Al Jazeera Blogs


Americas

G20: How much do talks achieve?

When it comes to helping the countless people hit by the financial crisis, will words really turn into actions after the G20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico?
Last modified: 20 Jun 2012 09:14
[Image by Reuters]

My colleagues, who have sent me countless emails about the beauty of my location in Los Cabos, Mexico, won't want to hear this. It is gorgeous here, but no one likes to cover summits.

It's not that I don't think they are important. They can be, and if you are in the news business, you need to be where the news is made. The problem is that everything happens behind closed doors. The people close to power who normally talk to you never really come out and tell you what truly happened.

That makes sense to me. In the diplomatic dance between 20 world leaders, you'd expect that they would want to be careful about what they say.

At the end of the day, the leaders will speak with one voice. They'll issue a lengthy communiqué. I'll read it, I always do. I’ll search for the three or four sentences that have the potential to matter.

I will inevitably have the same thought this time, that it reminds me of school papers. You probably remember the ones - you didn't have to say much but you were able to add in enough extra words to reach the required length.

The people who work on these projects would probably take great offence to that statement. I know they labour and negotiate over every word. My question is do the words turn into action?

I re-read the last G20 communiqué on my way here to Mexico. It spelled out that those derivatives that created this economic turmoil would be traded on an exchange by 2012. It doesn't appear likely that will happen.

The last few G8 summits promised accountability on things like money, in order to make sure people didn't starve to death. By the last account, about half had actually been delivered.

During this summit, we expect the communiqué will emphasise the need for growth. There'll be a job "action plan". The leaders will undoubtedly say it was a successful summit.

They'll point to a $456bn rescue fund as proof that they have a handle on the global economic crisis.

The problem is that they don't get the final say and we won't know, even after reading the lengthy document, if it will be enough. The market and consumers will decide that eventually.

Concerns

If you talk to people around here, you get the sense that the people behind those closed doors are really worried.

The European crisis has been going on for years and every action that's been taken hasn't stopped it.

I get the sense that European leaders came here under the assumption that everyone was going to be yelling at them "get your house in order". The first press conference with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barosso made that clear.

Barosso was asked by a Canadian reporter why they should bail Europe out, and that is when he looked angry. He reminded the questioner that Europe didn't cause the problem, "unorthodox" behaviour in North America did.

They all insisted reform would take time but it would happen. The message I think the other world leaders were sending is that they are running out of time.

I saw for myself why that matters.

I think we were the only television crew here who did, but we went out to a shanty town just ten minute away from the posh hotels where the summit is being held.

The homes were shacks with tin walls, where the people put up whatever they could find for roofing - cloth, cardboard or branches.

We met a single mother of three, her oldest son is disabled. She works cleaning houses, but says she has had a hard time affording enough food since the crisis began. She and countless others are hurting because of this crisis.

My news editor was mocking my plum assignment. He said to me that I was "saving the world, one luxury resort at a time". I'm not, of course. But it does make me wonder if the leaders can, or will.