November 19, 2014 by Melissa Lawson
So the Brisbane G20 Summit is over. It was a fascinating Summit to follow, with discussions on how to grow G20 economies by 2.1%, ebola, climate change (not Mr Abbott’s favourite topic, but with external pressure it was at least mentioned) and Mr Putin leaving the Summit early after frank conversations about the Ukraine.
I was following the Summit to see how G20 leaders responded to Tearfund’s Secret’s Out campaign, which called for action by G20 leaders on corruption – particularly in the extractives sector. So what actually happened and what was agreed?
- The final G20 Communique was short and sweet. From a corruption perspective, it included an endorsement of high-level principles on beneficial ownership (ie countries will gather data on who actually owns and controls companies), but G20 leaders failed to include a commitment to make this information available to the public. So progress, but still room for improvement.
- The G20 agreed to a new Anti-Corruption Action plan. The past two Action Plans have been useful in spurring anti-corruption efforts as each country’s progress is monitored and the findings published. The new Action Plan is therefore welcome as it ensures anti-corruption remains a core G20 topic and will help to galvanise future action.
- The new Anti-Corruption Action Plan includes extractives as a high risk sector. G20 countries have committed to practical action to mitigate corruption in this sector – including through developing best practice and considering high-level principles, in partnership with business and civil society. This is a mini-win, as earlier this year we thought extractives could be removed from G20 discussions altogether as it was proving such a controversial issue between G20 members. Although not in the Communique, the fact that extractives is included in the Anti-Corruption plan means it is now firmly on the agenda for the forthcoming 2 years. Civil society now needs to influence the best practice and possible high level principles.
- Budget transparency is given a higher priority in the new Anti-Corruption action plan and is recognised as a particular sector meriting attention. G20 countries have committed to conduct a self-assessment, outline steps they will take to enhance their efforts, alongside developing a practical G20 toolkit on budget transparency. Certainly a step forward.
Overall, the Brisbane agreements seem on a par with outcomes in many other multilateral processes. As civil society we often get some of what we called for, but rarely everything. We know the UK government were championing many of our concerns but other countries continued to block progress – which can be very frustrating in the run up to a Summit. Only a few weeks ago we were concerned that extractives would not be mentioned and the G20 would fail to make a single commitment in this area. So I’m pretty relieved that the G20 took some steps forward. That’s why I’ve given it a 6 out of 10 for tackling corruption and illicit financial flows.
And that’s why we keep campaigning and putting the pressure on our leaders, because without our efforts we may have made zero progress in Brisbane. So let’s not stop just because the G20 is over – we must continue advocating so that governments make decisions in the interest of the world’s poorest people.