National

NGOs worry about their waning influence over the G20

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

With a growing shift away from multilateralism in parts of the world, nongovernmental organizations providing advice and recommendations to next year’s Group of 20 leaders’ summit in Osaka are increasingly concerned whether leaders would take into account their views when addressing global issues such as anti-corruption measures, climate change and gender inequality.

During a meeting by the Japan Civil Society Platform for the 2019 G20 Summit in Osaka on Saturday, attendees wondered to what extent the leaders of Japan and other G20 nations would listen to the policy recommendations of citizens’ groups, many of which have expertise in their fields.

Atsuko Miwa, director of the Osaka-based Asia-Pacific Human Rights Information Center, said that it was getting harder for NGOs to participate in big events like the G20.

“The space for civil society (groups) to participate at these events is shrinking,” she said.

That means not only is it more difficult for such groups to stage public rallies, parades, and demonstrations before and during G20 meetings, it’s also more difficult than in the past to get host governments to engage at length with them.

Masaki Inaba, of the Japan Civil Society Network on SDGs (sustainable development goals), noted that the approach for forming the basis of discussions at international summits like the G20 on important issues has historically been different from that taken by groups such as his.

“In the 1990s, civil society groups talked about economic justice, but in the early 2000s, their emphasis shifted to individual topics such as poverty, and social development, and they become more specialized and professional,” he said.

“But after the 2008 financial crisis, it was necessary to return to the theme of economic justice to deal with issues like mega-free trade agreements, tax havens, the power of major global corporations, and widening economic disparities. So G20 advocacy is a good opportunity to return to efforts for economic justice.”

About 60 people from such groups attended the Saturday meeting to start preparations for next year’s G20 Osaka Summit. The platform will serve as the official umbrella organization for domestic and international NGOs that expect to send representatives to not only the Osaka leaders’ summit but also to many of the G20 ministerial meetings that will take place around the country.

At the end of this month, G20 leaders will meet in Buenos Aires. Agreements and statements from that meeting will shape discussions for NGOs in Japan and abroad as they prepare for their own gatherings.

“The G20 agenda in Osaka will discuss the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Leaders are also expected to debate anti-corruption measures, the international financial system, trade and infrastructure,” said Aoi Horiuchi, coordinator for the Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation, one of the key groups involved in the platform.

The Japan Civil Society 20 (C20) will take place on April 21-23 next year in Tokyo, where the group will present its recommendations to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who will chair the G20 summit. That will be followed by another NGO summit in Osaka on June 25-26, just before the main G20 Leaders Summit kicks off on June 28.