By Kaufmann | March 31, 2009 5 Comments »
I have been asked to go and participate as a blogger in the G-20* Summit in London taking place this week, one of fifty bloggers invited through the G20 Voice. This blogging project is sponsored by prominent NGOs like Oxfam, Save the Children, ONE, Global Voices, and supported by the Summit host, the UK government.
The instincts of the G20Voice creators may well be right: some important issues affecting billions of people may be left under the rug at the Summit — even if some of the leaders have the right intentions (and even though the G-20 is a welcomed improvement over the outdated and elite G-8)…
OK, then having a broader and more participatory fora like G20Voice is important to bring up priority issues, transparently and frankly, however difficult or politically sensitive such issues may be.
But I hope that G20Voice is not only about giving prominent voice to ‘issues’. People need to be voice-empowered as well. The blogosphere can also make a difference in mitigating the prevailing ‘Voice Deficit’ that afflicts citizens in a number of countries in the G-20.
In the G-20 there are 19 countries and the EU as a block. A total of about 1.5 billion citizens living in three of the 19 countries are severely ‘voice deprived’, while another 400 million living in another set of three countries have it only a tad better, living in a ‘voice challenged’ environment. In each one of these six countries there are serious limits in terms of freedom of expression and/or political and civil liberties.
Anybody can guess the list of countries with voice deficit (merely by looking at the list), let me note that this voice deficit estimate of 1.9 billion citizens does not include citizens of any rich country, or Argentina (facing serious governance challenges, but not in voice), Brazil, Korea, India or South Africa.
Nor I am taking in the apparent last minute inclusion of other (non-G20) leaders in this upcoming Summit event, such as the PM of Ethiopia (another voice deprived country), in their regional body capacity.
In sum, at least 40% of the citizens of the G-20 may suffer from a significant Voice Deficit. There is no guarantee that the will and aspirations of the common citizen in these countries is represented by the government leader in official attendance. Further, let us keep in mind that even in some richer countries the existence of capture by elites of important aspects of regulation, policies and laws also results in a (subtler, but real) voice deficit for the common citizen.
Along other initiatives, projects like G20Voice should help address the voice deficit in the G-20, and promote further accountability by the leaders.
* The official members of the G-20 are: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, and, as its 20th member, the European Union. The Netherlands and Spain are expected to join the upcoming London Summit on April 2nd, and the following international organizations will also be present as observers: NEPAD, ASEAN, UN, World Bank, IMF, and FSF.