fact that as the project developed, greater and greater numbers of foreign NGO leaders began showing an interest in participation. And Russian NGOs learned a great deal about these forms of international cooperation, and were given the opportunity to take part. There can be no doubt that this circumstance will facilitate the strengthening of Russia's civil society, and its integration into the international NGO community.
During the course of the project's realisation, we, together with our foreign colleagues, were able to deliver on our promises made in late 2005: we attempted to ensure maximal continuity, succession, transparency and openness in the consultation process. And it was thanks to this that we were able to organise the widest possible public discussion of the G8 agenda issues.
It was seen as highly important by the initiators of the Civil G8 2006 process that the developed recommendations and positions be brought before the official G8 structures solely on behalf of the organisations involved in the project, and no more. We did not claim for ourselves any monopoly right to represent civil society as a whole.
Participation in the Civil G8 2006 consultations in no way limited the rights of civil 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. As well as this, during the course of the project's realisation we aimed to interact with all societal forces, without standing in opposition to anyone and without positioning ourselves as an alternative to any other civil processes or initiatives.
Within the framework of the Civil G8 2006 project, six core events were held, which had serious international resonance and which introduced significant innovations in the process of communication between international civil society and the G8:
1. NGO expert roundtable on issues of energy security, education and health, with participation by representatives of foreign civil associations (16 February 2006, Moscow).
2. International Non-governmental Organisations Forum (9-10 March 2006, Moscow, 320 participants, around 100 from abroad, over 100 from Russia's regions and the remainder from Russian national organisations). The key moment of the forum was a meeting without precedent in the history of the G8, at which a wide range of international NGO representatives met with Sherpas from all the G8 member states. Previously only Sherpas from separate nations (five in 2005) had taken part in meetings with public organisations, which took place in private, with participation limited to 30 persons.
3. Meeting of experts and international NGO representatives with Sherpas from all G8 member states (18-19 May 2006, Moscow/Kazan). This meeting was charged with continuing a tradition established during the Canadian and UK presidencies. In 2003 and 2005 international NGO representatives met with G8 Sherpas in an informal setting to discuss the most important global development problems affecting civil society. At the Moscow meeting civil organisations from Russia, Canada, the UK, Germany, the USA, France, Africa and Latin America were represented (in all 30 persons). This meeting was also unique, as it was the first time that Sherpas from all the G8 states had met with public representatives in private.
4. On 3-4 July 2006 the key event of the project took place in Moscow – the Civil G8 2006 International Non-governmental Organisations Forum. Over 600 representatives from all over the world took part (both from G8 member states and from other states of Central and Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America). Another first in the club's history was the participation of the head of the G8 president state, President Putin, who heard the recommendations of the civil society representatives and provided answers to the most pressing questions concerning international society. The same day, President Putin also met with leaders of global NGOs within the Civil G8 framework.
5. The 'Africa Partnership Forum and the African Development Agenda' international NGO roundtable (24-25 October 2006, Moscow), during which a unique meeting took place between representatives of international civil society, primarily African NGOs, and the APF's co-chairpersons.
6. 'Delivering the 2006 G8 Agenda' final NGO conference (Moscow, 2 December). An enlarged session of the Advisory Council was held, with participation by the heads of those NGOs that had been most active and shown the greatest interest in realising the Civil G8 2006 project (around 100 persons in all), at which public monitoring of summit resolutions took place, the consultative process during Russia's presidency was summed up, and the 'baton' was informally passed over to German NGOs.
Having put in significant amounts of work over the recent period, we do not intend to cease working on interaction with the G8. We are ready to continue actively representing the positions of civil organisations with regard to issues discussed by the leaders of the main industrially developed democratic global powers. Over the next year we will provide assistance to our colleagues from Germany, the 2007 president nation, and we believe that it is one of the achievements of the process that the summing-up and informal 'baton handover' at the Final conference (2 December) took place in the presence of assistants to the Russian and German Sherpas. It is of the utmost importance for us that the representatives of governmental structures should listen to us. This also represented a practical demonstration of the stated principle of succession.
Specifically for the purpose of implementing the principle of continuity, we propose that all participants of Civil G8–2006 intensify the discussion on how to continue our work in 2007 and following years so that we can preserve the most positive results, achieved during the previous years; strengthen open and democratic character of the process and ensure real influence of civil society on the G8. One of the initiatives aimed at discussing these issues was launched right after the Civil G8-2006 Final Conference (Moscow, 2 December, 2006). The given initiative proposes cooperation in the format of a discussion group between representatives of NGOs that have already been interacting with the G8 for several years and have made the greatest contribution to the Civil G8–2006 project. The given group in no way claims to represent civil society as a whole or to manage the consultation process. It exists as a discussion council, called on to accumulate and generalize ideas on development of the dialogue between civil society and the G-8 in subsequent years. We also welcome all possible democratic initiatives of NGOs aimed at strengthening networking of CSOs focused on G8 issues; involving into the process a wide range of other stakeholders from South and North, West and East; moving forward effective dialogue between civil society and the G8.
With gratitude, and hope for future cooperation,
Coordinator of National Working Group
Civil G8 2006 Project