If the G20 really does represent the changing face of power in the world, then its first priority is to represent the silent voice of those without that power. Some 90% of the world’s GDP will be assembled at the G20 summit in Toronto on 26 June; but 90% of its countries will be absent.
The G20 needs to see itself as the ‘T20’, the trustees of the world’s interests: it cannot claim economic leadership unless it shows concern for those who are absent from its table.
Here is a three point agenda, with practical action to match, that should be on the mind of any global leader aspiring to act for the global good.
First must be the international commitment to eliminate the wasted human potential and obscenity of absolute poverty. Ten years ago the world agreed that by 2015 – only five years away – it would have achieved the Millennium Development Goals. The world will fail in this task without new effort, new thinking and new funding. The communities of small and vulnerable states are hit especially hard. There are emerging green shoots of recovery in the larger and richer states. But the small and vulnerable still see little ahead but a bleak prospect, and these are the states that carry most of the impact for crises in which they had no role whatsoever, but for which they must bear the consequences. With tax dollars scarce and aid levels barely rising, new sources of money are required for development. The World Bank indicates that $315 billion is required to meet the gap between what developing countries require and what is currently available in 2010 alone. The G20 should endorse a serious action plan to identify innovative potential sources of non-sovereign financing, embracing widespread consultation with those not at their table, to fill the funding gap.
Second should be women – the real barometers of health and the heart of any society. The current fractions are skewed: half of the world’s population bears considerably more than half of its problems. To achieve the Millennium Development Goals in the post-crisis economy, women are pivotal. Prime Minister Harper has rightly put this issue at the heart of Canada’s G8 work, and the G20 can follow suit. Women’s concerns should be central to policy for tackling growth and development, not a politically correct afterthought. Maternal and infant mortality figures are a disgrace as around 500,000 women die each year in childbirth and 40% of all infant deaths occur within the first month of life. 500,000 new midwives worldwide would change all that for good, and should be endorsed as a goal to be achieved through a roadmap to be implemented at national, regional and international levels. Meanwhile, the G20 is also looking at new support for small and medium enterprises. The lion’s share of this support should go to the agents of change and growth in society with the most potential – women.
Third is rising global temperatures and climate change. Whatever the differences over the causes and the responses, one piece of evidence is indisputable: the worst impacts are already being felt by the countries least able to bear them. International support is needed to help these plan and finance changes to their economies and livelihoods. Part of that support is needed now, for the most immediate needs of the most vulnerable countries. A $10 billion start-up fund to help poorer countries to adapt and mitigate was agreed at the UN Summit in Copenhagen in December. Evidence is in hand to show how the funds can be put to good use by those in greatest need. But none have yet seen the colour of this money Ten percent of that $10 billion should be released immediately for those countries under existential threat whose needs cannot wait until the UN process is complete. The G20 – the largest and richest countries on the planet – should deliver on their financial pledges of Copenhagen to support the smallest and poorest, even while negotiations on emissions and other climate change issues continue. Another valuable and practical step would be to develop ways of accrediting or validating the national climate change action plans of developing states. There are around 20 major funds providing finance even now for states to implement adaptation and mitigation plans. But each fund requires a separate key to unlock its potential. Small and vulnerable states need a master key to access them all with ease and speed. Just as Poverty Reduction Strategy Plans have improved access to financing for development, there is a need for similar access to financing for climate change.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma and La Francophonie Secretary-General Abdou Diouf met Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa 9 June 2010 to deliver the agenda of their combined 100 members ahead of the G8 and G20 meetings in Canada.
For media enquiries, please contact Eduardo del Buey, Spokesperson and Director of Communications and Public Affairs, Commonwealth Secretariat at Tel: +44(0) 774 045 0901 or e-mail: email@example.com