Closing the gender gap on prosperity
G20 Summit

Closing the gender gap on prosperity

Yoriko Meguro, co-chair of the W20 Japan 2019, outlines how the organisation is supporting women to forge their path through a new global economic order


What is the W20 and how does it function?

One of the G20’s official engagement groups, the Women’s 20 can affect the shape of the new global economic order.
After the G20 leaders agreed to the 25 by 25 commitment at the 2014 Brisbane Summit – a pledge to reduce the gap in women’s labour force participation by 25% by 2025 – W20 summits were established with five held to date.
The W20 is composed of delegates representing the G20’s 19 countries and the European Union. Together, they decide on a process of building a consensus on the content of their communiqué and its recommendations, which they hand to the G20’s presidency. Several international organisations and institutions support the W20 as knowledge partners throughout the course of formulating its communiqué.

Building a consensus is a multi-layered process, particularly for the country that holds the presidency. It involves national dialogues to collect the voices of women with varying backgrounds in each member in ways that reflect their voices in the politically high-level document produced by the W20. Before and after the communiqué is handed over to the G20 host leader, lobbying by W20 members of their governments – particularly through the sherpa as the personal representative of each G20 leader – is indispensable in an effort for W20 recommendations to be reflected in the G20 summit declaration.

Japan’s W20 summit was held in Tokyo on 22 – 24 March, simultaneously with the fifth World Assembly of Women, hosted by the Japanese government. The co-chairs of W20 Japan presented the W20 communiqué to the prime minister, Shinzo Abe.

The focus of Japan’s communiqué

The W20’s initial target was to achieve the 25 by 25 commitment adopted at the Brisbane Summit. Digital and finance have been added in recent years and, along with labour inclusion, have become the pillars of the communiqué. A fourth pillar has been added, which reflects an issue of importance for the host country.
For 2019, Japan proposed upgrading the W20’s target for implementation from inclusion to equity. Inclusion allows participation but implies a presumed gender relationship that does not promote rapid change in gender roles and norms. Another element is the introduction of governance as the fourth pillar as a concept that intersects with the other three pillars. Instituting an effective monitoring process is crucial for holding G20 leaders accountable to the W20 communiqué and for accelerating change.

Recommendations to the G20

W20 Japan’s first recommendation is that G20 labour and employment ministers present a mid-term report on the 2014 Brisbane 25 by 25 commitment at Saudi Arabia’s G20 summit in 2020.

These ministers are more likely able to make public what their country has done and plans to do, rather than their leader, who would report a general statement. This comprehensive recommendation contains factors that cause gender gaps in life sectors other than just the economic sector, including investing public funds in a quality, accessible and affordable care infrastructure for children and the elderly; promoting life-long learning and education on gender equality; and ending all forms of violence against women and girls in the public and private spheres, including social media.

Another recommendation is to close the digital gender gap and ensure that women can exercise their digital rights. This is connected to promoting life-long learning and to ending all forms of gender-based violence.

The W20 also recommended ensuring financial inclusion, promoting women’s entrepreneurship and accelerating access to investment and markets – also relevant to life-long learning. Another W20 recommendation is to establish effective and transparent governance and accountability mechanisms for achieving gender equality.

Added value in 2019

Over the years since its first summit, the W20 has engaged in extensive discussions and accumulated many recommendations on crucial policies that need to be gender-mainstreamed within the framework of the G20. Under Japan’s initiative, the 2019 recommendations focus on implementing the policies recommended by the W20 and adopted by the G20. In building a consensus on the communiqué, the W20 set up a task force to promote implementation using key performance indicators and another on the governance of W20. This work is still underway, with the outcomes due in the fall.