Friday, July 6, 2012

In management of G8 and G20 summits, Mexican performance was vastly superior to U.S.

NGOs meeting at Los Cabos to prepare for their first press conference.
NOTE: This was originally published on the Huffington Post on July 2, 2012.
This year's G8 Summit took place at the secluded Camp David presidential retreat in the mountains of northern Maryland. The G20 Summit took place in Los Cabos, Mexico, the beach resort area at the southern tip of Baja California, where American tourists partied in clubs and frolicked on the beaches while 26 heads of state grappled with the world's most pressing problems.

Apart from the striking difference in venues, there was another huge contrast in the American and Mexican summits -- the level of transparency and the manner in which the two governments managed the process of consulting outside groups, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), otherwise known as civil society. Guess which country had a very transparent and inclusive process, with multiple opportunities for civil society engagement, and which made used a dedicated website and a suite of social media tools, including Twitter, Facebook, You Tube and others, to share information.

If you guessed the United States, you'd be wrong. As a member of the G8/G20 Global Task Force, a group of international NGOs advocating for their issues in the two summits, I saw firsthand that the Obama Administration's management of the G8 process was none of that:

In advancing food security at G20, civil society can learn from business

NOTE: This was originally published on the Impatient Optimists of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on June 20, 2012.
LOS CABOS, Mexico — One of the remarkable developments of this G20 Summit is the meteoric rise of the B20 (Business-20) and its championing of an issue that is also a priority for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) — food security and nutrition.

The B20 describes itself as “an international forum aimed at fostering dialogue between G20 governments and the global business community,” with a main objective of providing heads of state with meaningful recommendations from business.

Food security and nutrition might not have achieved the prominence they have at this summit if not for the B20. And they have achieved prominence—if not many concrete results — as evidenced by Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s op-ed in the Financial Times Monday entitled “Why food security comes first:”
We will have failed if we manage to get the richest nations back on track while the poorest still experience famine. That is why my country insisted on placing food security at the top of the G20 agenda, alongside the restoration of economic growth and global financial reform.

What NGOs want from the Mexico G20 on food security and nutrition

NGOs holding one of our two press conferences at the G20 at Los Cabos.
NOTE: This was originally published on the Huffington Post on June 18, 2012.
LOS CABOS, Mexico -- On the eve of the G20 Summit, which opens here on June 18, I've been looking into what nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) want to get out of the G20 Mexico on an issue that is a priority to NGOs as well as the Mexican presidency of the G20 -- "enhancing food security and addressing commodity price volatility," in the words of the Mexican government.

And I discovered that the biggest NGOs and NGO coalitions here in Los Cabos are advocating for many of the same food security and nutrition issues, but also have some differences.

In its paper titled Food Security: A G20 Priority, the Mexican government defines food security "not only as an increase in production, but also the availability of, and access to, food by the population."

In a sense, that is one of the highest priorities of NGOs advocating on this issue at Los Cabos -- to ensure that the G20 not only takes steps to increase food production but also to make sure that the most vulnerable, especially women and children, have access to it.

"Wise-Up" helps Ethiopian sex workers find new vocations

NOTE: This was originally published on the Huffington Post on June 18, 2012.
SHASHEMENE, Ethiopia -- Three years ago, Munayie, 25, made her living as a commercial sex worker here in Shashemene, a city of over 100,000 in the lake resort area of southern Ethiopia, about 240 kilometers south of Addis Ababa. She wanted to do something else but sex work was the only thing she knew that brought in the money she needed to provide for herself and her 8-year-old son.

Eventually, she and other sex workers found their calling as café owners with support from "Wise-Up," a condom promotion program of the non-profit organization DKT Ethiopia that targets sex workers, their clients and gatekeepers, and other "most at-risk populations." Wise-Up is grounded in the belief that promoting condoms to these groups will reduce prevalence of HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) because 1) prevalence is generally higher among these groups and 2) they act as "bridging" populations that spread HIV and STIs to the general population.

In 2009, Wise-Up created a cooperative of 15 sex workers and Munayie became its leader. In 2011, the cooperative opened a café and condom shop in Shashemene.