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The G20 meetings are publicly recognized for being the arena of two repeating themes: citizen protest against unfair trade policies that affect communities across the world, and world leaders flexing their muscles to see who walks away as top dog.

The G20 meeting in Seoul, South Korea was burdened with a third theme– that of finding solutions to the ongoing global economic crisis and the fast approaching threat of protectionism. Why is protectionism an issue? In the context of the US economy, it could mean lower foreign investment, which would lower the value of the dollar. In the context of social justice, this could have far-reaching adverse effects on local and international unemployment and worker rights as well as on US government spending on social services.

The US came under pressure for the Quantitative Easing (QE2) decision taken by the Federal Reserve Board. What’s all the noise about, and did the rest of the G20’s argument against the US decision make any sense? Nice analysis of the situation (and some groovy Economics 101!) here.

But really, the only thing we’re asking each other right now is, why should we care about what is discussed or decided on at the G20?

Simple answer? International Aid Reform. The G20 meetings are a significant platform for world leaders to discuss global approaches to the issue of misdirected foreign aid and unmet aid targets.

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If you are at all interested in finance for development, check this out.

Post courtesy Choike.org

Statement of the WOMEN’S WORKING GROUP ON FINANCING FOR DEVELOPMENT * for the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh, September 2009

The current G20 meeting in Pittsburgh takes place a year after the outbreak of the worst financial crisis in recent history. That moment left us astonished as we watched powerful governments and the International Financial Institutions scramble to plug a hemorrhaging financial bubble burst in the system of the global market but the crisis quickly spread as a global contagion and soon entire economies were placed at risk. Everywhere the crisis led to destabilizing impacts on the real economy threatening the livelihoods of men and women.

WE believe that G20 leaders’ declarations have committed three essential mistakes: First, the declarations fail to diagnose the crisis as a symptom of something deeper: the unsustainability of an economic and financial system based on profit; the over concentration of capital, overproduction, rampant speculation; and the reckless consumerism that is guided by free market principles. The decoupling of the real economy and financial markets was accompanied by yet another fundamental artificial separation: the productive economy and the sphere of social reproduction.

From a gender perspective, it is also necessary to consider that the aggregate contribution of female labor in the productive economy is concentrated differently than that of male labor. This implies that the impacts of the crisis on women will vary according to sectors of the economy and work conditions. In general, female labor is more vulnerable than male labor with a highest concentration in the informal sector. Therefore, the trend is that women also suffer the most in the productive economy during a crisis. However, the G20 has not approached or attempted to provide answers to any of these elements and analysis of the gendered aspects of the crisis.

Second, the G20 statements presented some of the same elements that caused the crisis as a solution to it.

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First, let me begin with an introduction: my name is Ethan Frey. I’m a senior International Politics major (+ a few minors) at Westminster College in New Wilmington, PA.  I am serving as one of Americans for Informed Democracy’s Northeast Regional Coordinators this year, with a focus on  Global Environment. There’ll be some great, exciting and substantively significant events happening through the Fall (Power Shift Pennsylvania and Copenhagen, most namely) and I’m excited to organize around them – for and against them – with you all. Thanks for the opportunity!

Now on to the G20…

Unfortunately, I was only able to roam the streets of Pittsburgh Thursday, and not Friday. I’ll set the scene: driving south into Pittsburgh signs read “road closings for G20”, “Pittsburgh welcomes world leaders”, “Use caution: police forces on high alert”, so once we get into the  city, we realize that, in reality, the streets are bare aside from what seems to be a government crackdown in a policed state.

Our first stop: the press tent to assist with an Avaaz photo-op at the Media Check-In outside Mellon Arena.  They were marketing “SurvivaBall” – the newest chic invention by the zillionaires that (attempt to) run the world.

“SurvivaBall” is the G20’s answer to the climate crisis: corporate accountability; save our CEOs.

It’s oozes satire, as the Avaaz folks attempt to display how spending 1 billion to insure the CEOs and executive directors that run the largest corporations and countries is not going to be enough.

Their message: we need to spend the money now to ensure the safety, and provide the ability for developing countries to adapt to a changing climate. International Adaptation Aid is an issue that must emerge on the political scene once the U.S. Senate returns to negotiations around a Climate bill.

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Post by William Easterly

The world economy with its multiple crises is a frightening place. To confront our fears, we have a new global religion. It developed slowly over the last couple decades, based on the sacred writings of the world’s leading shamans. The shamans have been releasing a new scripture of prophecy and comfort every year after secluding themselves in a remote location for several days of prayer and reflection.

There used to be only seven of these shamans, and they were known for short as the G7. As of their latest retreat to the Burgh of Pitt last weekend, the number of shamans has grown to G20.

This year’s scripture, called The Communiqué, was the longest in G-ism history at 15 pages. It offered prayers of healing for many different ailments, from the pestilent OTC Derivative Contracts to the noxious Gas Emissions. It condemned the unholy Excessive Compensation in the Financial Sector as well as the evil Non-Cooperative Jurisdictions.

One of the greatest attractions of the G-ist religion is its concern for the poorest among us. G20 reserved their most fervent prayers of comfort and restoration for those who newly suffer, such as those who now hunger when they did not before. There are 90 million more who go hungry than at last year’s G-shaman meeting, after the Great Backsliding of 2008, whereupon “the financial crisis followed close on the heels of a global spike in food prices…{when} even before the crisis, too many still suffered from hunger …{and} recognizing the crisis has exacerbated this situation.” G20 offer to feed the hungry with GPAFS, CAADP, UNCFA, IDA, ADB, NGOs, FAO, IFAD, and WFP, using the holy mysteries of “coordinate efforts,” and “country-led mechanisms,” and “complement and reinforce other existing multilateral and bilateral efforts” (page 11, verse 39 of The Communiqué).

G20ism has proven to be tolerant and inclusive of other religions. According to a story in the Florida Catholic:

“Most people in high levels of government “really do want to do the right thing for the poor. They really do have a moral compass,” said Stephen Colecchi, director of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Office of International Justice and Peace, at a press conference in Pittsburgh Sept. 23. Part of the power of prayer and bringing together religious leaders at such an event is “the belief that we can influence people,” he said. Some 30 leaders of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh faiths attended the press conference before processing in full clerical garb to the Omni William Penn Hotel to meet with representatives of the U.S. delegation to the G–20 summit.”

Alas, there are still many who do not believe, even mocking the true faith of the G20. The nonbelievers claim that reason and evidence is the best path to alleviate suffering, rather than belief in the mystical powers of the G-shamans.

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One of the speakers present at yesterday’s Global/Local Exchange, Priva Ha’angandu, traveled from Zambia to represent the impact of G20 policies on poor countries.

While Priva advocated debt forgiveness to those he spoke with, he also warned that countries like Zambia, which are benefiting from the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, are forced to adhere to certain conditionalities, such as privatization of public works and financial deregulation, which disadvantage have radically disrupted the country’s ability to pay for important human services like education and healthcare.

Many among the G20 dissenters worry that this week’s talks will result in a resurgence of the IMF, which was practically defunct until recently due to demand for reform. I, and many others, ask the simple question: how can the answer to a debt crisis be more debt?

On a separate note, check out the comment that was posted in response to Priva’s video:

“We already have a forum for the globally irrelevant, collectively indigent national regimes of the world, it’s called the UN, and it’s a supranational joke, just like the G20 would be if we let every country in to blabber about whatever struck their fancy. To exemplify the problem with this video’s logic on an individual level: If you were a successful professional meeting 19 of your other societally upstanding friends, would you want your meeting to be interrupted by degenerate vagrants?”

It is this kind of ignorance and misguided hatred that cannot be tolerated in global politics, nor the American psyche, if we aim to resolve any of the world’s problems.  I mean, did he just call Priva–a highly educated young man, working with international networks for responsible lending and finance–a degenerate vagrant?

Thank you Priva, for joining the People’s Voices events, for sharing the experience of Zambia, and for being part of the solution.

Check out more at: http://www.g20media.org/node/123

Been catching up on what took place in different parts of the city last night.

Check out these two links and let me know what you think.  What would you do if this happened on your campus?  How would you react?

Police Attack Students at University of Pittsburgh (Video)

Pittsburgh Riot Police Trap University Students on a Staircase and Deploy Chemical Weapons (Video)

Guest post from Tim Newman, Campaigns Assistant at International Labor Rights Forum:

As finance ministers from the G-20 nations prepare to meet in London, reports are emerging that 425321 Western nations are ready to accept some proposals for an increase in power for developing countries in the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  The Washington Post stated this morning that “the big winner will be the developing world, with the United States, Europe and Japan offering China, India, Brazil and other emerging nations unprecedented new influence in global financial decisions.”  The notion that industrialized nations currently holding sway in the IMF have to ability to “offer” developing countries a voice in the lending policies that deeply affect their economies highlights some of the power imbalances within international financial institutions — it also brings to mind Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s controversial comments last week about the global economic crisis.

The issue of representation in the decision-making bodies at the IMF is a real concern.  Currently, Europe holds a third of the chairs in the executive board and continues to follow the “tradition” of filling the managing director position with a European while the US has veto power at the IMF due to its large voting share.  The power structure at the IMF, and other international institutions, needs to be changed, but the bigger question is how will these changes can result in a qualitative shift that promotes policies that support poor and working people globally?

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While the expansion of the typical G8 to a G20 was an important first step towards more equal representation in international economic forums, the meeting convened Saturday in D.C. to address the global financial crisis remained fundamentally flawed. First, it excluded the countries most vulnerable and whose citizens will suffer most from its effects. Second, it failed to question the abuses and miscalculations of the institutions that got us here in the first place. In fact, proposed bailout packages redirect power and legitimacy to the same private regulatory institutions that preach speculatory investment over long-term investment in public infrastructures that improve people’s lives, meet human needs, and protect human rights.

Among these institutions are the previously waning IMF and World Bank, who are now regaining their footing as international lenders to developing countries. IMF and World Bank loans have been notorious for enforcing Structural Adjustment Programs that slash public spending, often eliminating a county’s ability to meet the needs of its population.

This, my friends, is what we call a gross infringement of national sovereignty. Developing countries must be free to pursue the same expansionary economic policies pursued by the wealthy nations that created the current crisis. Especially in a time of global recession, countries must have mobility to meet important social needs.

An appropriate case study is Brazil’s Bolsa Familia—the world’s largest conditional welfare program for the poor.  Where families keep their children in school, get them vaccinated, and attend regular health check ups, they receive a monthly stipend of up to $82 USD.  The national program serves 11 million families (close to 50 million people), and many of the country’s poorest towns are seeing their first secondary school, health clinic, and even potable water source as a result. While Bolsa Familia still has a long way to go to improve national education standards and job training, it is being studied by dozens of other Latin American and African countries as a model that appears to be reducing poverty and improving certain social behaviors when it comes to education and health—two essential ingredients to development.

So, as the governments of the richest countries act more quickly and decisively to bail out the banks and financial institutions than they have the crisis of poverty, marginalization, and deprivation that continues to afflict nearly half the world’s population, stop and think.

Stop and think about what a global economic structures and policies would look like that put peoples’ needs first, respect and promote human rights, ensure decent jobs, sustainable livelihoods, and essential services such as health, education, housing, water, and clean energy. Public assistance programs like Bolsa Familia are a good start, but they represent only a piece of the solution.

Exploring other pieces of the puzzle is a growing mobilization of international and regional networks and organizations that are asking the world to take lesson and take charge of our democratic (and not so democratic) systems to give people greater control over the resources and decisions that affect their lives.

The world is not flat, and it is not a box.  And there are far to many alternatives yet to be discovered to  accept life in a box.

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