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Can the W20 influence the G20 to unlock opportunities for women?

Can the W20 influence the G20 to unlock opportunities for women?

A new engagement group was launched in Ankara on Sunday with the aim of encouraging the G20 to bring more women into the global economy. The launch of the Women 20 (W20) was a prominent event, with the Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria giving keynote speeches.

The W20 has the potential to fill key gaps in G20 policies, such as exploring ways to unlock economic opportunities for women, providing gender analysis of G20 policies and their different effects on social groups and holding the G20 accountable to its gender target (to reduce the gap in labour participation rates between men and women by 25% by 2025). Earlier this year, I highlighted the need for gender issues to feed directly into the G20's agenda.

However, the W20 faces a number of challenges before it can influence G20 decision-making.

Firstly, it will need to develop clear recommendations beyond the policy areas currently proposed. Lagarde's main message was that the W20 should 'verify' its recommendations and be wary of empty promises. Chief Adviser at the Australian Treasury, HK Yu, also reinforced the need for evidence-based recommendations and cost-benefit analysis. [fold]

Many policy ideas raised during the panel discussions at the launch: investing in education and training for women (especially in technology and science), introducing quotas for women on corporate boards and in parliament, investing in childcare and aged care to reduce the burden on female carers and improving access to finance for women entrepreneurs.

The W20 will now need to work out how to elevate some of these issues from the domestic policy space to the G20 level.

The second challenge is to agree on definitions for gender equality and women's empowerment. In Prime Minister Davuto?lu's speech, his concept of gender equality was based on the premise that men and women are created equal before God. In contrast, UN Women defines gender equality in terms of equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities of women and men and girls and boys.

Not all G20 countries are currently represented in the W20 (neither India nor Saudi Arabia sent delegates to the launch), although this may be a matter of waiting for governments to officially nominate their national representatives.

The third and final challenge for the W20 is to avoid engagement group fatigue. The 'alphabet soup' of engagement groups (including B20, C20, L20, T20 and Y20) continually need to affirm their reason for being.

As the Antalya summit fast approaches and the Turkish Presidency comes to an end, the future of the W20 will depend on China's G20 Presidency and its approach to the engagement groups. The W20 is fortunate that it has a clear mandate to promote the economic empowerment of women, but it will need to hone in on specific recommendations and develop a persuasive communications strategy if it's going to have an impact on policy.

Photo courtesy of Twitter user @W20Turkey.

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