'My five take-aways from participating in the C20 Bali Summit'
The annual C20 summit took place in Indonesia this year, from 5 to 7 October 2022. The C20 is one of the official G20 Engagement Groups that works to ensure that G20 leaders develop priorities that serve citizens and civil society. Alice Kooij (FAIR4ALL Civic Space Advisor for Oxfam Novib) attended the summit and shares her five take-aways in this article.
“On Wednesday 4 October 2022, I arrived on the Island of Bali to attend the C20 Bali Summit. At the airport and along the road to the hotel there were G20 signs everywhere, welcoming delegates. It shows how important the G20 2022 Presidency is for the Indonesian government, with the biggest moment yet to come: the G20 Bali Summit (15 and 16 November) with world leaders from across the world joining. But what significance does it have for civil society and for opening up civic space? Find out below.”
1. Civil society needs to influence the G20 as forum of the world’s leading economies
The G20 with its 20 members was founded in 1999 in response to several world economic crises. Each year one of its members has the presidency. At C20 Bali Summit there were discussions about the economic character, lack of effectiveness and legitimacy of the G20. As it only has 20 members, it leaves others out. At the same time participants agreed that civil society needs to influence the G20 as a forum of the largest economies in the world discussing policy matters relevant to civil society work. This was also the message in the Communique presented during the C20 Bali Summit. This year civil society in particular has an important role in asking the G20 to decrease geopolitical contestation, which has never been so high. It also needs to take a leading role in responding to the multiple crises the world is facing, including through a strong declaration during the G20 Bali Summit.
2. C20 is an important venue for civil society to coordinate
During the C20 Bali Summit participants told me that the C20 work in Indonesia has enabled civil society to exchange with each other and to coordinate joint advocacy efforts, which was not always the case before. The organizations involved in C20 worked together through seven working groups (WGs):
- (1) Vaccine Access and Global Health;
- (2) Environment, Climate Justice and Energy Transition;
- (3) SDGs and Humanitarian Issues;
- (4) Education, Digitalization and Civic Space;
- (5) Gender Equality and Disability Inclusion;
- (6) Taxation & Sustainable Finance;
- (7) Anti-Corruption (same as G20 interministerial WGs).
This year especially the working group on climate was very popular, having 250 members from around the world. Positively, attention has been given to inclusiveness. Several organizations were included that represented marginalized groups, such as people with disabilities. Lastly, it was rightfully pointed out that it would be good to have a C20 multiyear agenda to strengthen the work.
3. C20/G20 opens up spaces for dialogues with policy officials, but more is needed
The C20 leadership/working groups have been in contact both formally and informally with officials from the G20 membership, as well as additional countries that have been invited to this year’s G20, such as The Netherlands. To illustrate: following strong push work by the C20 Anti-Corruption WG to the Indonesian government, they were able to participate in the formal G20 Anti-Corruption WG meeting by presenting their points of view, as well as having informal meetings with the Chair of the working group.
However, this level of engagement was not the same for every C20 WG. G20 members have in fact been much more engaging with the G20 Business 20 (B20) outreach group. Over the course of the year, the C20 has also worked on a policy pack. This has been presented to the officials present at the C20 Bali Summit, notably Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs as the Sherpa of the G20. Importantly, asks are made by the C20 to G20 members to have spaces to exchange during the G20 Bali Summit.
4. C20 must remain meaningful in the coming years
Whether C20 engagement can be meaningful depends on the country context, while pressure from the international community can push for that. It helps that governments are generally keen on showcasing dialogue with civil society. In some cases civil society has been divided on whether to engage or not, like when the C20 took place in Saudi Arabia. The next C20 Summit will take place in India (2023) and Brazil (2024), both FAIR4ALL countries with challenging civic space contexts.
During the C20 Bali Summit several members of the C20 Steering Committee underlined in their speeches the importance of meaningful C20 engagement in India. They also stressed that the C20 traditions of independency, inclusiveness and equality should be respected. Furthermore, it is important to have a troika of representatives of civil society organizations from Indonesia, India and Brazil. They can coordinate their strategy with each other and exchange what lessons they have learned.
5. International support is crucial for C20 work
International support by both governments and civil society are crucial for C20 work. The words of the Mexican Ambassador at the C20 Bali were very encouraging in that regard. He acknowledged that “C20 has an essential role and has to claim it.” However, although invitations had been shared with embassies, most of the policy officials present were from the Indonesian government. As internationals we must therefore bring C20 to the attention of our embassies, while also ask that C20 stays meaningful in the coming years. On October 10th I therefore visited the Dutch Embassy in Jakarta together with C20 Representatives. We discussed C20 work and handed over the policy pack.
Moreover, it is important to underline that participation in the C20 meetings by representatives of civil society from outside the hosting country is crucial, as it shows support to national civil society. This is especially important with the next C20 taking place in India. International funding for C20 work is also needed. This year the C20 work in Indonesia was supported through a considerable contribution of the FAIR4All program, which helps the C20 to retain its independence.
By Alice Kooij, FAIR4ALL Civic Space Advisor, Oxfam Novib’s The Hague team