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  • Civil 20 Summit

Civil 20 Summit was held in Moscow under Russia’s G20 Presidency

The Civil 20 Summit is the concluding event of the Civil Track of Russia's G20 Presidency. Russia is the first presiding country to organize the civil society consultations process in this format, and at such level. Its main goal is to promote fruitful dialogue between global civil society, politicians and decision-makers focusing around the priorities set out in the official G20 agenda for 2013. The Civil 20 recommendations are expected to influence the G20 Summit agenda and Leaders' final Communiqué.

The agenda of the Civil 20 Summit included plenary, cross-section and working group meetings, open discussion platforms and an open meeting of the Editorial Committee.

The Co-Chair of the Civil 20, member of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, Head of the Working Group on the Development of NGOs under the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights, Elena Topoleva, opened the plenary session entitled "Economic Growth and Civil Society". The financial and economic crisis, noted Topoleva, showed that the problems faced by the majority of countries were directly linked to the absence or lack of dialogue between the government and civil society. She added that it was very important that all proposals, delivered at the Civil 20, are heard and taken into account by the policy-makers.

"Today we are fully aware of the scale of the challenges, as well as of the fact that it is up to the whole of society to respond to them," as noted by the Deputy Prime Minister Arkadi Dvorkovich. He added that the dialogue with the experts is conducted across all fields, whether it's environment or economic situation. Dvorkovich emphasized that in a sense, Russia sets an example for the G20 members by organizing the Civil Summit.

According to the former Minister of Finance of the Russian Federation, Dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences, St.Petersburg State University, Alexei Kudrin, Russia is on the road to developing the civil society institutions. "I believe that we are all at the stage of the development of the institutions of civil society, government and democracy. How these institutions will progress is very important in terms of developing the democracy and civil society standards," he stressed.

Executive Director of the Centre for Energy Efficiency and the Nobel Prize laureate Igor Bashmakov drew the attention of the Summit participants to the issue of energy efficiency and energy consumption. "Climate change has become significant; because of this the global GDP is losing its one percent. The economy is suffering huge losses. As temperatures change by 2 to 4 degrees - the economy will act like the Shagreen in La Peau de chagrin - it will gradually shrink. We must ensure a reduction of energy consumption and a reduction in the proportion of gas emissions," urged Igor Bashmakov.

Director of the Institute of International Organizations and International Cooperation, Co-Chair of the Russian Workgroup of NGOs on the interaction with the G8 and the G20, Marina Larionova spoke on the St.Petersburg initiative of ensuring sustainable growth and reducing inequality prepared by the Expert Council for Equality of the Civil 20.

"The initiative has a few simple principles. First, economic decisions should not be taken in isolation from the social consequences. We ask members of the G20 to incorporate inclusiveness as a priority, to develop and anticipate the respective indicators. We also suggest enhancing the social protection system, and elaborate on measures aimed at job creation and ensuring transparency of state authorities through the creation of access for a wide range of citizens to the monitoring of commitments implementation, social services and their quality," explained the expert.

Secretary General of Transparency International, Huguette Labelle, expressed appreciation of Russia's work on organizing the civil summit and stated that civil society played an important role in the fight against corruption, shaping a healthy and stable society. Labelle also noted that civil society organizations were the carriers of excellence. "They bridge the gap between citizens and the state," Labelle concluded.

Labor mobility and unemployment reduction were at the heart of the panel discussion "Stimulating Decent and Socially Inclusive Job Creation" during the Civil 20 Summit. Experts believe that jobs should be responsive to the needs of women, youth, the elderly people, the disabled and other socially vulnerable groups.

Co-Chair of the Civil 20 Working Group on Jobs and Employment, Executive Vice-President, International Organization of Employers, Daniel Funes de Rioja (Argentina) said that stable economic recovery was impossible without creating new jobs. According to him, there are countries where the second and the third generations cannot find permanent jobs and this, in turn, leads to political instability.

"We offer an integrated approach that is aimed at, on the one hand, stimulating economic growth and, on the other, at creating jobs. We work actively with NGOs to establish strong relationship between students, youths and companies. Equally important is the question of migration and the migrant workers' employment. We must combine economic growth with education, youth employment and should not forget about employment opportunities for people with disabilities. To achieve this, the quality of jobs should be improved," said Daniel Funes de Rioja.

Head of the Department of Economics, European University at St.Petersburg, Maxim Bouev spoke on the migration-related issues in a more detail. According to him, we in Russia have southward and westward oriented migration. For this reason, Sakhalin, for example, has lost over 60% of its workforce. If no attention is paid to migration and unemployment issues, long-term unemployment will be inevitable. Mr. Bouev advocates the creation of social housing and affordable loans for the young people.

Head of the Employment Department, NGO "Perspective", Mikhail Novikov proposed to invest public funds not only in jobs for people with disabilities but also in their education and support. "If we talk about employment of people with disabilities as a valuable economic component we need to have an inclusive labour market. Today funds are directed to stimulate employers to create jobs for people with disabilities. In Moscow, such programs provide up to 600,000-800,000 rubles per job. But an employer would stop exactly at this point. We recommend investing in the disabled themselves, in their competitiveness and professional development, because these qualities will allow them to find employment and stay in the labour market," as stated by the expert.

A panel discussion under the heading "Availability of Financial Services and Financial Education" was another section of the Civil 20 Summit. Speakers discussed ways to form favorable legal framework to improve access to financial resources for medium-sized businesses, protection of the public, with particular attention to the vulnerable groups with the low level of financial literacy, from aggressive financial service marketing. Other issues included the place of financial education in the school curriculum and the ways for the G20 to promote best practices in the area of financial services, protection of consumers and financial education.

Co-Chair of the Civil 20 Working Group "Financial Inclusion and Financial Education" and financial analyst Dmitry Golubovsky said that in the world of today, one cannot imagine a society without financial education; however, the problems of financial literacy are different for the developed and the developing economies. For the latter, he said, the development of financial literacy is a huge investment resource. "Like compulsory school education, this is also a responsibility of the state," said Mr. Golubovsky, adding that the fundamentals of the economy should be taught at school. He listed the possible areas for development: access to microfinance, financial literacy, equal access to financial services, exchange of experience and greater openness.

Co-Chair of the Civil 20 Working Group "Financial Inclusion and Financial Education", President and CEO of the G(irls)20 Summit Farah Mohamed believes that countries should be "more active today in making financial literacy and financing more available". "We also have tremendous opportunities to avoid the mistakes of the past." She also emphasized that "we are capable of creating a good environment."

Director of the Institute for Budget Solutions Aleksandr Kovalevsky believes that since consumer demand has been growing rapidly in recent years, people often do not realize the advantages and dangers of the credits they are offered and can easily become the victims of financial fraud. Vulnerable population groups pose another problem, he added. To exemplify, Mr. Kovalevsky spoke of teenagers leaving the Russian orphanages without basic financial knowledge. "What should be done? It is necessary to develop educational programs and include them in the school curriculum," Mr. Kovalevsky mentioned, while noting a rather conservative approach to this issue on the part of educational establishments.

Head of the Education Division of the Child and Youth Finance International Jared Penner said that he was happy to discuss the issues of financial inclusion and literacy at the summit since these are the topics of great importance. He emphasized the need to work with the young people, to promote their literacy, starting probably from primary school, and to combine academic knowledge with practical experience. "We believe that financial education and entrepreneurship should go hand in hand," said Mr. Penner.

Chairman of the Council of Inter-Regional Mass Organization "Union of Consumers of Financial Services" Igor Kostikov is convinced that all issues of financial literacy should focus on protection of consumer rights. "Russia has adopted a rather progressive law on consumer rights that has been operating since 1992. However, owing to their lobbying capacity, the financial institutions have an opportunity to exclude themselves from the scope of this law," Mr. Kostikov said. He also mentioned that his organization was already engaged in financial training at schools: about 200,000 school students had already been taught the basics of financial education. There are also other NGOs that participate in similar activities. "Confidence in the financial market cannot be recovered unless the issue of corporate responsibility of financial institutions is resolved," Mr. Kostikov stressed.

The panel discussion "Sustainable Development: Socially Inclusive Development, Economic Growth, and Ecological Sustainability" was held within the framework of the Civil 20 Summit. Its participants analyzed new investment trends in sustainable development, creation of know-how and new knowledge-based jobs, new potentials for sustainable energy supply, struggle against energy hunger, and the role of international and national development institutions, and also country risks associated with the economic structure and the volatility of commodity market prices.

The discussion was opened by Mr. Vladimir Chuprov, Co-Chair of the Civil 20 Environmental Sustainability and Energy Working Group, Head of the Energy Department, Greenpeace. According to Mr. Chuprov, nearly 40 experts were engaged in developing recommendations based on the data obtained as early as in the times of the Civil 8. He also spoke about the situation with the NGOs in Russia and the letter drawn up by environmental organizations addressed to Russia's President. "Loss of strength of civil society is always a poor tune," he said.

According to the Co-Chair of the Civil 20 Environmental Sustainability and Energy Working Group, Executive Director of the International Institute for Sustainable Development Peter Wooders, public debates are crucial to solve issues in focus. In his opinion, energy is the most significant aspect of sustainable development. "Financially sustainable electric power system is extremely important for economic growth and development," Mr. Wooders emphasized. He says, today most consumers complain about high energy prices; however, there are some positive changes in this area, for instance, the construction of a solar power plant in India. "Some time ago, we could hardly dream of it, while today solar energy can compete with oil and gas," Mr. Wooders said. According to the expert, a well-adjusted and tuned system will produce its own investment capital.

Igor Leshukov, Co-Chair of the G20 Energy Working Group, Head of the Energy Advisory Board of the Russian Presidency in the G20, pointed out that fair financial conditions are indispensable to ensure power supply globally. "It is a complex task to store and transport electricity due to a number of technical restrictions. You, as a businessman entering into commercial relations, will hardly be able to assess all possible risks. A key to success in this sector is to allow market players hedge financial risks; otherwise, no businessman will enter into this market. We are searching opportunities to cut down power prices for all," Leshukov clarified.

As stated by Mr. Doug Norlen, Policy Director at the Pacific Environment, "we are to exert pressure on our governments to make them never forget about "green power" and the environment." He pointed out that private businesses often need governmental support and guarantees to enter the energy market.

Mikhail Balabenko, Arctic Marine Environment Program Coordinator, World Wildlife Fund, emphasized that it is essential to understand the notion of sustainable development first. According to him, the concept of sustainable development means not delegating debts to coming generations. "Planning horizon should be changed. Green growth and green economy are a kind of platform where both governments and NGOs can find something attractive, including creation of new jobs, knowledge-based economy, new agenda for the development institutions and development banks. Green economy is an efficient tool to make use of the bottom-up initiatives; movement towards green economy should be among our strategic priorities."