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Civil Society Inclusion at Los Cabos 2012

Tristen Naylor, University of Oxford
June 26, 2012

The G20 summit provides an opportunity to take a snapshot of the global governance landscape, giving an account of who is included at the top table of global politics. The summit’s participants — from the leaders to the sherpas to the invited peripheral actors — form what is as close to a material manifestation of Hedley Bull’s (1977) notion of the diplomatic community as possible, thus allowing a glimpse into the world of global governance in order to gain an understanding of who belongs to this community and in what way. The summit, in short, is an opportunity to see what the contemporary governance order looks like.

Inclusion was a central theme for the Mexican presidency of the 2012 G20 summit in Los Cabos. Mexico used the term not only as it pertained to one of its central policy themes — that of financial inclusion — but also in terms of the inclusion of non-state actors in the summit (G2012 Mexico 2012). The great importance that the presidency put on the inclusion of non-state actors was evident in the preparatory process, wherein Lourdes Aranda, the Mexican sherpa, met continually with representatives of the business, labour, academic, and civil society communities in the months leading up to the summit (G20 Civil 2012; Mexico, Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2012). The official summit website included pages dedicated to their outreach activities with non-state actors, with the Business 20’s (B20) site being the most comprehensive (see g20mexico.org and b20.org). The G20 Mexico website also included a calendar for tracking and planning these activities, and a forum for documents produced by and for these outreach initiatives. In addition to the B20 and Labour 20 (L20), the Mexican presidency called its civil society outreach the CS20 and formalized a dialogue among think tanks known as the Think20 (other dialogue and side events included the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Summit, the Youth20 and the Rethinking20 and also the G(irls)20). The Mexican presidency, in short, devoted considerable resources to include non-state actors in the summit process so as to ensure a comprehensive representation of global stakeholders.

Notably, civil society was afforded a greater degree of inclusion than any previous summit. In addition to the Mexican sherpa meeting with representatives from civil society organizations (CSOs) in the months leading up to the summit, the Mexican foreign ministry dedicated a directorate to liaise with civil society, invited formal submissions from CSOs (all of which were published on the summit website) and committed to accrediting all CSOs that wanted to attend the summit. At the summit itself, CSOs were given full access to the media centre and a separate “cultural pavilion” for exhibitions. Additionally, CSOs were briefed daily by the presidency on the summit’s proceedings.

Nonetheless, in absolute terms civil society’s inclusion remained limited. CSOs remained relatively marginalized in the summit process, particularly compared to the relatively new B20. While the B20, Think20, Rethinking20, L20, Y20, G(irls)20 and Trade20 all involved formal and substantive events, the CS20 did not. CS20 constituted little more than a short-hand term to refer to the presidency’s engagement with civil society — an especially sharp contradistinction to the B20, which amounted to a two-day parallel summit of business leaders at the Los Cabos Hilton (see B20 2012b).

CSOs were accredited relatively later than other actors, with confirmation of accreditation not being received until June 14, three days before the summit. The lateness of CSO accreditation, in part, indicates civil society’s relative standing as last in order behind other types of actors. The cultural centre was approximately a 30-minute drive away from both the summit site and the media centre, too removed for delegates or journalists to visit during the busy summit days, nor was it indicated on the maps provided to them. Furthermore, at the media centre itself, while CSOs had full access, the rooms reserved for their use were in a separate part away from the press rooms. As such, CSO representatives barely used the rooms and instead used the media’s rooms; conversely, the media rarely, if ever, visited the CSO rooms. Taken together, these temporal and physical manifestations of marginal inclusion at Los Cabos are indicative of the marginal position of civil society in the overall governance landscape. Not only were CSOs kept well away from the site of the summit in the newly constructed convention centre, but they were even, to begin with, marginalized within the media centre. Furthermore, CSO representatives were not invited to attend the B20, thus being denied access to, let alone inclusion in, such substantive events for other non-state actors (namely, the transnational business elite) (B20 2012a).

Moreover, as an indication of the position occupied by CSOs being not just marginal, but subordinate in the governance landscape, CSOs held a press conference on the final morning of the summit. During the conference the Mexican foreign ministry shut down the press conference, stopping one reporter in mid question to the panel of assembled CSO representatives (Focus Online 2012). The CSOs were told they were not allowed to hold their press conference until after the leaders’ summit had concluded. The relations of power were laid bare here, demonstrating the host government’s authoritative power over the assembled CSOs, and the will to exercise that power, despite very good relations in the lead-up to the summit.

Given the considerable effort that the Mexican presidency devoted to including non-state actors, Los Cabos serves as a crucial case to test just how included CSOs are in the current global governance order (Eckstein 1975; Gerring 2007). The evidence indicates that civil society receives, at a minimum, recognition as a stakeholder in the G20 process, having been formally acknowledged in the Seoul Summit Document and having been invited to participate in the Mexican presidency’s preparatory process (although, CSOs were excluded from the Los Cabos communiqué, despite other non-state actors being explicitly recognized) (G20 2010, 2012). However, this inclusion must be understood as being limited, marginal, and subordinate, particularly in comparison with other non-state actors. CSOs thus have a toe-hold in the governance landscape, but hardly a firm footing in the summit process. All eyes now turn to Russia to see if CSOs will be afforded a greater and more substantive degree of inclusion in 2013.


B20 (2012a). Participants (PDF).

B20 (2012b). Program (PDF), June 17-18, 2012.

Bull, Hedley (2002). The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics, 3rd ed. (New York: Columbia University Press).

Eckstein, Harry (1975). “Case Study and Theory in Political Science,” in Fred Greenstein and Nelson Polsby, eds., The Handbook of Political Science: Strategies of Inquiry (London: Addison-Wesley).

Focus Online (2012). Konjunktur: Gastgeber Mexiko bringt G20-Kritiker zum Schweigen, June 19.

G20 (2010). The Seoul Summit Document, November 12.

G20 (2012). G20 Leaders Declaration, June 19.

G20 Civil (2012). The Mexican Presidency of the G20 Meets with Civil Society Organizations. June 16.

G2012 Mexico (2012). The Mexican G20 Sherpa, Amb. Lourdes Aranda, visited Washington DC on March 5 and 6. Press release, March 7.

Gerring, John (2007). Case Study Research: Principles and Practices. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Mexico. Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2012). Mexico’s G20 Sherpa, Ambassador Lourdes Aranda, in New York on June 4-5. Press release, June 7.

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