The normal amount of “tension” between civil society organizations (CSOs) and G20 member governments has worsened, with significant consequences for all, according to a new policy brief, Civil Society and the G20: Towards a Review of Regulatory Models and Approaches. The paper comes roughly three months before the annual G20 Summit, to be held in June 2019 in Osaka, Japan.
The policy brief identifies three major problems: shrinking space for civil society, a lack of support or “policy neglect” by G20 governments, and the “emergence of new regulatory voids.” These are caused by, respectively, an erosion of values that civil society relies upon (e.g., freedom from government control over the entry/formation/exit/dissolution of CSOs) resulting from an increase in hybrid and authoritarian regimes; the intentional lack of institutional and policy reform as a means of protecting civil society from government; the inability of said institutions, which were developed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, to support and defend modern CSOs, the paper argues.
As the authors put it, “The clearest case in point [of policy neglect is] Financial Action Task Force efforts to curb money-laundering and terrorism financing that have effectively hindered or even cut off access by NGOs to banking and other financial services, with significant consequences for internationally active nonprofit organizations.” This problem, although specifically referencing policy neglect, combines all three issues: because of policy neglect, the FATF has taken advantage of a regulatory void, which contributes to the broader shrinkage of civil society space.
To address and eventually rectify these problems, the authors suggest the creation of an international task force that works alongside the G20 and its partner organizations. Notably, they insist they do “not begin with the assumption that only minimal CSO regulations would be needed; nor would [the task force] advocate regulations that could intentionally or unintentionally stifle the potentials CSOs harbor nationally as well as internationally.” Rather, they endeavor to find a way to maintain CSOs’ ability to perform their duties without fear of government overregulation or repression as well as support governments’ ability to do their work.