6. Juli 2017

Can the G20 Foster Women’s Economic Empowerment?

Everyone talks about Germany’s G20 presidency, but the accompanying civil society dialogue process is lesser-known thus far. Who are the groups participating in this process? What are their main agendas? And how can the G20 promote women’s economic empowerment?

An Interview with Juliane Rosin and Lea Spörcke


The first Women 20 Summit under the German G20 presidency was held in Berlin last April. Some of the most powerful female leaders came together to address the future of women’s entrepreneurship. Among the guests were Angela Merkel, Christine Lagarde, Ivanka Trump, Queen Maxima and Anna Finucane. Their presence attracted much attention, in particular Ivanka Trump who was allegedly booed for defending her father. Critics accused the W20 later for only empowering the economy and not women.

Before the start of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Polis member Lea Spörcke spoke to the Executive Manager of W20, Juliane Rosin, about the meaning of the W20 dialogue process and the prospects of economic empowerment for women in the 21st Century.


Dear Mrs. Rosin, can you break down the main goal of W20?

Juliane Rosin: The main objective of Women 20 is to promote women’s economic empowerment as an integral part of the G20 process. The voice of women, especially those of the BRICS countries, have only played a marginal role in G20 decision making. Diversity and full participation are, however, crucial for resilient, sustainable and viable economies and societies. In other words, the W20’s goal is to urge the G20 to anchor women’s economic empowerment in all governments’ policy agendas and frameworks.


What support from the G20 do you need in order to empower women and stabilize economies at the same time?

J. Rosin: First of all, the G20 member states need to systematically integrate gender analysis and gender budgeting into all its agenda, growth strategy and policy frameworks. G20 countries need to adopt national action plans articulating specific actions and targets to reduce gaps in their labour market participation rate between men and women in line with the ‘25 percent by 25’ goal that the G20 leaders committed to in Australia in 2014. Most importantly, this includes the adoption of and agreement on essential indicators to monitor its progress with support from the OECD and the ILO. Second, 42 percent of women and girls worldwide (approximately 1.1 billion people) remain outside the formal financial system. The G20 must hence support women entrepreneurs and female cooperatives by unlocking credit for women in business and ensure their equal access to finance and markets. And third, the G20 needs to bridge the digital gender divide by improving women’s access to the internet and effective digital skills training. We recommend setting up a comprehensive 5-year plan for digital transformation and partner with the ‘EQUALS’ initiative implemented by the Telecommunication Union (ITU), the GSM Association (GSMA) and UN Women. The internet and e-commerce will continue to power world growth in the future. For women to share in this growth, they must be equipped to take full advantage of information technology.


Critics claimed that W20 only fits business feminism, especially with regard to the invitation of Ivanka Trump. Do you think that’s justified?

J. Rosin: Unfortunately, many of those critics forgot to do their research and to recognize that Women20 draws on the input of a very diverse network. W20’s core agenda, the final communiqué, is drafted in a three-months consultation process by over 100 delegates and experts from civil society organizations, business associations, academia and international organizations such as UN Women, ILO, OECD or the International Trade Center. Reducing W20 to business feminism would hence ignore the diverse background and input provided by our committed network. Nevertheless, I agree that many NGOs do not deal with women’ economic empowerment on the international level and if they do, they face financial burden to actively participate in international dialogue such as Women 20. We tried to mitigate this structural disadvantage by raising external funds for 10 delegates representing civil society perspectives from emerging economies.  

With regard to our W20 Summit, we did our best to invite a diverse range of high-level guests to draw attention to the hard work of our delegates and to position women’s empowerment at the centre of everyone’s attention, at least for a few days. We were glad that Mrs. Trump joined the W20 cause and participated in one of our panels together with inter alia Queen Maxima from the Netherlands, Chancellor Merkel, Christine Lagarde and Fin-tech Entrepreneur Juliana Rotich. They were very important guests at our summit, yes, but the work and the W20 agenda is yet set by our network!


Are the G20 civil society dialogues the right platform to promote women’s economic empowerment?

J. Rosin: The G20 is the key policy coordination forum in contemporary global economic governance. An important platform for political opinion forming bringing together the 20 strongest countries in the world. An opportunity to create change we cannot miss. Still, the G20 leaders’ summit is only the end of a year-long consultation process involving several Sherpa meetings, ministerial conferences and working group meetings. Ignoring the invitation to advocate women’s empowerment in this process would hence miss a crucial opportunity to make women’s voices heard at G20 negotiations. We, yet, lack access to important working groups (such as the developing working group) and ministerial meetings (like the meeting of finance or agriculture). There is hence a lot of room for improvement when it comes to transparency, accessibility and responsiveness of the G20 dialogue.


Juliane Rosin is the Executive Manager of W20. The W20 dialogue process was organized by the National Council of German Women’s Organizations [Deutscher Frauenrat, DF] and the Association of German Women Entrepreneurs [Verband deutscher Unternehmerinnen] (VdU). DF is the biggest women’s lobby in Germany with more than 50 nationwide women’s associations and organizations. VdU represents the interests of entrepreneurially active women in commerce, society and politics for more than sixty years.

The project “Women’s Economic Empowerment and the G20” is part of Polis180’s program area Women and International Politics. The project features an interview series on the Polis Blog as well as a public event foreseen for autumn 2017.

The Polis Blog serves as a platform at the disposal of Polis180’s members. Published comments express solely the authors’ opinions and shall not be confounded with the opinions of the editors or of Polis180. Image: http://bit.ly/2uuJJI.


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