RBW Contributes to CIVICUS State of Civil Society 2014 Report (June 2014)

Rethinking Bretton Woods | Tue, Jun 17, 2014

By Aldo Caliari


An article authored by Rethinking Bretton Woods Director Aldo Caliari, “Designing Equitable Economic Policies: The Case for a G193”  is featured by CIVICUS’s third State of Civil Society Report.



CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation released its third State of Civil Society Report. It features an article (“Designing Equitable Economic Policies: The Case for a G193”), written by Rethinking Bretton Woods Director Aldo Caliari.


In his contribution, Mr. Caliari contrasts the G20 with the UN (which a former President of the General Assembly referred to as the “G192”). Originally, the G20 was created to respond to the East Asian Financial Crisis. It gained more power in 2008-9, when it became necessary for emerging economies to be included in negotiations regarding responses to the global financial crisis. It is seen as a more democratic version of the G7/8, including the voices of developing countries while maintaining efficiency through its small size.


However, the supposed advantages of limited membership proved misleading. As the sense of emergency faded after the global financial crisis, the quick decisions faded with it. Obstacles to reaching consensus among member states in the G20 were comparable to problems reaching consensus experienced by larger and more inclusive bodies such as the UN. However, unlike the UN, the G20 lacks accountability to a broader membership. Due to the G20 countries’ influence in the UN and other universal-membership institutions, the results of their deliberations on all of these issues end up being mirrored by statements and actions by such institutions. Therefore, what is decided in these summits affects virtually the entire world. Yet, the decision makers are only accountable to a fraction of it. This is especially problematic considering the G20 has expanded its focus beyond global financial regulation to issues such as food security, climate finance, corruption, and trade.


He argues that while countries should be able to meet to coordinate positions in global fora, it is unacceptable if those decisions are then pushed upon another 173 countries. “justifying the non-transparent and ad hoc practices of a body under the cloak of a group of friends trying to better work together is disingenuous at best,” he says.


Background on the Report


In 2014, we see a “double democratic deficit.” On the national level, the lack of transparency and accountability in supposedly-democratic countries with high rates of growth has sparked a “second wave” of mass protests, which will not disappear until the government satisfies some of their demands. In response, governments have cracked down through censorship and violence, and have attempted to limit the abilities of CSOs to operate. On a global scale, global governance institutions such as the UN are outdated, state-centric, and undemocratic, as they are controlled mostly by powerful countries that exploit the inequalities of the current international system. A citizen-oriented and democratic approach to global governance is needed, as are wider partnerships by CSOs with each other, international organizations, and national governments.


The report examines perspectives from over 30 leading experts on civil society. It also includes an “Intergovernmental Organization Scorecard,” a pilot study of data from over 450 CSOs on how well IGOs interact with civil society.

Download the full State of Civil Society report.