Before the g-20 summit in hamburg: dispute over ngo accreditations

Environmental and development associations complain about the low number of places for their representatives. The German government rejects the criticism.

Many organizations want to protest not only outside, but also inform inside Photo: private

At a discussion on Monday, Angela Merkel still showed herself to be a big fan of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). "An engaged civil society makes for discussion and is always a benefit in the end," the chancellor said at Civil20, a pre-meeting of environmental and development associations for the G-20 summit.

But at the actual G-20 summit, which will take place on 7 and 8. July in Hamburg, "engaged civil society" seems to be less welcome: Only five NGO representatives were to be given access to the press center to comment on the negotiations and results – and not per country or per organization, but in total. The Federal Chancellery had informed the NGO umbrella organization Forum Environment and Development of this by e-mail in March. The Forum coordinates the so-called Civil20 process that accompanies the summit. Eleven NGO representatives were finally accredited in this way.

Last week, 17 organizations, including Bread for the World, Oxfam, BUND and WWF, protested against the restricted access. In a joint letter to the German Chancellor’s Office, which is available to the taz, they stated: "The G-20 process thrives on free and open exchange." The low number of NGO accreditations to the press center "in no way does justice to the needs and demands". For comparison, the organizations point to previous G-20 summits: in 2011, for example, 100 civil society representatives were accredited in France, in 2012 there were 50 in Mexico and in 2015 there were also 50 places in Turkey.

The German government rejected the criticism on Tuesday in response to a taz inquiry. Beyond the contingent communicated to the Civil20 office, "further representatives of NGOs would be accredited for the press center if they can prove a legitimate interest," a spokesman for the Federal Press Office said.

The Federal Government reacts

In fact, some organizations had already applied individually for accreditation before the letter of complaint and received a commitment. Others knew nothing about this possibility; there was no official information about it. "The information was contradictory," says Stephan Exo-Kreischer, Germany director of the ONE organization. "We would have liked to see a more transparent process from the government."

That the process was not ideal has now probably also come to the attention of the Federal Press Office: Shortly after taz’s request, the agency contacted the Civil20 office and drew attention to the possibility of nominating others interested in accreditation by Friday.