We must put dialogue and multilateralism back at the centre, fight inequalities to end the spiral of economic and health crises and armed conflicts
by ROBERTO RIDOLFI
A prolonged seismic activity seems to have affected the world’s political equilibrium, with aftershocks following one another at a disconcerting pace. While the fire of weapons suffocates diplomacy day after day, the attempt to respond to conflicts and emergencies through the patience of negotiation and listening may seem an ambitious undertaking. However, putting dialogue back at the centre and relaunching multilateralism to concretely reduce inequalities remains the only viable way out of the spiral of economic and health crises and armed conflicts that has enveloped the planet. An opportunity to do so presents itself this year, and it presents itself to us Italians with the presidency of the G7.
Multilateralism: giving the United Nations a voice again
The mechanism that brings together seven of the world’s most industrialised countries every year may appear obsolete in many respects, but the problems it sets out to address are certainly not outdated. This was well explained by Valeria Emmi of the Cesvi foundation – an organisation belonging to LINK 2007 – which is now acting as sherpa for Civil7 2024, at the meeting that kicked off the debate between civil society and the government last 18 January in Rome: ‘Our intention is to create a dialogue with the institutions so that G7 and G20 can provide impetus to the multilateral system, because there is no doubt that these two forums have a bearing on the global scenario and its balances. However, we must reverse the development model, which has only led to inequalities, and stimulate a decision-making process within the multilateral system of the United Nations where all states are represented’.
Civil society, in all its expressions, is called upon to take charge of this laborious and patient work, which with the G7 in Italy takes on even greater importance. The Civil7 for the Italian 2024 presidency, which has taken its first steps in these days, is the body in which proposals are elaborated and, at the same time, dialogue with the government is initiated in view of the summit scheduled for 13-15 June 2024 in Puglia. More than 700 civil society organisations from around 70 countries are members. A significant representation, which broadens horizons and perspectives far beyond the borders of the most developed countries.
The issues on the table and possible solutions
Economic justice, climate, food security, global health, migration, humanitarian crises, peace and disarmament are the main topics on the table at the so-called summit of the big seven. And they are likely to be peppered with discussions on the role, limits and challenges of artificial intelligence. Despite progress in some specific areas, it is now widely believed that most of the Sustainable Development Goals will not be achieved by 2030 as envisaged by the United Nations. In the meantime, the concept of polycrisis has emerged to define the multiple ongoing emergencies and investigate their root causes. We cannot but take note of the delicate moment we are experiencing, but it is at the same time our task to focus on possible solutions. To give concreteness to human rights and a voice to those who personally experience the effects of wars and inequalities, but are excluded and marginalised.
Poverty and hunger: also a European problem
Poverty and hunger afflict developing countries dramatically, but not only. In Europe, around 10% of the population does not have access to an adequate diet, a figure that rises to 15% in Italy: this is what is known as food poverty, which is not linked to global availability but to access to food. This is why, together with other organisations, Link 2007 set up a working group on food systems in 2022 and edited a report on local food policies. These must be based on rights, leveraging knowledge and technologies that do not marginalise and treat food only as a commodity, recognising its deep cultural significance, as well as its potential for social mobilisation for change. Italy, in particular, has great knowledge in this field and boasts sustainable experiences that need to be valorised.
Migrations: getting out of the emergency logic
On the subject of migration, our network has also put several proposals on the table to get out of the emergency logic and ideological oppositions. In Link’s 2007 document ‘Governance of migration and cooperation with countries of origin’, presented last year, we promote a new integrated, ‘win-win’ approach to migration policies. Indeed, not considering migration a structural phenomenon would be to perpetuate a serious mistake. Here, too, it is essential to leverage multilateralism: supranational institutions, especially the UN and the European Union, could foster global governance of migration provided they receive the due institutional trust from nation-states. There are many actions that can help change the picture: from ensuring the poorest countries the 0.7% of the Gross National Income promised by the OECD countries, to readmission and repatriation agreements signed in a perspective of true cooperation; from granting citizenship to the new generations of immigrants, to the fight against traffickers in Libya, to the declination of the Mattei Plan in investments for sustainable development and the creation of lasting and decent jobs.
Since 2018, LINK 2007 has been concretely engaged in the development of projects focused on the migration and development nexus. These include the ‘Redemption Song’ project (2018-2019), the ‘Personal Fulfillment as an Alternative to Migration’ project (2022-2024), which is currently underway, and the third, called ‘Brighter Future: Knowledge, Empowerment, and Alternatives to Promote Local Development and Effective Migration,’ which is currently being planned. The latter represents an ambitious intervention that aims to develop a multistakeholder approach, involving international and local civil society organisations, diaspora organisations, international organisations, microfinance institutions and the private sector. These projects, implemented in West African countries, such as Senegal, Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso, aim to foster the creation of sustainable jobs through training and information activities in order to transform economic migration into a free and not forced choice.
Sovereign debt conversion
The ‘Release G20’ initiative, the proposal put forward by Link 2007 at the G20 Italian presidency in 2020 for a conversion of the sovereign debt of the most fragile countries, also remains topical. This could be done through the creation, by the debtor country, of a counterpart fund in local currency aimed at sustainable development, with endowments nominally equivalent to existing debt values. Even better, this counterpart fund could be used in parallel with the investments of the Mattei Plan by increasing the endowment of investments and their appropriation by the states and populations that are ultimately responsible for deciding on their sustainable development path. In short, there are numerous initiatives that Link 2007 and the other organisations gathered in Civil7 have promoted in recent years and wish to bring to the attention of the executive. On these issues, civil society holds a valuable wealth of experience and expertise. In view of the forthcoming G7 governments, starting with the Italian one, are called upon to take them into consideration in order to make farsighted choices. The premises for a constructive dialogue are there. The hope is that it will produce tangible results.
Roberto Ridolfi, President LINK 2007
The article was published in NON-PROFIT LIFE HERE