G20 leaders are expected to point the way: how to promote sustainable growth and how to fight hunger and climate change. German NGOs, however, are doubtful there will be any concrete results.
In the Mexican beach resort of Los Cabos, Silvia Holten solemnly points at three plates of food.
"Where, if not here?" the spokeswoman for the children's aid organisation World Vision demands. "The G20 is responsible for finding solutions to global crises."
On one plate, there's a small heap of rice, about a child's hand full: that is the daily amount of rice many children have to survive on. Two handfuls of rice are on the second plate - a symbol meant to say, doubling the portion doesn't solve the problem.
Holten points at the third plate. "Children need meat, carbohydrates, vegetables and fruit for a healthy diet," she says. A study by the OECD says malnutrition in a child's first two years has long-term negative consequences - not only for the individual, but also for a country's economic power.
Eurozone stability is key
Jörn Kalinski, campaign manager at Oxfam Germany, is skeptical whether representatives of the world's leading and emerging economies will make any progress at all on food security.
Food security is a top priority on the Mexican president's agenda for the G20 summit - in the country's own best interest: 52 million people in Mexico live in poverty - 46 percent of the population. Kalinski told DW that there's been no progress on the issue of bio-fuels in the discussions so far. Aid organisations have been urging the EU and the US to end their subsidies for bio-fuels because they cause food prices to skyrocket.
It's no surprise the European financial crisis has taken center stage at the meeting, says Kalinski, and adds that Oxfam believes it's important that a solution to the euro crisis is found and that Europe is a stable economic and social alliance: "A breaking apart of the eurozone would have grave consequences for the poorest countries, too." A lasting euro crisis would lead to a drop in export revenue and foreign investment as well as cuts in development aid funding - it could cost the least developed countries billions of euros.
Merkel, the driving force
But Kalinski is concerned delegates in Los Cabos might be investing too much energy in the European financial crisis, to the detriment of issues like food security, sustainable development and the financing of climate protection. This is where the German Chancellor comes in, Kalinski says, with demands that could include "that a large part of the income from the financial transaction tax should be invested in global development and climate protection."
Peter Wahl of the German NGO World Economy, Ecology and Development (WEED) dismisses the G20 summit as a mere "show event," in particular with regard to "green growth."
On Wednesday, Rio de Janeiro hosts the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20.
"They've got a competing concept - the idea of the 'green economy,'" Wahl told DW, adding that the focus in Rio was less on the traditional understanding of growth but allowed for debate on new modes of economy.
G20 or UN?
Wahl criticizes that while a B20 business summit is being held parallel to the G20 meeting in Mexico, NGOs were not sufficiently represented. "We want to campaign to make civil society more visible at future summits, and to give it better access to top G20 leaders," he says.
But many of those active in the civil society don't want to work with the G20, says Peter Lanzet of Germany's Lutheran Church Development Service (EED); they'd prefer to see the UN strengthened in its role as global lobbyist. Should the G20 states agree on substantial initiatives after all, he says, the "UN is in danger of being pushed aside." But he doesn't see much chance of that happening in Los Cabos.
Author: Christina Bergmann, Los Cabos / db
Editor: Michael Lawton