Global March is concerned that the G20 Summit in Toronto, Canada, 26-27 June 2010, represents a missed opportunity for the world’s leaders to promote strong political commitment to tackle the global financial crisis while ensuring that the most vulnerable in society will not suffer unduly. Leaders at the summit have agreed to cut national budget deficits while endeavouring to promote economic growth, but problems could arise from the extent of budget cuts being adopted by some countries, particularly within the European Union.
The debt crisis that has created such havoc among EU countries has resulted in a return to the failed IMF lending policies of the past which prescribed austere public spending cuts as a key element of economic recovery. These policies lead to reduced wages, pensions and essential social programmes, including social protection for the most vulnerable and children. Education and health programmes are similarly cut back, impacting on vital services for children. And, of course, development and humanitarian budgets are similarly easy targets for public expenditure cut backs. At the G20 Summit, emerging economies, such as Argentina and Brazil, expressed concern that budget cuts in industrialised nations would hurt export-dependent economies in the developing world.
The Global Unions’ statement produced for the G8 and G20 Summits called for world leaders to pay particular attention in discussing economic recovery to creating jobs, stimulating economic growth, investing in education and skills development and reinforcing social protection to protect the most vulnerable in society from the fallout of the crisis. In addition, the statement reinforced the call by global civil society to establish an international financial transaction tax to hold financial institutions accountable for the global financial crisis and to increase the availability of resources to underpin development and poverty alleviation. It was, therefore, frustrating to note that the proposals for a global levy on banks were dropped at the G20 Summit. Instead, this issue will be left to individual countries to consider at national level.
Instead, leaders at the summit pressed for banks to have a greater financial cushion to protect against any future crises. They agreed that banks must build up higher levels of capital and liquidity, but adopted a longer timeframe for this, saying 2012 should mark the start of the process, not the end.
Speaking to reporters after the summit, US President Barack Obama said tighter regulations, including bigger capital requirements for banks, would be addressed at the next G20 summit in Seoul, South Korea, in November 2010.
“There were high hopes riding on the G20 Summit,” said Global March Chairperson Kailash Satyarthi. “Some political commentators are questioning the value of these summits in the light of the cost and logistics of holding them and the impact they have on the lives of real people, particularly the poor and the vulnerable. Global March is particularly concerned at what the outcome of this and the G8 summit might be in real terms for worldwide efforts to eliminate and prevent child labour and to ensure the creation of decent working opportunities which can reinforce these efforts.”
Postponing vital discussions on key reforms for global governance, in particular the financial sector, until yet another costly summit does little to inspire confidence and promote the credibility of the G20 as a forum for global economic governance. The ILO’s 2010 Global Report on Child Labour and the Roadmap for Achieving the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour by 2016 highlight the critical need for the international community to act swiftly and with determination to achieve this goal. However, in the light of the subdued outcomes of the G8 and G20 Summits, questions must inevitably be raised over the level of political will and financial commitment to achieve the goal of eliminating child labour and the UN Millennium Development Goals.
It is vital that the civil society and trade union partners within the worldwide movement against child labour strengthen their alliances and collaborative efforts to lobby government bodies at national, regional and international level and press world leaders to take decisive action based on the demands set out in the Global Unions’ Statement “Take Action on Jobs to Sustain the Recovery” and related to the Roadmap for Achieving the Elimination of Child Labour by 2016. The world’s vulnerable communities and children cannot wait any longer and if political commitment and action fail to emerge, then the likelihood is that the numbers of child labourers in the world will grow in all regions.