As many readers of this blog know, the annual G20 meeting has a variety of associated processes, including a forum for engagement with global civil society known as the C20. This is an opportunity for civil society organizations (CSOs)—including grassroots groups, rights-focused organizations, and other activists—to feed policy recommendations directly to the most powerful governments in the world. This process has not been without challenges, especially when the G20 meeting is held in a country that is not exactly friendly to civil society activism (including Russia in 2013, China in 2016 and this year in Saudi Arabia). More generally, promises have not always matched realities, and governments have not always lived up to their commitments. Nevertheless, the C20 remains an important mechanism for ensuring that diverse, citizen-oriented voices from civil society are heard as part of G20 decision-making.
The C20 has a number of working groups, including an Anti-Corruption Working Group (ACWG), which I am co-leading this year with Dr. Saleh Al-Sheniefi. Our mandate is to prepare “comprehensive recommendations for consideration by leaders on how the G20 could continue to make practical and valuable contributions to international efforts to combat corruption.” The ACWG has active participation from civil society members from more than 50 countries, and—after consulting with other G20 engagement groups and consulted with numerous external experts—we have drafted a 3-page policy paper which will be sent to the parallel G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group in mid-May. The paper is open for comments for the next several weeks; and we would welcome any and all ideas from this blog’s readership.
While there are obviously many aspects of the corruption problem and its potential solutions that we could have addressed, we chose to focus on what we understand to be the G20’s main anticorruption priorities. (Our thinking is that, while getting the G20 to listen and live up to its commitments is always challenging at best, the odds are better if civil society’s recommendations align with the G20’s own sense of its top priorities in this area.) In particular, our policy paper focuses on the following items:
- First, ensuring accountability and transparency in healthcare and sanitation systems generally, and in emergency procurement in response to COVID-19—including a focus on open contracting, oversight and citizen engagement. (It should go without saying that the coronavirus pandemic is at the forefront of policymakers’ minds—and as the emerging literature collected, for example, on this blog and by the Center for International Private Enterprise, has shown, corruption-related issues may undermine the efficacy of the coronavirus response.)
- Second, efforts to facilitate the use of technology and open-data to fight corruption, such as e-procurement platforms and corruption reporting tools, and implementation of processes such as Financial Management Information Systems.
- Third, integrity within Public-Private Partnerships, with an emphasis on ensuring these are in the interest of citizens.
- Fourth, the need for national anti-corruption strategies delivered through bodies that have the mandate, power, expertise, and resources to ensure implementation—and that link to existing international frameworks such as the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
Additionally, our paper also outlines steps the G20 needs to take to improve its own accountability. Here we emphasize how little information there is about what the G20 actually does after its meetings. There isn’t even a standing website for the G20 (it rotates every year with the host country) let alone any meaningful shared repositories of information. We therefore propose that, at least with respect to its anticorruption agenda, the G20 members improve target setting and report their progress toward the objectives that they have set for themselves. (My organization, the Accountability Lab, is now building a real-time database of progress toward commitments, which we hope to share soon.) We also advocate better engagement with civil society through meaningful consultations over time at the national level, as well as better communication and dissemination of documents, for example through a standing website. There is much to be said for the G20 living by its professed values, and ensuring its own accountability for commitments seems like a good place to start.
Improving the accountability and diversity of the C20 ACWG process over time- is essential, not only to help fight corruption but also to ensure that G20 itself remains credible. If you are part of civil society and would like to be part of the C20 ACWG going forwards you can sign up to contribute to the discussions online here.