Martin McCluskey Live from Cannes at the G20
Of all the places that could have played host to an international summit at a time of world financial crisis, Cannes doesn’t seem like it should have come top of the list. Nothing about this part of the world signals ‘panic’; not the palm tree lined boulevards, not the beach bars nor the luxury yachts. Even the proximity of the conference venue to the city’s many casinos seems to bear some grim irony.
Nevertheless, this is where over the coming few days, world leaders will gather to discuss, deliberate and desperately try to hammer out a communiqué that they hope will turn their economies back on to the path to growth and prosperity. So where do the world’s poor countries fit into their agenda?
At the start of this year, the French Government – this year’s custodians of the G20 and G8 – set out an ambitious programme addressing everything from reform of the international financial system to restoring growth to G20 countries. Importantly they also put a heavy emphasis on development; ensuring that the work the G20 began in South Korea last year would carry on to Cannes this year. The continued commitment of the French Government to development was welcomed across the board by NGOs.
The last few months, however, have seen a darkening of the public mood and the possibility of another global recession rearing its head. And then in the last 48 hours, the crisis in Greece has thrust the financial crisis right back to the centre of the summit. While development hasn’t disappeared from the agenda, it doesn’t seem like it’s been dominating the leaders’ time and thinking. So the development section of the G20 summit this year is reduced to 105 minutes.
105 minutes to build consensus around solutions to the challenges that developing countries are facing: everything from famine and food crises to tax justice. The leaders will also use that time to receive a report from Bill Gates, who was asked by the French President to come up with new models of innovative financing for international development.
It’s a crammed agenda and there’s obviously a lot of interest in this summit from NGOs. A number of NGOs here – including VSO – are supporting a wide range of measures to address the challenges developing countries are facing. You can read more about that in our joint letter and briefing that we sent to the Prime Minister ahead of the summit.
VSO’s reason for being here is to bring to people’s attention some of the issues we’ve been working on recently, and which we will be focussing on over the coming months. These are issues that have been brought to our attention by our volunteers and chief among them is the lack of decent work opportunities in developing countries.
Why are we focussing on this issue?
Firstly, our volunteers and partners have told us about the devastating impact that unemployment is having on the countries they are working in, particularly on young people.
Secondly, it’s a growing problem and one that people in developing countries care about. We know, from research by the World Bank, that 70 per cent of people in developing countries see having a job as the best possible route out of poverty. And we now know, thanks to a report last week from the ILO, that fewer new jobs are being created than they were before the global financial crisis, and the quality of jobs is declining.
Thirdly, getting the growing number of working-age people into productive employment in developing countries could be an engine of global economic recovery.
And finally, the effects of worklessness run deep. We know from our own experience that having a job brings with it feelings of self worth and dignity. In other words, jobs are important not just for economic growth but social growth and wellbeing.
So while G20 leaders gather in Cannes, we’re going to be reminding them that it’s not just unemployment in their back yards that they need be worried about, it’s the lack of decent work opportunities for people everywhere. And we’ll be telling them that any proposed response to the global economic recession should not exclude the world’s poorest people – it should make them part of the solution.
Read more about the G20: Day 2 Live at the G20: Can Cannes Deliver?