Speech by Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 Dialogue Forum with Non Governmental Organisations (C20) in Hamburg on 19 June 2017

begin 2017.06.19

Dear representatives of the City of Hamburg,
Dear hosts, Mr Bornhorst, Mr Stolper,
Representatives of international non governmental organisations,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I’ve been very much looking forward to our discussion. This event focusing on civil society is the only one that I am attending in Hamburg. All of the others were held in Berlin. The G20 Summit is just around the corner. In a little over two weeks, the summit participants will be meeting here in Hamburg.

I think that, especially when the international environment is particularly challenging, like it is this year, we should seize the opportunity to establish common interests and achieve progress through joint action. That is always a better approach than for individual nations to try and go it alone. That’s what we should bear in mind as we meet, even though I do believe the talks will be difficult. I’m sure you’ll agree with me on that.

This G20 Summit will be a true challenge for its organisers, for security officers and, last but not least, for the city and people of Hamburg. We know that. That is why I want to state explicitly that I am grateful that so many people are working hard to make this a constructive, good and secure event. I know that many also criticise the political agenda of such a summit. From a democratic standpoint – and I want to underscore this – that’s a good thing. Of course, the right to express peaceful criticism is protected by the Basic Law. Yet I want to re emphasise that this criticism should be peaceful. So that’s what I wanted to say about what lies ahead. You can applaud – it’s not forbidden. Maybe clapping will also help cool everyone down a bit on this very warm day.

Now, I’m truly looking forward to our discussion. Because when civil society shows commitment, this generates debate, and this is always beneficial in the end. That’s what makes democratic culture vibrant. During the last two days, you have made an important contribution in this regard. I want to thank you for that right now, before you hand me your official conclusions.

Recently, we have in too many countries witnessed a tendency towards self isolation and hampering critical dialogue. In some cases, we’ve even seen attempts to prevent or suppress such dialogue. As a result, the freedoms of expression and of the press are stifled. There are also negative impacts on cultural diversity and, ultimately, on the ability of all of civil society to shape the future.

So I would like to say this quite clearly: When the rule of law is not respected, we cannot look the other way. Freedom of expression is a basic right, and it is laid down in Article 19 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Of course, it is also protected by our Basic Law. We must not tire of repeating how only a free society can guarantee prosperity in the long term. We are campaigning for this idea during our G20 Presidency, which we have held for a few months now.

Our discussion here shows, as does the entire dialogue process that is being conducted with businesses, science, unions, women and youth, that this always involves lively debate. There is much we can learn from such debate that will be of use for the G20. Of course, there are also discussions going on between the sherpas at G20 level – that is, between the official government representatives who are closely following our issues all the way up to the summit. They’ll need to prepare themselves for what will certainly be a very difficult last night of negotiations right before the summit meeting. The representatives of German NGOs, too, have had the opportunity to state their views during meetings of the sherpas. I can tell you that the dialogue process has already created important impetus on the issues, and this should inform our discussions at the level of Heads of State and Government.

At the G20, questions concerning the global economy always take centre stage. The focus is no longer, as was common earlier, simply on growth, but rather more about sustainable and inclusive growth. Globalisation is a process that can benefit anyone who approaches it with an open mind. That at least is how I view globalisation. There are countless examples. For instance, in Asia, opening up economies to global trade has successfully reduced poverty. Also, the Millennium Development Goal of reducing the number of people living in extreme poverty by half was achieved. We did not achieve this goal in Africa, but we did reach it thanks to developments in Asia.

The G20 must therefore highlight the advantages of trade being intensive, international and fair – in contrast to protectionist policies. If you interfere with the establishment of, or even sever, global value chains, all you do is harm everyone involved – including yourself. We have already taken a close look at global value chains in the G7 – because they are not automatically a good thing, but rather require optimisation with respect to their stages. Quite a lot has therefore been achieved in the G7. Working on them in the G20 is of course much more difficult.

We believe this means that we can create new prospects if we support the multilateral system of the World Trade Organization. This multilateral trading system is based on common rules. Having common rules means we should work to establish standards for protecting workers and consumers, as well as the climate and the environment. This applies to the G20 countries, as well as to all partner countries and to all production sites. We must do this if we want to address the problem of global value chains. We have a particular interest in better integrating women into economic processes and corporate functions. The aim here is to give women more opportunities to participate in economic development, which in turn will increase acceptance for globalisation. Furthermore, this will increase acceptance of fora such as the G20. After all, many are concerned that all of these issues are not being addressed in this context.

However, considering the fact that global connectivity is constantly on the rise, I think the work of such fora is more important than ever. One thing is clear: globalisation is not a destiny to which we must yield without demur. Globalisation can be shaped. The key thing is that we must coordinate our efforts. When we work toward common aims, everyone benefits. That’s why Germany is working to strengthen international cooperation. We’ve also expressed this idea through the logo of our G20 Presidency. We chose the square knot not only because it refers to the maritime heritage of Hamburg, but also because it is particularly effective and strong when you pull on it with greater force.

What we need to do is pool various interests, so that we can find answers to the big questions of our time. One of these is protecting the climate. The aim is to as rapidly as possible reduce the carbon emissions of our economies. The Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will guide us along the way. I believe this is true more than ever now that the United States has announced it is leaving the Paris Agreement.

Another very significant current global development is the digital revolution. We are talking about the effect that digital technology is having on our lives, our economies and our work. We are also discussing how we can increase participation at global level in the digital revolution, what we can do to protect privacy and intellectual property, and how we can ensure cyber security. To prepare for this G20 Summit, we also held a meeting of Digital Ministers. Although these are still early days, I am convinced that global rules need to be found for this domain, as well, and that it is not enough for each country to create its own. I think the EU has taken an important step and has pointed the way with its General Data Protection Regulation.

We have put another issue on the agenda that I feel very strongly about. We want to look at how we can do a better job of reducing health risks that can create tremendous human suffering and stunt the economies of entire regions. This will involve strengthening health care systems and the global health architecture. It will also mean taking action on antimicrobial resistance. At the summit, we will examine the outcome of the first G20 Health Ministers’ meeting. This meeting of the G20 Health Ministers explored the idea of an international system to respond to the threat of emerging pandemics. This is a very interesting issue, and we must strengthen multilateral organisations, specifically the World Health Organization and the World Bank, in this connection.

Another strong focus of our Presidency is promoting development in Africa. Only one week ago, the G20 Africa Conference was held in Berlin. We can see that the population of Africa – at least large sections of it – is not yet participating to a sufficient extent in global developments. So we looked at how we can stimulate more private investment – not instead of, but in addition to, development aid.

I have read your communiqué. During our discussion, we will certainly have the opportunity to discuss the concerns you have expressed. However, I firmly believe – considering that today, more than half a century after the end of colonial rule, a mere 20 or 25 percent of the population in so many African countries have access to electricity – that we cannot expect these places to experience economic growth. We cannot expect these to be good locations for expanding small and medium sized enterprises. For this reason, we must enable private investment.

To us, it was very important to think about this. That’s why we placed the G20 Compact with Africa – please note the “with”, not “for” – on the agenda. I am very pleased that the African Union, with its Agenda 2063, has for the first time ever drawn up its own development plan. It can serve as a point of reference for our own efforts, so that we do not patronise Africa by proposing projects it does not even consider important.

All in all, we want the Hamburg Summit to send a signal that we can, as a group, think on a global scale and take global action, so that everyone stands to benefit. Regarding economics and the regulation of financial markets, which are our actual key focuses, we will work to counteract any tendencies to weaken financial market regulations. Concerning regulation of shadow banking, we have an ambitious agenda to work through. This is a very important topic. We will not lose sight of it.

The message, in a nutshell, is: First, the G20 is assuming responsibility for life here and now – through its partnership with Africa, by tackling the causes of displacement, by fighting terrorism and corruption, and with constant efforts to achieve food security and development. Second, the G20 is also assuming responsibility for the world of tomorrow and beyond – by pursuing climate protection, by implementing the ever so important 2030 Agenda, and by shaping digitalisation and strengthening global health.

All of this is easy to say – but much harder to do. There is strong opposition, and there are great expectations. Often, progress is slow and tedious. At times, we need someone to show us the way. That is why I am very grateful that we are backed up by a strong civil society. At times, they express constructive opposition and force us to think. Yet I believe that we agree on the overarching aims, and that we all are convinced that globalisation can be shaped in a humane way, so that it does not lead to greater injustice and inequality.

That’s what I wanted to say as a lead in to our discussion. Now, I’m looking forward to talking with you. Please do test me on the convictions I’ve expressed. Thank you very much.