Governments struggling to meet community needs and aspirations must listen to a broad range of voices as their leaders meet for the world’s premier economic forum in Russia this week.
As the leaders of 19 countries and the EU converge on St Petersburg for the G20 Leaders Summit, rising inequality is feeding cynicism and protest in many parts of the world.
“In high, medium and low income countries alike there is a growing sense of dissatisfaction stemming from a feeling that ordinary people are being left behind as national leaders focus on economic growth as an end in itself,” ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said.
World Vision Australia CEO Tim Costello said tackling inequality within and between countries was necessary not only to improve quality of life, but to remove obstacles to increased productivity.
Mr Costello and Dr Goldie are Australia’s civil society delegates to the G20 Leaders Summit, to be held on September 5 and 6.
The Civil 20 (C20) has joined the B(usiness)20 and the L(abour)20 as a key means of channelling policy ideas to the G20 forum, as it attempts to boost global economic growth and create jobs at a time of economic and strategic uncertainty.
With Australia assuming the G20 presidency in December this year, the Australian Government has appointed a C20 Steering Committee to run an inclusive process of policy engagement between civil society and the G20.
“Ordinary people directly impacted by G20 policies need a voice at the G20 table, and the C20 process has allowed this to happen on an unprecedented scale in 2013,” Mr Costello said.
“Including a broad range of community voices in the global economic policy-making process ensures that attention is paid to sharing both the benefits and burdens of economic transition. Sustainable, inclusive growth based on investment in people will help to close the gap between those that are doing well, and the people being left behind.”
Dr Goldie said even prosperous countries like Australia are not immune from the problems caused by growing inequality.
“That’s why ACOSS has called on the next Australian government to set a specific target – a national development goal – to reduce poverty in our country,” she said.
Mr Costello said richer countries like Australia should not be trying to achieve Budget goals on the backs of the poor, by cutting the amount committed to effective foreign aid programs.
“In a tough international environment we should spend valuable public funds to do our bit to reduce poverty and inequality both in Australia and overseas.”
Dr Goldie and Mr Costello will meet with Russia’s Civil G20 secretariat to learn from their experience ahead of Australia’s C20 Summit, expected to be held in the middle of 2014.
“Our aim is to run a transparent, inclusive process to ensure as broad a range of community voices as possible can contribute to the C20 policy process, which in turn will feed into the G20 Leaders Summit to be held later in 2014 in Brisbane,” Mr Costello said.
Cassandra Goldie – Fernando De Freitas +61 2 419 626 155
Tim Costello – Kris Gough +61 3 481 005 468
Find out more about Australian Civil Society 20 here.