Turkey’s G20 summit

Posted by in Activism, Economics, Feminism

The 2015 G20 summit on 15-16 November was held in the shadow of two large-scale terrorist attacks, with 128 killed in Ankara on 11 October and 130 killed in Paris on 13-14 November. This article reviews 2015’s outcomes, looks back at the 2014 Brisbane summit and community response and forward to planned future forums.

This was the 10th summit of leaders of Group of 20 (G20), intended as a platform to solve global economic problems but also including global climate change, development and immigration on the agenda. The G20 countries are Germany, the U.S., Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Indonesia, France, South Africa, South Korea, India, England, Italy, Japan, Canada, Mexica, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and EU Commission.

Turkey introduced two initiatives to add to the G20’s pursuit of growth: an accountability framework and country-specific investment strategies that each G20 member will prepare, as well as launching a World Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) forum promoting access to finance and aimed at integrating small and medium businesses into the global economy.

Six parallel groups were funded in 2015 to co-ordinate consistent messages with the main G20 agenda: Youth20, Woman20, NGO20, Think Tanks20, Labor20, and Enterpreneur20. W20, a new official engagement group established in 2015, asked the G20 to develop a scorecard to measure progress in the participation of women in the economy. Updates on compliance with G20 commitments are measured in publicly available reports produced by Canadian university-based G20 Research Group.

The G20 has made little progress on growth or the bigger risks in the global economy, including capital requirements for too-big-to-fail banks and the planned two-year G20/OECD Base Erosion and Profit Shifting agenda. Within the Turkish left the G20 is widely viewed as an American front.

Before the summit, bans were announced on indoor and outdoor meetings, gathering and demonstration rallies, press release, sit-in protest, chaining oneself, distributing leaflets, unfurling banner-poster, etc. between November 9-18 2015 in almost the entire city. Some Turkish media including Today’s Zaman were also excluded from the G20 summit. Such large scale prohibitions on freedom of expression are not normally part of the G20.

Turkish officials arrested over 250 people in Antalya and the surrounding area, according to local sources. The Turkish government announced that these were suspected ISIS members, but many local people have raised questions about how many of them were actually ISIS. Prosecutors have also opened a case into 87 people, including four lawyers, for their participation in an allegedly illegal demonstration on the first anniversary of the anti-government Gezi protests in Ankara, on May 31, 2014.

Some 500 Turkish protesters from a nationalist association marched in the Mediterranean city to express their opposition during the summit. Separately, hundreds of people from Turkish left-wing groups and trade unions took to streets in central Antalya and condemned the two-day meeting.

Members of Turkey’s ethnic Uighur community also staged a separate demonstration in the city to express their anger over the conditions of China’s Muslim minority who the protesters say have been mistreated by the Chinese government. The demonstrations were held about 40km away from the summit venue amid tight security.

Looking back: At the previous G20 in Brisbane Australia, alternative perspectives and public initiatives were low-key. A small group of experienced activists organised workshops and a protest, and a second group organised workshops and speakers encouraging alternative community and business inititatives, but neither achieved broad public visibility or attendance.  It was obvious too that the G20 has established an effective planning system which manages its public message and marginalises critical views in the lead-up to the event.

Looking forward: The next G20 heads of government summits are 4-5 September 2016 in Hangzhou China, 2017 in Germany and 2018 in India. China’s presidency and initiatives will be interesting, especially after their 2014 launch of the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank. On the evidence of 2014 and 2015, the prospects of any significant alternative public agenda in these locations seems slight, but that could change if 2016 produces another global economic crisis.