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The Turkish Presidency and the W20

Alev Kayagil, G20 Research Group
November 27, 2015

The Women's 20 summit held in Istanbul on October 15-16, 2015, brought together several notable domestic and international actors with the aim of securing a comprehensive agenda about the role and contribution of women to the international economy. Major contributors and organizers included Turkish non-profit organizations all seeking to ensure the participation of women in Turkey's political and economic sectors.

As the chair of the 2015 G20 Turkish presidency, in his opening speech President Recep Tayyip Erdogan supported the outcomes and suggestions of the W20 in ensuring the fair participation of women in the economy. He cited the W20 as working to secure a "growth-embodying quality," that would translate into more employment, higher standards of living and fairer distribution of welfare.

Emphasizing inclusiveness as one of the three priority themes of the Turkish G20 presidency, Erdogan said that a 1% increase in women's participation in the global economy would translate into an $80 billion increase in gross domestic product. "Women's participation in the labour force will be a very important opportunity to achieve the growth we want to achieve," he stated. As a way to achieve quality growth, Erdogan pointed to the G20's existing goal of reducing the gap between men's and women's participation in the labour force by 25% by 2025.

Erdogan cited public-private partnerships as crucial in achieving economic growth, with special attention to the development of women entrepreneurs. He highlighted the significant growth in the number of women entrepreneurs and members of parliament since the early 2000s, and attributed these results to the commitments of his AKP party to fostering public-private cooperation in major sectors. "Our goal is to ensure equal pay for equal work ... there is no doubt that these issues make up the important issues at the W20." Erdogan said he hoped to bring up these issues and implementation strategies at the Antalya Summit in November.

Erdogan did not hesitate to raise the issue of terrorism in regards to the bombings that had recently taken place in Ankara. Underscoring the terrorist characteristics of the YPG, PYD, PKK and Daesh organizations, Erdogan repeated Turkey's condemnation of all terrorist activities, making no differentiation between the goals of the rebel groups and Daesh militants. "There is no good and bad between terrorist organizations. This is our approach — the stability and security of the West ... is based on our security and stability." In light of these statements, Erdogan called on the international community to take greater steps and initiatives in supporting Turkey in its battle against terrorist activities.

Erdogan pointed to the G20 as a significant platform for establishing the friendships and solidarity needed to overcome the difficulties and challenges created by terrorism including the mass migrant influx. "We are going through a critical time, and as president of the G20 we will work for a better, safer and prosperous world," he declared. Additionally, Erdogan welcomed the efforts and support of the W20 in preparing the final G20 agenda at the Antalya Summit.

All eyes were on Erdogan and Turkey's G20 presidency in ensuring that the communiqués from the W20 as well as other engagement groups would be included and considered in the agenda at the Antalya summit.

How did G20 leaders address women's economic empowerment, including the need to establish links between education, employment and entrepreneurship? Unfortunately, there was small mention of women in the leaders' communiqué. The only direct reference to women was included in the support given to the Sustainable Development Goals in directing attention to the "needs of smallholder and family farmers, rural women and youth." In regards to gender and employment, there was a reference linking the monitoring of the implementation of the employment plan to the goal of reducing the gender participation gap in fostering healthier workplaces. However, this reference did not cite how the employment plan would work to reduce that gap.

Although inclusiveness was a central theme for the G20 Turkish presidency, the commitment to achieve inclusive growth does not mention women or gender, although it does refer to the role of education policy in reducing inequalities. Women's economic empowerment is mentioned only in the working group documents listed at the end of the communiqué, in the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI), which includes Digital Finance Solutions to Advance Women's Economic Empowerment. The supporting documents also cite Monitoring Progress in Reducing the Gender Gap in Labour Force Participation, a report produced by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the International Labour Organization for the G20 Employment Working Group.

In light of these references and documents, the G20 Antalya Summit fell short of gender commitments, and did not provide a clear and concrete framework or decision directly linking the gender gap to education, employment and entrepreneurship.

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