Patricia A. O'Malley
Social Policy & Programs Consulting    ~    Community Matters
P.O. Box 97803    ~    Pittsburgh, PA  15227   ~    412-310-4886    ~
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Established 1993

Patricia A. O'Malley

Social Policy & Programs Consulting

Training and Services for agencies working toward social and economic justice

G-20 Leaders Have a Moral Responsibility

September 26, 2009



The G-20 summit ended on Friday afternoon, but the issues that brought so many of the world’s leaders to Pittsburgh remain.  The G-20 nations encompass two-thirds of the population and 85 percent of the world economy.  Yet the leaders of those nations actually only concern themselves with the world’s wealthiest individuals and commercial interests.  Until now, they’ve barely acknowledged the existence of the poor, the disenfranchised, and the exploited people in their own countries.  They’ve never bothered to represent them at all. 

Economy is not just about business. It concerns more than just corporations and entrepreneurs.  The economy is about all of us.  Because we all have a stake in it, we must all have a voice in its organization and operations.  And it’s long past time for the world’s political leaders to get a clue.

The G-20 is not a legal entity.  It has no constitution, office, or staff.   It’s a forum for world leaders to get acquainted and establish a working relationship.  It’s become a dumping ground for the worlds’ gripes precisely because so much power is concentrated there.  The leaders meet, they discuss issues, and they make promises.  But they don’t accomplish much.  The Pittsburgh Summit ended with promises to make superficial changes – reducing bonuses for financial executives, reducing fossil-fuel emissions, and installing new regulations on financial institutions to prevent more crises like the current one.  They have never fully addressed hunger, poverty, or unemployment. 

For ten years, advocates have been pushing for leadership summits to include more input from and consideration of the poor and forgotten members of every society.  That’s what most of the protesting is all about.  People want a VOICE.  Early on, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette suggested that the delegates' summit materials include position papers from the protesting organizations, outlining their issues and recommended solutions.  Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato should have taken them up on it.

At his closing press conference on Friday, President Obama announced that the G-20 will replace the G-8 as the primary global economic forum.  That’s a step in the right direction, but they still need to do more.  They must address the root causes of poverty.  They must insist upon social, political, and economic justice for every single person in the world.  That’s always been the core issue facing them.  But governments never want to address those issues because they don’t fit neatly into a media sound byte at election time.

And that’s why we all must keep the heat on them to address their moral responsibility. 

 At the press conference, I was prepared to ask Obama what steps the G-20 leaders will take to solicit public input on their policies and discussions in the future.  I didn’t get a chance to ask my question, but I have sent it to the president.  I’ll let you know if I get an answer.

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