July 15, 2015 at 5:00 am ET
For political wonks, reporters and other interested parties the main event of a country’s G20 presidency is the meeting of heads of state that take place in November. But the reality is, G20 activities and discussions take place year-round, and Turkey – this year’s host – is six months in to a successful G20 presidency. Turkey outlined its goals for the year back in December, focusing on “inclusive and robust growth through collective action”. At the halfway point in its presidency, the work Turkey has done to achieve this goal has strengthened the forum and will continue to do so well into the future.
The G20 has strived in recent years to be more inclusive through their policy groups tailored to business (B20), labor (L20), youth (Y20), civil (C20) and think tank (T20) representatives. However, Turkey identified key demographics that remained underrepresented. Because of this, Turkey helped create a new working group, the W20, to bring together the voices of women in the workplace and highlight the role of women in the global economy. Although recent G20 meetings have set policy positions on gender issues, the W20 provides a specific forum to do so – a move that one Chatham House scholar declared “an important step toward finally taking gender equality seriously”.
Additionally, Turkey has worked to ensure that low-income developing countries (LIDCs) are able to participate in these global discussions. The major economies that comprise the G20 hold discussions on issues that impact these countries such as development and climate change, and Turkey has spearheaded efforts to foster collaboration with LIDCs through international bodies such as the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program. Next week, for example, Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan will be traveling to Ethiopia to bring these discussions to the International Conference on Financing for Development. Turkey’s efforts to ensuring that the global economy remains open to all have been praised by analysts at the African Development Bank as bringing “a new ‘buzz’… to the rich and evolving global development agenda”.
Turkey’s overarching goal of inclusion has also influenced smaller working groups and discussions within the G20. One such initiative is the Silver Economy Workshop, which was held in Rome in late June. This discussion focused specifically on the challenges that face elderly workers, ranging from pensions to age discrimination to accessibility in the workplace. The Silver Economy Workshop was just one of many smaller events to highlight a specific group, ranging from the G20’s first-ever dialogue with Caribbean nations to the creation of the World Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Forum to represent the interests of small businesses.
Turkey has seen firsthand that a more inclusive economy is a stronger economy. Support for young people, financing for women-owned businesses and training programs that target older workers have all helped enrich Turkey’s economy and provide new opportunities for its workforce. By focusing its G20 presidency on those groups that traditionally have not had sufficient representation, Turkey has made great strides in advancing the conversation globally as well. As the year continues, the G20 will continue to benefit from these new and important perspectives.
Ali Cinar is Vice-President of the Turkish Heritage Organization.