The announcement was made as part of the Inaugural Ceremony of India's Civil 20 Working Group (C20), of which Amma is Chair. C20's purpose is to bring the concerns of CSOs from around the world to the G20 Summit set to take place in New Delhi this September. The Group of 20 (G20) is the premier intergovernmental forum for the world’s developed and emerging economies to address financial stability on a global basis. With India as this year's host country, the G20 theme is vasudhaiva kuṭaṁbakam—the whole world is one family.
In her address, Amma said: “At this juncture, with almost a quarter of this century completed, what is the state of our world? Close your eyes and place your finger on a map. Now open your eyes and see what continent and nation it landed upon. Wherever it is, find out if that place is peaceful and free from conflict. Is there enough drinking water and food to fulfil the thirst and hunger of everyone there? Is there a roof over every head? And clothes to wear? Is timely healthcare available for everyone? Are the women and children safe?”
In advance of the G20 Summit, C20 will collaborate with hundreds of CSOs from around the world to voice primary and common concerns and to promote sustainable development with the vision of leaving no one behind. A CSO is any non-profit, voluntary citizens’ group that is organised on a local, national, or international level. Task-oriented and driven by people with a common interest, CSOs perform a variety of services and humanitarian functions, bring citizens’ concerns to governments, monitor policies, and encourage political participation at the community level.
"Many civil organisations and individuals are actively engaged in finding solutions and doing humanitarian work. But they are only small rain drops falling into the ocean. But when they fall in the desert, even such small drops have some benefit. If we understand their place and use them accordingly, they can help bring some joy, peace and health to the world,” Amma expressed.
"This is an auspicious occasion. We have embarked on a mission to restore the dwindling light of the world. This is a historic year in which India has received the opportunity to assume the presidency of the G20 nations. The Indian Government and Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi have given us the tremendous responsibility of successfully facilitating the process of Civil Society 20. May we be able to do justice to this endeavour."
Amitabh Kant is India's Special Representative (Sherpa) at G20 and has also served as CEO of NITI Aayog, the Government of India’s central public policy think tank for the country’s economic development. In his address, he emphasised C20 is a mirror of the dynamic range of activities CSOs must undertake to contribute to establishing India’s G20 Presidency as a beacon of hope, healing, and harmony for the entire world.
Kant said: “With the theme of ‘One Earth. One Family. One Future’, we take on the G20 presidency in this complex and challenging environment. The world today is faced with complex geo-political tensions and conflicts, global debt crisis, issues of food, fuel and fertiliser, climate crisis, slowing progress on the SDGs, meaning that millions of people have lost their jobs and been pushed into poverty. But with India's G20 presidency, we see these complex challenges as an opportunity for us to get the world to unite and act upon these challenges and to drive global consensus.”
Shashi Tharoor, a Member of Parliament with India’s Congress Party and a former UN Under-Secretary General, also spoke at the gathering. Having personally witnessed the power and reach of civil society firsthand, he explained that CSOs are essential for the welfare of the world.
“I would also argue that civil society can and must play a leading role in helping our communities to effectively navigate past and address what we need to do to solve what in my UN days, we called problems without passports. That is the problems across all frontiers uninvited. And that no one country or even a small group of countries can solve on their own,” said Tharoor.
“Problems, in other words, of poverty, of contagious disease, of human rights and human wrongs, of chronic starvation and malnourishment, of massive illiteracy, and of massive displacement. All these kinds of problems are problems that require solutions that also don’t need passports. That also cross over borders—blueprints without borders to match the problems without passports.”
Many other dignitaries graced the inauguration. Among them was T Denny Sanford, an American entrepreneur and philanthropist who recently received an Honorary Doctorate from Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham. He said it is a crucial task Amma has taken on to lead the discussion of civil society’s contribution in global development.
“The C20 tagline for this year, ‘You are the Light, You are the Light, You are the Light’, is so resounding. It has special importance because Amma welcomes us all who come to her with kindness, love, grace by physically embracing them,” shared Sanford.
“We should all strive, truly strive, to be shining beacons like Amma who has devoted her life to helping people, especially providing basic necessities such as food, water, housing, medical care, education, and jobs for those in need. It is absolutely magnificent what she does. She is a one-of-a-kind.”
Marc Benioff is another leading American entrepreneur well-known for his philanthropic work. Upon addressing the inauguration, he said Amma is leading an incredible and critical effort as Chair of C20, since her message of service to others is needed in our world more than ever before. Benioff has travelled with Amma on her tours throughout India, Australia, Europe, and North America.
“I remember listening to her message that we must do something for other people. That it's not enough that we are successful, but we must bring others along with us. Thank you Ammachi for your love. Thank you Ammachi for your service. Thank you Ammachi for your leadership, and remembering to teach all of us how to become better people and now bringing India and the G20 into this incredible message, as well,” Benioff expressed with great happiness.
As the host country of this year’s G20 Summit, India brings to the fore the concept of self-reliance and sustainability, where economic growth, ecological health, personal enlightenment, and social well-being go hand in hand.
In India, civil society has historically remained independent of political powers and is self-supporting in every aspect. This ethos will permeate its C20 activities and contribute to shifting the dynamics between state, society, market, family, and individual from conflict and contradiction to cooperation, collaboration, and compassionate assistance.
Indian philosophical tradition recognises the importance and limitations of individualism and collective action. Volunteerism, which bridges this gap between these two is the essential spirit behind civil society in India. As an ideal, volunteerism, or selfless service, should reflect a sense of personal ownership of one's surroundings, as well as a sense of belonging.
Beyond this, for volunteerism to have the most positive impact, it requires a genuine passion for reforms and improvement, self-inspired initiative, and creativity in approaches that reflect the complexities of the real world. This also represents a democratic, participatory, and harmonious way of working together.
Volunteerism in India has always been driven by a sense of duty and indebtedness to society. In that sense, this consciousness is in fact beyond government as each individual develops a personal responsibility for ensuring collective wellbeing. This perspective reinforces the role of individual citizens rather than placing the entire burden on the government alone. The C20 in India, will thus focus on a uniquely Indian experience, bringing these aspects to the fore.
After more than 150 official meetings, alongside the countless cooperative efforts that will be made to formulate solutions for sustainable development in the world at this precarious time, the C20 Summit will happen July 30th in Jaipur, Rajasthan.Photo 1: Amma said Embracing the World will collaborate closely with local CSOs to bring about a tangible change in the lives of the beneficiaries.
Photo 2: Amma serves as Chair of C20, a working group of the G20 that has the purpose to bring the concerns of CSOs from around the world to its Heads of State.
Photo 3: Via webcast, Laurent Bessede, General Legal Director of the Red Cross in France, explained how their organisation partnered with Embracing the World after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.