One of the biggest questions surrounding the upcoming G20 Leaders’ Summit in Buenos Aires is whether attending heads of state will reach enough consensus to produce a communiqué.
However, the Sherpa of the Civil 20 anti-corruption working group, María Emilia Berazategui, argues there is a prior hurdle the G20 has to clear before making any further commitments: enforcing the existing ones.
In an interview with The Bubble on the lead up to the C20’s last annual meeting, to take place in Paris on October 8 and 9, Berazategui also highlighted the work done by the engagement group throughout the year, indicated that even though corruption could tend to be associated with Latin America, it’s an endemic problem throughout the world.
She also analyzed the massive corruption scandal locally known as the “notebooks case” that has sent shockwaves across Argentina’s political spectrum.
Berazategui began by saying that even though “the G20 has been making all the right noises” and has made “several commitments that address the major issues concerning corruption, it’s time to start putting them into practice.”
“Enough speeches have been made, now we believe that it’s time for the G20 to act and we have been calling them to do so throughout the year and especially in our summit,” she said.
On the one hand, she explained, when C20 representatives meet with their G20 counterparts, “they ask us many questions and, in some cases, we are already seeing improvements on some areas. However, the C20 was not able to have access all meetings or all working groups. This is something that, from the civil society perspective, we really want to see an improvement on.”
With regards to the C20 in particular, Berazategui said she was satisfied with the work done by the engagement group this year: “We managed to have good policy recommendations that were delivered to the G20 since day one. We did not wait until our C20 policy pack was ready to start telling the G20 leaders what we wanted for them,” she said”
Besides anti-corruption, the C20 held working groups on issues such as climate; education; gender; investment and sustainable development, among others. Each one of them outlined its own recommendations to the G20, which can be found in this policy pack.
Moreover, she highlighted the fact that for the first time in history, the C20 had a specific gender working group, “where civil societies organizations from all over the globe debated on gender issues that were later presented to the G20.
“The group analyzed, for instance, the differentiated impact that corruption has on women. Corruption affects women and vulnerable communities the most: for instance, from civil society we believe it’s time for the G20 countries to recognize and address ‘sextortion‘ as a specific case of corruption that affects women. We also believe it is extremely important to start having this aggregate data on gender issues because otherwise it’s very difficult to understand the impact that corruption [has] on women.”
Berazategui emphasized on the fact that this year, the C20 and the B20 were able to release two joint statements on anti-corruption matters: one focused on calling leaders to implement anti-corruption commitments through the development of national strategies, while the other one had to do with con state owned enterprises. “We asked all G20 countries to request companies that partake in public tenders to publish their beneficial ownership information because that way, you can prevent conflict of interests, corruption, collusion and you ensure fair play for the private sector,” she explained.
To say corruption is a problem in Argentina would be an understatement so I asked Berazategui about her take on two corruption-related issues that are currently under the limelight: the asset recovery bill and whether the “notebooks scandal” case will be a breaking point in the way the Argentine political landscape deals with corruption.
With regards to the first one, she said the main challenge does not lie on passing the law, but implementing it: “We have many laws but we lack enforcement. Hopefully we will see some progress. Civil society has been waiting for a long time. Of course there are some aspects that could be improved, but we will wait to see what happens in Congress. And if it’s passed, how it’s going to be implemented,” she argued.
As for the “notebooks scandal,” Berazategui assured that “it is a unique opportunity for society to understand how corruption works.”
“It’s also a unique opportunity for the judiciary power to really act. I believe this scandal is unique in the sense that, for the first time, we are seeing the private sector and the government saying ‘well yes, look, we have corruption, and this is the way corruption works in Argentina.’
However, she extrapolated the matter and highlighted that corruption is not only a problem in Argentina, or Latin America, but all over the world, citing the “FIFA” and “Malaysia 1MDB” cases as examples.
“That is why we believe it is crucial to have citizen participation, access to public information, open data standards and beneficial ownership information. It is key to understand which companies are being given public money. We want more transparency so when we talk about infrastructure projects, we can close the door to corruption and conflicts of interest,” she said.
The C20 will have its last meeting next week, but will closely follow the development of the Leaders’ summit and react to the communiqué, should there be one. “We hope to have access to the G20 media center. We will be reading not only the communiqué but also other documents the other working groups will deliver and give our opinion,” Berazategui finished.