Letter to Leaders of the G20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To:

  • Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz, King of Saudi Arabia
  • Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany
  • Barack Obama, President of the United States of America
  • Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, President of Argentina
  • David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
  • Dmitry Medvedev, President of Russia
  • Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, President of Mexico
  • H. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of Indonesia
  • Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council
  • Hu Jintao, President of the People’s Republic of China
  • Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa
  • Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister of Australia
  • Lee Myung-bak, President of the Republic of Korea
  • Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, President of Brazil
  • Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India
  • Naoto Kan, Prime Minister of Japan
  • Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France
  • Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister of Turkey
  • Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Minister of Italy

 

June 23, 2010

Dear Leaders of Member States of the G20,

We are writing to you, leaders within the G20, as members of a broadly-based coalition of organizations across Canada drawn from a range of social movements, including human rights, labour, women’s equality, Indigenous rights, environmental protection, international development and faith communities. 

Our coalition, Voices-Voix, has very recently come together because of growing and very serious concerns that the space for dissent and debate is rapidly shrinking in Canada.   Evidence is mounting that defunding, organizational change and ideologically-based appointments are being used systematically to erode the integrity and independence of public institutions and civil society organizations.

We have just released the attached Declaration, which describes our concerns and calls for steps to be taken to reverse this very disturbing erosion of democratic principles and human rights protection.  We share it with you as we believe it is important you be aware of these concerns as you prepare to attend this month’s G20 Summit in Toronto.

We write to you in particular to underscore that as the G20 emerges as an influential and powerful global institution, it is vitally important that all G20 members, individually and collectively, agree to recognize, respect and support the role civil society organizations play in advancing human rights, justice, and sustainable development in their own countries and around the world.

Unfortunately throughout G20 states, as is the case throughout the world, when individuals and civil society organizations speak out about injustice, seek to address inequalities, or endeavour to protect the environment, they far too frequently face serious repercussions.   The consequences for advocates range from being killed, beaten or imprisoned; to being threatened, vilified or cut off from public funding.  When the efforts of civil society organizations are undermined in these ways, it is all of society that suffers.

In the past we have often looked to our own government to lead efforts within meetings such as the G20 to press other governments to improve their respect for the work of civil society organizations.  Canada has traditionally had a strong record of public support for civil society and can point to many proud examples of close collaboration between government and civil society organizations.   But unfortunately that is no longer the case, as our Declaration makes only too clear.

As such, we find ourselves unable with any confidence and credibility to ask our own government to assert leadership in advancing a strong role for civil society as the G20 develops.  Given the Canadian government’s role as host at the upcoming Summit it is with great regret that we find ourselves in this position.

Instead we turn to the G20 collectively with three simple, but fundamentally important requests.

  1. We urge the G20 to make a commitment to recognizing, respecting and supporting the role and independence of civil society organizations, within all member states.
  2. We call on the G20 to ensure that G20 summits, ministerial meetings and other aspects of its work include meaningful opportunities for civil society participation.
  3. We look to G20 members to raise the concerns laid out in the Voices-Voix Declaration about the eroding respect for democratic principles and human rights advocacy in Canada in discussions with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other Canadian officials.

People around the world are waiting to see what principles will shape the work of the G20 as it assumes growing global leadership responsibilities.  The G20 is most likely to gain the confidence of a watchful world if respect and active support for civil society is at its heart.   Recent setbacks in Canada cannot set the tone.  We look to you to ensure that the G20 Summits this year – both the upcoming gathering in Canada and the later Summit in South Korea – point the way forward, through both words and action.

Sincerely,

The Voices-Voix Coalition