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“Africa at the Table” Secures NEPAD Representation at G20 in Mexico

Mark up another success for GCAP advocacy:  Mexico, the chair of this year's G20, has indicated that it will invite NEPAD, an African economic community, to attend the June G20 summit.

Civil society campaigners thought the invitation was a foregone conclusion. 

Thanks to the "Africa at the Table" campaign, leaders at the 2010 Seoul Summit promised to invite at least two African representatives to all future summits:

"Bearing in mind the importance of the G20 being both representative and effective as the premier forum for our international economic cooperation, we reached a broad consensus on a set of principles for non-member invitations to Summits, including that we will invite no more than five non-member invitees, of which at least two will be countries in Africa.”  (Seoul Summit Document, para. 74)

But when Mexico issued its guest list this year, NEPAD was not included.

GCAP Africa immediately stepped into gear.

"The G20 makes decisions that affect the people of Africa," says GCAP Africa coordinator Sonia Kwami.  "Our leaders must be at the table, they must be partners in the conversation if we are to truly eradicate poverty and inequality on our continent.  In addition, it's important that the G20 be accountable and keep its promises."

Several national coalitions -- including Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and South Africa -- immediately engaged the Mexican government via embassy petitions and other actions to request a change of course.

"We were very surprised to note that the Mexican Government has only invited Benin (AU chair), leaving out NEPAD chair. This is a clear breach of the (Seoul Summit) statement," writes Simekinala Kaluzi of GCAP Malawi and CONGOMA, the Council for Non Governmental Organisations in Malawi, in a letter to a Mexican ambassador. 

"We expect the Mexican Government to respect previous agreements made by the G20 members, not ignoring them as it appears at the moment.  Failure to invite NEPAD would be retrogressive and scandalous."

A number of GCAP constituents met directly with Mexican authorities.  In Nairobi, for example, a delegation from Concerned Youth for Peace, the Kenya Debt Relief Network, GCAP Kenya, Real Generation and the Seed Institute explained the importance of NEPAD's inclusion to Mexico's ambassador to Kenya, Luis Javier Campuzano.

Finance ministers from low-income Francophone countries underscored this point as well in a meeting in Washington.

Subsequently, there was a lot of back and forth.  Some Mexican officials informally confirmed that NEPAD chairman Meles Zenawi, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, was invited to the G20 Summit in Los Cabos.  But NEPAD officials then noted that while they had been invited to two pre-Summit events on agriculture and commodities, their chairman had not been invited to the summit.

Finally, on 27 April, Mexico's Deputy Foreign Minister Lourdes Aranda, who is also the county's G20 'sherpa' cleared up the matter on Twitter:  “As follow up of the African Union decision, Mexico invited NEPAD´s chairperson to the G20 Summit in Los Cabos."

"This is great news and goes to show what the collective action of people around the world who focus on a key issue can achieve,” says Steve Price-Thomas of Oxfam International.  “Now we need to make sure the formal invitation is transmitted, received and accepted . . . and that issues of African LDCs are given the prominence they deserve at the Summit.”

"African policymakers must also be invited to all the preparatory Working Groups, sherpa and minister meetings," adds GCAP co-chair Amitabh Behar.  "Otherwise they can't adequately prepare for the Summit and their presence risks beoming more of a photo-op for G20 leaders than anything else."  

Equally important is that Africans should be invited to participate in the G20's forums with businesses, CSOs and think tanks. 

Started by GCAP Africa coalitions, then endorsed by the African Union and actively supported by GCAP coalitions from Canada to Korea, the Africa at the Table campaign led the G20 to invite the AU and NEPAD to attend the G20 as permanent guests.

More than two billion people -- largely women, children and the socially exculded -- live in impoverished communities subsisting on less than US$2 per day.  The G20 makes decisions that impact the lives of people living in poverty without adequately involving them in the process.

The New Partnership for Africa's Development, NEPAD, was formed in 2001 and focuses on a number of issues including agriculture, food security, climate change, regional integration, infrastructure, gender, human development, governance and information and communication technologies.

NEPAD recently issued a declaration on the G20 action plan on food price volatility and agriculture, noting that two-thirds of African people derive their income from agriculture and spend 50-80% of their income on food, while G20 countries account for more than 85% of global food exports.  NEPAD is also calling for 'smart subsidies' to help African farmers buy fertilisers and other farming inputs.