Exclusive club: the G20 heads of state


The Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (G-20, G20, Group of Twenty http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G-20_major_economies ) is a group of finance ministers and central bank governors from 20 major economies: 19 countries plus the European Union, which is represented by the President of the European Council and by the European Central Bank.

Dear friends, I would like to request your urgent attention for an issue which is a bit outside our usual focus, but relates to global decision-making on large dams and other infrastructure projects.

The heads of state of the exclusive Group of 20 will meet end of next week in France. They will discuss a report from a high-level panel of experts on infrastructure. The panel consists mainly of representatives of private enterprises and banks, and will make recommendations on how to increase infrastructure investment. We have learned confidentially that the report is all about private investment and economic growth.

Environmental protection, poverty reduction and climate change are not addressed. The panel proposes a few projects that illustrate their new approach, and the list includes the giant Inga dam on the Congo River.

No NGOs were consulted, and there is no plan to make this important report public. Some NGOs have prepared an urgent sign-on letter to the infrastructure panel, asking that the report be made public and that NGOs be consulted before it is finalized.

Please see below. Can we ask you to read this and SEND YOUR ENDORSEMENT (name, institution, country) to Doug Norlen at Pacific Environment, DNorlen@pacificenvironment.org, by the end of FRIDAY, OCTOBER 28? (He is cc’ed to this message.)

Please don’t make the letter public for now. It will be great if those of you who live in G20 countries can however prepare to send a copy to your heads of state and finance ministers next week.


Many thanks,

Peter Bosshard

International Rivers

Letter follows:


Home › Follow the Money › Other Financial Institutions

How the Global 1% Shape the World’s Development Agenda

Fri, 10/28/2011 – 8:06am By: Peter Bosshard

http://www.internationalrivers.org/en/node/6936 or http://huff.to/usl8dl]


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right to water as a human right under international law


Tidjane Thiam

Group Chief Executive of Prudential plc.

Chair, High Level Panel for Infrastructure

Group of Twenty (G-20)



High Level Panel for Infrastructure

Group of Twenty (G-20)1


RE: Concern Regarding Lack of Consultation and Transparency by the High Level Panel for Infrastructure


Mr. Thiam and Members of the High Level Panel for Infrastructure, We are writing to request that the High Level Panel for Infrastructure (HLP), which is referenced in the February 2011 G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Communiqué, disclose its draft report and hold consultations with civil society organizations prior to submission of the report to the G-20 Summit on 3-4 November 2011.

As civil society organizations, we are deeply concerned about the lack of transparency and consultation in the HLP’s process of formulating the report, especially since the process has been ongoing for a year, since the November 2010 G-20 Summit.

We are profoundly aware of the importance of appropriate infrastructure in the developing world. Undertaken correctly, infrastructure projects can promote the well-being of current and future generations of people while protecting the environment. Undertaken incorrectly, large infrastructure projects can benefit primarily the elites in developing and developed countries, while creating unsustainable development paths that saddle countries with poverty and debt, violate human rights, and cause harmful environmental impacts, including global climate change.

In their recent Communiqué, the G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors: „call on the MDBs, working with countries involved to pursue implementation of transformational regional infrastructure projectsfollowing the criteria set by the HLP and to prioritize project preparation financing“ [emphasis added].2 We believe that identifying such criteria and selecting projects that meet the criteria are processes that should be carried out in public, involving Parliamentarians and civil society organizations, particularly those in the host countries.

Transparency, accountability and public participation are particularly important for public works sector projects that the HLP may be considering. Transparency International has found that „the problem of corruption is particularly prevalent in public works and construction,“ and that it is „often responsible for the funneling of scarce public resources to uneconomic high-profile projects, such as dams, power plants, pipelines and refineries, at the expense of less spectacular but fundamentally important infrastructure projects, such as schools, hospitals and roads, or the supply of power to rural areas.“

We hope that the HLP observes standard public participation processes and ensures prioritization of a pipeline of projects that have appropriate public interest safeguards and have as their chief goal to reduce poverty in low income countries.

We are concerned that the HLP could interpret environmental, social and human rights safeguards as „bottlenecks“ and fail to integrate these with poverty reduction objectives. According to a recent World Bank Independent Evaluation Group report, only 13% of sampled International Finance Corporation projects over the past decade had explicit poverty alleviation objectives.

Our organizations will continue to be involved in the infrastructure development processes undertaken by the G-20 and other international and national bodies. Civil society organizations have proactively engaged with the G-20 Development Working Group and therefore wonder why this work stream on infrastructure has so little transparency and no consultation, undercutting the legitimacy of this specific G-20 process.We therefore respectfully request public disclosure of the latest draft HLP report, and call for consultations with civil society organizations at the soonest possible opportunity and, in any case, prior to the November G-20 Summit in Cannes, France.


Pacific Environment

International Rivers




CC: France and G-20 President Nicolas Sarkozy


[1] The HLP includes: Chair: Tidjane Thiam (Ivory Coast), Group Chief Executive of Prudential plc; Yahya A. Alyahya (Saudi Arabia), CEO of the Gulf International Bank; Yoon-Je Cho (Korea), Professor at Sogang University, Seoul, Korea; Luciano Coutinho (Brazil) President of the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES); Paul Douglas (Canada) CEO of PCL Constructors, Inc.; Jim Harmon (USA), Chairman of Harmon & Co., LLC, Chair, Caravel Fund; Mo Ibrahim (Sudan), Founder, Mo Ibrahim Foundation; Hayrettin Kaplan (Turkey), CEO of the Turkish Eximbank; Takatoshi Kato (Japan), President, Japan Center for International Finance; Norbert Kloppenburg (Germany) Member, Managing Board, KFW; Rajiv B. Lall (India), CEO, Infrastructure Development Finance Co.; Jin Liqun (China) Board of Supervisors, China Investment Corporation (CIC); S.R. Maharaj (So. Africa), Former Minister of Transport, Special Envoy, SA pdt; Nicholas Moore (Australia), CEO, Macquarie Bank; Paul Victor Obeng (Ghana), Chair, Guinness Ghana Breweries, Ltd.; Alessandro Ortis (Italy), Chair, National Regulatory Authority for Electric & Gas; Lionel Zinsou (France), CEO of PAI Partners.

[2] Item 6, Communiqué of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors

of the G-20, Paris, France, 14-15 October, 2011, available at




How the Global 1% Shape the World’s Development Agenda

By Peter Bosshard

International Rivers and Huffington Post, October 28, 2011

[For the full blog with links to background documents, please visit

www.internationalrivers.org/en/node/6936 or http://huff.to/usl8dl]


Democracy is a messy affair. It forces government officials and politicians to face parliamentary scrutiny, pesky journalists and grassroots pressure. While they uphold democracy and good governance in their rhetoric, governments and the World Bank have begun to shift important decisions about global development to the Group of 20, a body that is largely shielded from public debate and democratic control.

It’s time to shed some light on an institution that has become a key power broker for the interests of the global 1%, including through the promotion of large dams.

The Group of 20 was created in 2008 and consists of 19 major countries and the EU. The G20 members meet at least once a year to discuss the international financial system and a growing list of other topics, from infrastructure to trade and food security. The group’s powers have grown so quickly that Nancy Alexander, an analyst at the Heinrich Boell Foundation, has described it as the „maestro of development finance.“

The infrastructure sector is a key example for the G20’s powerful role behind the scenes. The group has commissioned a high-level panel of experts to prepare recommendations on future infrastructure investmentin Southern countries. This panel brings together 17 leading representatives of large corporations, banks and government agencies.

Civil society groups and trade unions are absent from its roster. The panel has just submitted its recommendations to the G20’s heads of state, who will convene for their annual meeting in Cannes/France next week.


The new report illustrates what is wrong with delegating extensive powers to an exclusive body like the G20:

  • Undemocratic: One third of the world’s population – and particularly the poorest countries – are completely excluded from the G20. The people who in theory are represented have no way of influencing its proceedings. The new report, which will shape future rules for infrastructure investment, has not been shared with the public.Parliaments, civil society groups, trade unions and the media have no way of debating or influencing its recommendations. The G20, in other words, operates like the Mubarak regime before the Arab Spring.
  • One-sided: The agenda of the G20 is strongly influenced by corporate interests. Its expert panel on infrastructure mostly consists of private sector representatives, and is chaired by the CEO of Prudential, an insurance company. It is no surprise that the panel has spoken out strongly in favor of public-private partnerships – a euphemism for projects operated by private investors with subsidies and guarantees from the public sector. The new report is expected to recommend new regulations that benefit this type of projects and new public subsidies for them.
  • Public interest ignored: In its early announcements, the high-level panel narrowly focused on the promotion of economic growth, at the exclusion of poverty reduction, environmental protection, and human rights. In its new report, the panel will recommend six criteria according to which the World Bank and other funders should prioritize their future projects. As the Boell Foundation reports, these criteria include issues such as regional integration and attractiveness for the private sector. They are silent on poverty reduction, protection of the environment and even climate change.
  • Big is beautiful: The high-level panel was asked to identify a number of projects which exemplify the new approach to infrastructure development. Early on, this list included a transmission line between Ethiopia and Kenya and the Inga hydropower scheme on the Congo River. The transmission line will depend on the completion of the controversial Gibe III Dam on the Omo River, which violates numerous international agreements and will impoverish up to 500,000 indigenous people. The Inga dams will cost billions of dollars and will generate electricity for aluminum smelters and far-away urban centers, but will ignore the needs of Africa’s rural poor. The first two stages of the hydropower scheme have turned out to be white elephants and monuments of corruption. Scientists have warned that the proposed new dams may have „truly alarming“ impacts on the capacity of the Atlantic Ocean to absorb greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
  • Hand in glove: The panel reviewed the lending practices of the World Bank and is expected to recommend measures through which the financier can streamline its funding for infrastructure projects. Given the gist of its other recommendations, this may well mean the dilution of social and environmental safeguard policies. The World Bank is supposed to follow the instructions of all member countries, and not take orders from outside bodies like the G20. But it would be wrong to think that the institution somehow resents this interference. Indeed, the World Bank and private corporations have provided the staff doing the day-to-day work for the infrastructure panel. It appears that the Bank is working hand in glove with the G20. Like its member governments it is outsourcing unpopular tasks – such as the promotion of corporate subsidies and destructive dams – to an institution that can operate outside the limelight of public debate and democratic control.

Infrastructure is an essential ingredient of social and economic development. Key decisions about the sector cannot be left to undemocratic, non-transparent institutions. Civil society groups have started to pry open the echo chambers of the G20 and its cooperation with other powerful actors. Please let us know if you would like to receive occasional updates about the G20 and its role in global development.


Peter Bosshard is the policy director of International Rivers.

He blogs at www.internationalrivers.org/en/blog/peter-bosshard and tweets @PeterBosshard.