The G20 is a forum that has received much criticism. The protests at the Hamburg G20 Summit in 2017 once again demonstrated this attitude towards the G20. Skeptical voices often emphasize the exclusivity of the group and moreover, a lack of legitimacy due to the low involvement of civil society in the process. However, such critical voices forget that the G20 relies on seven so-called “Engagement Groups” which represent different civil society stakeholders, among others, the scientific community, the private sector and trade unions, women, and young people. These Engagement Groups meet in parallel to the G20 work streams; they maintain a dialogue with policymakers and thus channel their respective recommendations into the G20 Process.

Although their recommendations are non-binding, they are considered by the G20 for their negotiations, and therefore contribute to the policymaking process. In times of rising protectionism, anti-globalization-resentments, and national solo-runs negotiations and decision-making processes at the state-level have become more unpredictable; cooperation becomes a rare good. In such an environment, fora like the Engagement Groups serve as important open channels of communication and exchange, when other ways of communication are locked. Such channels are essential, because it only becomes obvious through intensive exchanges where exactly interests, goals and problems differ or are more similar than originally anticipated. Only through these channels are the identification of different positions and of common awareness of problems, as well as consensus finding and trust-building possible. The G20 Engagement Groups offer constructive communication platforms away from political lines and they provide invaluable input for the international policy making process.

The outreach process of the G20 to the Engagement Groups is therefore an essential part of the G20 Process and gains special significance in turbulent times of international politics. As last year’s Presidency of the Business 20 Engagement Group (B20), we strongly support this process. The B20 is the official business dialogue of the G20; it comprises of representatives from companies, business associations, and international organizations of the G20 countries. Last year, under the German Presidency, about 700 representatives took part in the B20 taskforces, discussing the most pressing topics for businesses, such as trade, climate change, digitalization, growth and infrastructure, employment, and anticorruption. The German Presidency also introduced the “Health Initiative“ and developed recommendations on the G20 Compact with Africa.

This direct involvement of business representatives into the B20 and G20 Process has proven to be extremely valuable in order to gain insights on businesses’ needs in a more globalized and interconnected world. The B20 focuses on topics which call for global solutions, such as digitization, climate policy or multilateral trade. Moreover, the G20 relies on the expertise from the business community in B20 on these essential topics and therefore not only welcomes but considers the recommendations by the B20 for their G20 Communiqué. Last year, for the first time ever, the German B20 Presidency has evaluated the G20 responsiveness to the B20 recommendations. Our evaluation has shown that the German B20 Presidency was successful in channeling some recommendations into the G20 Communiqué. In particular, in the field of financing growth and infrastructure, employment and education, as well as in the area of energy and resource efficiency, recommendations were successfully reflected in the G20 Process. However, recommendations for international trade and climate policies as well as for digitization and for responsible business conduct were only partially considered in the G20 Communiqué. The reflection of B20 priorities in the field of SMEs and health were further disappointing. B20 Germany thus wishes to strengthen G20 awareness of these important topics and will support the current and coming B20 Presidencies in elaborating further solid recommendations for these focus areas.

After handing over the Presidency to Argentina in November 2017, our work, however, has not only focused on the evaluation process. As part of the B20 Troika, B20 Germany has supported the Argentine Presidency and has accompanied the process closely. The Argentine Presidency decided to continue the work in the five taskforces, introduced under the German Presidency. Additionally, the Argentine Presidency established a new taskforce on “Sustainable Food Systems”; the topics “Integrity and Compliance”, as well as “SME’s” are also covered by taskforces. The Argentine B20 Presidency also invited representatives from companies, business associations, and international organizations, among them some German taskforce co-chairs contributing their expertise from the previous year to the B20 Process. Thanks to their efforts and in particular thanks to the Argentine B20 Presidency and its strong and exemplary commitment to the process, eight policy papers with innovative and actionable recommendations have been elaborated. We now look forward to the B20 Summit on October 4th and 5th in Buenos Aires, and to the handing over of the policy papers to the head of states and governments.

The example of the B20 Engagement Group clarifies that the G20 Process is more than solely exchange on the highest level of government representatives. The consistent and constructive involvement of civil society stakeholders into the process is an essential part of the G20. In turbulent times of international politics, the seven Engagement Groups are moreover the right answer to further multilateralism and international cooperation apart from the political context. Therefore, the B20 is an important factor in tackling today’s global challenges together and in seizing the opportunities of current global interconnectedness. B20 Germany put substantial efforts and commitment into our past year’s Presidency. As we accompany the process closely, we hope that following G20 Presidencies will also appreciate the relevance and invaluable input of companies and business associations and will continue the highly renowned B20 Process.

Source: B20 Germany