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Civil society at the heart of G20 efforts to build a better future for all

All over the world, societies are facing an unprecedented crisis. Whether you are in New York, Paris, London, Beijing, New Delhi or Riyadh, the story is the same; the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in tragedy for some, separated families and left many worried about their jobs and businesses. The economic impact of the pandemic could be the worst recession since the Great Depression.

However, amid the uncertainty, there is hope. All around the world citizens, communities, scientists, businesses, researchers and civil society organizations are rising to the challenge, making a crucial contribution in this global fight.

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world, so did collective action and solidarity. Across the world, civil society organizations brought relief to the most vulnerable and are advocating for policies that leave no one behind. Businesses also stepped up — companies adapted their production to manufacture health supplies.

In a concerted effort, scientists are working tirelessly to develop new vaccines, treatments and diagnostics. Women, who represent 70 percent of frontline health workers, are heroically putting their own health at risk to save lives. Workers played a crucial contribution ensuring the continuity of essential productive activities.

Along with governments, the civil society worked with determination to defeat the virus. Today, they are also at the heart of G20 global efforts to build a post-COVID-19, more resilient and better world for all.

The G20 is leading the global response to this pandemic, taking action to protect lives, livelihoods, jobs and the most vulnerable. In our interconnected world, no one can succeed in isolation — we need a coordinated and global response to fight COVID-19 devastating impacts.

Civil society is bringing a crucial contribution to these concerted efforts. The pandemic affects everyone — but it affects different groups of people differently. Representing different aspects of our societies to the G20, Engagement Groups are amplifying the voices of the business community (B20), civil society organizations (C20), labor organizations (L20), the science community (S20) academia (T20), the urban community (U20), women (W20) and the youth (Y20), ensuring their expertise and perspectives have an impact in G20 policy discussions and on the world stage.

It is important that these voices are heard and that no one is left behind. Since long before COVID-19 emerged, the Engagement Groups have been serving society and the needs of people, working to bring valuable and unique recommendations before G20 leaders.

It is this influence that is seen as so valuable by this Presidency and central to achieve the best policy-making process. Since the beginning of the presidency, engagement groups have participated in working groups, ministerial and extraordinary meetings. In March, ahead of the G20 extraordinary virtual Leaders’ Summit on COVID-19, they submitted their recommendations and perspectives to the Leaders through several statements, including a joint statement by the B20, C20, L20, T20, W20, Y20.

Engagement groups know the needs of the local, regional and global communities they represent. Their views are important to achieve effective global solutions that benefit all. This is why the G20 Presidency is committed to keep supporting EGs to independently influence and access the G20 policymaking process.

As we enter the recovery phase, the G20 will continue to work to “Realize the Opportunities of the 21st Century for All”, supporting economic recovery and ensuring the world is better prepared for future shocks. As the voice and representatives of 4.6 billion people, Engagement Groups will be at the heart of these efforts, making sure we build a more resilient and better world for all.

— The author is executive director at the G20 Saudi Secretariat and can be reached on Twitter: @ReemAlfrayan