What is the importance of a G-20 Summit in an increasingly unilateral world.?

  09-Jul-2019 00:36:16

G20 India


What is the importance of a G-20 Summit in an increasingly unilateral world?

The Group of 20 nations(G-20) is an international grouping made up of Argentina,Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa,South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdoms and the United States. It was established in 1999 to broaden the ambit of previously existing G-7, with a mandate to "prevent future international financial crisis". The G-20 rotates chairpersons and the member's leaders met twice a year , but this was reduced to once a year since 2011. The leaders' meetings were usually preceeded by ministerial meetings by trade minsters, finance ministers and central bank governors , which are designed to set the agenda for the meetings of the world's most powerful leaders.

The 2019 G-20 Osaka Summit was the 14th edition of G-20 summit. It was held from June 28,2019 to June 29,2019. The main themes of this Summit were Global economy, Trade, Innovation, Enviornment and Energy, Employment, Women Empowerment and Health.

Achievements of G-20

The leaders' summits usually have a number of overarching themes to deal with every year. In order to justify itself and continue to be a problem solver, the institution returns with a new vision and a revamp in orientation, every year. In 2008, amid the perils of the global financial crisis, world leaders upgraded G-20 from what used to be an obscure finance minister's conference into a high-profile meet of powerful heads of government and state to coordinate policies and tackle the worst financial crash since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Every year since 2008, panicked investors, traders and average citizens looked up to G-20 summits as key morale boosters that signalled collective will of the international community to protect vulnerable consumers and taxpayers from future economic shocks and check financial speculators. In its heyday, G-20 was an exemplary multilateral experiment that worked because of the direness of the economic crisis. Selfish instincts and narrow nationalistic tendencies did not disappear but they were sublimated so that the global 'system' as a whole could be saved.

Nowadays, the belief that each country can solve its issues free of advice or supervision from global institutions, is flourishing. However, G-20 should wake up to the reality that financial risks and unjust economic policies are again rearing their heads. Acting shortsightedly that no crisis is on the horizon and behaving as though all G-20 needs to do now is to focus on steady and unexisting long term socio-economic development in various regions of the world is a formula guaranteeing extinction.

Increasing Importance of G-20 in this Unilateral World

Initially, The G-20 focused largely on broad macroeconomic policy but now it has expanded its ambit. Fair and sustainable development was a new ingress in the 2018 summit. Economic and financial coordination remains the cynosure of every Summit but issues such as the future of work, terrorism and global health are recurring focuses as well. Recent Summits have struggled to cope with the US shift towards unilateralism under President Trump. These gatherings have avoided using previously standard language about rejecting protectionism and promoting international cooperation.

The main points of contention of the unilateral world as well as that G-20 have been-

Trade- Trade is an essential driver of growth and development. Trade liberalisation in a multilateral setting is particularly important in low income developing countries. The G-20 is committed to a strong and well-functioning multilateral trading system with WTO at its core.

Climate- "In our view, climate change will determine the destiny of mankind, so it is imperative that our generation makes the right choices", said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Clearly, climate changes, off lately, have become an alarming issue. To help achieve climate change prevention, the G-20 nations "will look into a wide range of clean technologies and approaches, including smart cities, ecosystem and community based approaches, nature based solutions and traditional and indigenous knowledge", the final document read.

Migration and Refugees- The G-20 countries are at the centre of not only global economic governance, but also global migration governance. They play a leading role as their policy responses to migration challenges and opportunities affect migrants, countries of origin, transit and destination and the world economy. While the G-20 has recognised certain policies to harness migration's potential such as policy practices to integrate regular migrants and refugees into the labour market, it has yet to formally recognise policies and practices related to migration data.

Criticism of G-20

The G-20 is widely perceived to have failed to address global inequality. The expansion of G-7 to include more emerging economies brought hope that this would be addressed but in most member states inequality is widening. The G-20 like many plurilateral organisations, is often dissed as a 'talking shop' where leaders offers plenty of bluster, but achieve very little tangible progress.

As the G-20 represents only part of the world's population and a good 173 countries are not the members , ways should be found to include the latter's concerns. On a positive note, it should be mentioned that the G-20 is increasingly seeking to initiate a dialogue with developing countries. This occurs through invitations of regional organisations such as Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Therefore the results of the G-20's development policy have been very mixed. On one hand, the equal participation of up-and-coming powers of a global South such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa ensures that issues of global development are coming into focus. On the other hand, there is a danger that emerging countries will not be ready to make any adjustments to their development paths in the name of future viability.

G-20 - A necessary evil

Is G-20 worth it? Perhaps the easiest way to answer this question is imagine what would happen if there was no G-20 and we experienced a new global financial crisis in this unilateral world. In short, we would need to reinvent a mechanism like it to deal with the crisis. This suggests that the G-20 is a necessary evil that we must tolerate, at least until the international community agrees to create more inclusive and effective global governance arrangement. Given this reality, the developing world should look for ways to extract some value from the G-20. It should identify some modest goals for improving global governance that G-20 could realistically achieve. These include demanding that the G-20 push international organisations in process to become more transparent, participatory and accountable in their engagement with the G-20.


Picture credit: Getty Images


Written By: Hera Rizwan