In the world of international summitry, it's hard to find a gap to justify yet another gathering. As Michelle Grattan says in The G20 and the Future of International Economic Governance, there is a 'summit market place'. This means a new summit needs to establish its relevance early and have something of substance to communicate.
It was a privilege for me to be a delegate, and Australia's representative, to the first ever summit for the Women 20 engagement group in Istanbul on 16-17 October in the lead-up to the G20 Leaders' Summit in Antalya in November. So did this summit establish its relevance and create a place for itself on the international summitry circuit?
Ever the optimist, I'll focus on the solid foundations laid over two days of discussions. Prospects are good for the W20 initiative to gather momentum – especially when it comes to financial inclusion and economic empowerment for women.
The Turkish hosts chose the theme of 'addressing women's economic empowerment through strengthening links between education, employment and entrepreneurship'. The 2015 W20 summit was weighted towards representatives from government, labour, NGO and UN groups who often attend such summits in big numbers. However, the Turkish contingent was heavily populated by their domestic business community.
More than once, the Chair, Dr Gulden Turktan, had to insist that our focus was economic – not the human rights, domestic violence, and poverty aspects highlighted by some contributors (this notwithstanding the fact that economic empowerment is, for all intents and purposes, a way out of poverty; financial literacy and empowerment is a path to greater independence for women).
The hosts needed guidance and used a framework provided by UN Women to set policy priorities. But the W20 will need to be wary of too much influence or intervention by any establishment and think about setting its own course. The risk for the W20 is that will become a copy of what's already in place.
I believe the key for the W20 is to retain the economic focus on financial empowerment and the general elevation of women in the private and public sectors. One way to keep the focus firmly on the theme of economic empowerment would be closer collaboration with Business 20, a well-established G20 engagement group. The Chinese hosts for the 2016 W20 would do well to consider cross-pollination with B20 to maintain momentum.
This year's W20 Chair, Dr Turktan, had clear ambitions to deliver a communiqué at the conclusion of the summit, and it had some important messages. The highlights for me include:
- Joint planning between government, private sector, and academia to identify market needs and minimise the skills mismatch.
- Promoting access for women of all ages to vocational education, lifelong learning or retraining and improvement of financial, managerial and social skills.
- Affirming G20 targets for women in public and private sector leadership positions, including gender targets for company boards.
- Encouraging public and private procurement goals for women-owned SMEs.
- Supporting STEM and innovation training and social skills development for women, including communication skills to better complement and enhance the benefits of technology.
Within the W20, we must ensure that we do not fall into the trap of just talking among ourselves. Also, we cannot cover everything; if goals are fewer, they are more likely to be achievable.
Communication and connection to a broader audience will ensure the W20 in Turkey becomes the first of many effective W20 summits in the years ahead. Well done to our Turkish colleagues, who built on the momentum from the Brisbane 2014 Summit, where leaders spoke strongly about boosting female employment and adopted the gender target to reduce the gap between male and female labour participation across the G20.
I wish our leaders well at the G20 Summit in November, and look forward to a dynamic contribution from the women of host nation China as they set their priorities for 2016.