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Call for a Global Leaders Forum


The world urgently needs a more democratic international decision-making forum to promote an equitable sustainable economic recovery. STWR joins with civil society groups from around the world to call for greater inclusion and transparency in global governance.

Towards a Global Leaders Forum that promotes democratic global governance and an equitable and sustainable economic recovery

International Civil Society Statement ahead of the 2010 G-20 Leaders Summit in Toronto

The world urgently needs democratic and global decision-making that puts the international economic and financial system at the service of equity, economic and social justice, human rights, and environmental sustainability. A forum recognized as legitimate and credible by all will be far more effective in addressing today’s critical global issues.

In this vein, the G-20 can only be the first step. To achieve the broader goal of democratic governance, a global leaders’ forum must include the effective participation of low income countries. The immediate inclusion of the African Union, followed perhaps by other regional bodies, would be a step towards a more comprehensive constituency-based system. It must respect democratic principles of inclusion, representation, transparency and accountability, and must provide avenues for hearing citizens’ voices. In the medium term, such a forum needs to transition towards a democratic and global leaders summit process within the framework of the United Nations.


The world has been battered by a series of interconnected and unrelenting crises: food, fuel, finance and climate. These crises have exposed deep-rooted fragilities and imbalances in the global financial system and its governance, and have led to efforts to reform the existing international financial architecture.  

In past years, various entities have underscored the need for a new multilateral leaders’ forum to help govern the global economy, highlighting the failings of existing structures. In response to the global dimensions of the current crisis and the rising importance of several emerging economies, the G-8 has been transformed into the G-20, self-designated as the “premier forum for international economic co-operation.” Since 2008, they have met three times at the Heads of State level, discussing reforms to the global economic system.

Compared to the G-8, the G-20 has a greater number and diversity of members, representing 65 per cent of the world’s population and 85 per cent of global gross national product. But the G-20 remains a self-selected body and has no mandate other than its own regarding the global economy—or any other issue. The G-20 excludes all low-income countries. Indeed, more than 170 UN member states, many of whom are suffering disproportionate impacts arising from the crisis, have no representation at all.

While promising to repair the global economy and build an inclusive and sustainable recovery, G-20 leaders instead injected 1.1 trillion dollars into many of the same institutions whose economic, finance and trade policies exacerbated the speed, scale and impact of the crisis. Reforms have been superficial, and any shifts to the current economic paradigm still seem temporary, rather than long term.

Reforms to global governance must go hand in hand with an economic paradigm that promotes global equity, justice and environmental sustainability, in which governments respect their human rights obligations and all citizens are able to claim their rights.

For a leaders group to work effectively in form, and responsibly in function, it must respect democratic principles of inclusion, representation, transparency and accountability, and must provide avenues for hearing citizens’ voices. Such a forum needs to be flexible and manageable in terms of its size and membership, while also ensuring that political leadership can be brought to bear on global challenges. Its policies must promote the interests of the global community in general, while reflecting the diversity of countries in particular. Ultimately, building an international leaders forum must be done within the context of strengthening multilateralism more generally and the role of the United Nations in particular.  

2010 is an opportunity to ensure that the G-20’s meetings in Toronto and Seoul are a force for democratic and sustainable change in the way the world is run. The undersigned organizations from around the world call on all governments to adhere to the following key principles and benchmarks for renewing multilateralism and building a truly global leaders forum:

Key principles for a more democratic leaders’ forum for international cooperation:

1) Inclusive of the poorest countries - Starting with the AU. There is great diversity among developing countries.  Brazil, India, China and South Africa have emerged as important new players, but they cannot be expected to speak effectively to the interests of Sub Saharan Africa or low-income countries and least developed countries (LDCs) in other regions. Recovery for these countries will require distinct strategies reflecting their specific realities. These include high debt loads, a narrower range of exports, a weaker industrial base, a large rural population, heavy disease burdens, greater dependence on aid, and recurrent internal conflict. As long as these countries are not at the table, the issues and solutions being discussed will likely fall short of their needs and lack credibility.  As a first step for 2010, the African Union (AU) must be included in G-20 meetings—as a participant, not an observer. Over time there must be further representation for LDCs at the table.

2) Representative in composition. A global leaders’ forum may need to be limited in size, but to be legitimate and credible, it must also be representative. Different regions must be engaged through a constituency system with decision-making by consensus, similar to the practices of other international institutions—with the important difference that countries should be free to choose their own groupings. The chair of each constituency should rotate on a periodic basis.

3) Transparent and accountable. Just as the G-8 has begun to modestly tackle transparency and accountability for decisions taken (through the pending release of a broader G-8 Accountability Framework), the locus of power has shifted to an institution that is even less transparent and accountable. In the short term, the G-20 must put in place measures to address these deficiencies by extending an Accountability Framework to all G-20 commitments. This should be supported by ‘expert groups’ that are empowered to solicit and receive outside reports. The G-20 and its expert groups should operate transparently by making meeting schedules, participants and expert lists, agendas and background documents publicly available on websites. An accountability report drawing upon the work of the expert groups should be publicly available 30 days prior to the G-20’s annual summit.

4) Strengthens the role of the UN. The G-20 needs to position itself as a forum that recognizes and strengthens the role of the United Nations. The leaders summit should be part of the UN framework. Recently, the UN Commission of Experts on the International Monetary and Financial System called on the establishment of a Global Economic Coordinating Council within the UN that can be a good model. It would meet annually at the Heads of State level to assess developments and provide leadership in economic, social and ecological issues, and help secure consistency and coherence in the policy goals of all the major international organizations. In the medium term, such a forum could replace the ad hoc measures proposed above.

5) Open to civil society. Non-state actors are increasingly important players in international processes. Civil society critiques and proposals have positively affected governments’ understanding of the issues, policy agendas and methods of work. Institutionalizing evolving best practices of the current ‘Civil G-8’ dialogue within the G-20, and encouraging the ‘expert groups’ described above to solicit and receive formal civil society submissions for G-20 consideration would be an important step forward. G-20 governments and parliaments should also explicitly commit to effective consultations with civil society ahead of, and between, summit meetings.

If leaders fail to make this shift, the world will lack the effective leadership forum it requires to deal with the present crisis and avert future ones.   

Signatories (As of March 11, 2010):

ActionAid International
The Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID)
Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP)
International Trade Union Confederation
Medical Mission Sisters International
Oxfam International
Third World Network
VIVAT International

Arab NGO Network for Development
European Network on Debt and Development

Campaña, Argentina

Australian Council for International Development, Australia
Jubilee Australia, Australia

Lokoj Institute, Bangladesh
Organization for Social Development of Unemployed Youth, Bangladesh

Associação Brasileira de Gays, Lésbicas, Bissexuais, Travestis e Transexuais – ABGLT, Brasil

Abundant Grace Foundation, Cameroon
Action pour l'Humanisation des Hôpitaux, Cameroun

AIDS Committee of Ottawa, Canada
Canada Africa Partnership On AIDS (CAP AIDS), Canada
Canadian Council for International Co-operation, Canada
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Canada
Council of Canadians, Canada
Daughters of Africa International Inc., Canada
L'Entraide missionnaire, Canada
Global Network of People living with HIV/AIDS,  Canada
Halifax Initiative Coalition, Canada
Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development, Canada
Make Poverty History Canada, Canada
Micah Challenge Canada, Canada
University of Ottawa, Department of Medicine, Canada
RESULTS Canada, Canada

Agrupación HAIN, Chile

Senderos Asociación Mutual, Colombia
Mecanismo Social de control y apoyo en Vih, Colombia

Asovihsida, Costa Rica

Finnish NGO Platform to the EU, Finland

Alliance Sud, France

VENRO, Association of German Development NGOs, Germany

Afro Global Alliance (GH), Ghana
Pathfinders Outreach Ministry, Ghana
TB Voice Network, Ghana

ONGD  Africando, Gran Canaria (España)

Anti Debt Coalition (KAU), Indonesia
International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID), Indonesia

CRBM, Italy
Fair, Italy

JANIC, Japan

African Women's Development and Communications Network/FEMNET, Kenya

African Child Peace Initiative (ACPI) Inc, Liberia
Fuamah Citizen Union, Liberia
Liberia Institute of Public Opinion (LIPO), Liberia
Liberia United for the Welfare of Children (LUWOC), Liberia

Council for NGOs in Malawi – CONGOMA, Malawi

Global Health Candlelight, Mali

Aids Candlelight Memorial Association, Ile Maurice

Varones Siglo 21, Mexico

Terra-1530, Moldova

Global South Initiative, Nepal
Rural Area Development Programme (RADP), Nepal

Both ENDS, Netherlands
Niza, Netherlands

Council for International Development, New Zealand
New Zealand AIDs Foundation, New Zealand

African Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), Nigeria
Afro Global Alliance (NIG), Nigeria
The Genius Generation, Nigeria
Grassroots Empowerment Network, Nigeria
The International Community of Women living with HIV and AIDS (ICW Nigeria), Nigeria
Noble Missions for Change Initiative, Nigeria
Stronghold Support Services, Nigeria
Womankind Nigeria for Women living with HIV and AIDS, Nigeria

Life Foundation, Pakistan
Youth Advocacy Network (YAN), Pakistan

Population Services Pilipinas Incorporated, Philippines

New Hope Federation, South Africa

Attac España, Spain
Foro Social de Murcia Francisco Morote Vidal, Spain
Intersindical Valenciana, Spain

Berne Declaration, Switzerland

Bureau on Human Rights and Rule of Law, Tajikistan
CSO "Equal opportunities", Tajikistan

Worldview, The Gambia

Global Health International Institute, Togo

Uganda Coalition for Sustainable Development, Uganda
Voice of the disadvantaged people, Uganda

BOND, United Kingdom
Bretton Woods Project, United Kingdom
Jubilee Debt Campaign, United Kingdom
Share The World's Resources, United Kingdom
War on Want, United Kingdom
World Development Movement, United Kingdom

Foreign Policy in Focus, USA
Global Financial Integrity, USA
Global Health Council, USA
Institute for Policy Studies, Global Economy Project, USA
InterAction, USA
Looking Over Your Shoulder Ministries, Inc., USA
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, USA
New Rules for Global Finance, USA
Orange High School ONE Club, USA
Student Trade Justice Campaign, USA

Worldview, The Gambia

To sign on visit the Halifax Initiative website