New Delhi, India – As some of the most powerful heads of government descend on the Indian capital later this week to attend the summit of a deeply divided Group of 20, one question hangs in the air in New Delhi: Serving is it still an annual meeting for any purpose?
There is no easy answer, according to experts.
The G20 began in 1999 after the Asian financial crisis as a forum for finance ministers and central bank governors to discuss global financial and economic issues.
After the global financial crisis that began in 2007, it was promoted to the level of heads of state and in 2009 it was designated the “premier forum for international economic cooperation”. At that time, the G20 countries agreed to spend $4 trillion to revive their economy and the world, cut trade barriers and implement reforms in their financial system.
Since then, the leaders of the G20 member countries have met annually to discuss economic and financial matters, and much, much wider global concerns.
In 2009, reports of a proposed nuclear plant in Iran took center stage at the G20 summit. In 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping and United States President Barack Obama formally announced their participation in the Paris climate agreement at a group meeting in Hangzhou, China.
Recently, the G20 has faced criticism for failing to provide a strong response to vaccine demands, including the suspension of patents, although it has agreed to suspend debt payments to some poorest countries in the world.
Analysts agree that the size of the G20 – it covers 60 percent of the world’s population and more than 80 percent of global economic output – makes it an appropriate platform.
But that can also be a disadvantage as with 19 member countries today – including competing superpowers such as the US, China and Russia – and the European Union, it increasingly faces interests that are not always which is compatible.
‘Difficult geopolitical moment’
“The G7 and the G20 are important for different reasons,” said Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center.
The Group of Seven, whose members include only developed countries, is smaller, and therefore “more impactful,” he said. However, the importance of the G20 lies in the fact that it is “more reflective of the world as a whole” because its members also include developing countries from Asia, Latin America and Africa.
As such, the G20 is experiencing “a very difficult geopolitical moment”, which limits what it can do, Kugelman pointed out. “In any context, the US and allies under the same tent as China and Russia, you’re going to have a problem,” he said. Those tensions have flared up amid the looming war in Ukraine, now in its second year, and dividing the world.
Against that backdrop – where the US and its allies have condemned Russia’s war in Ukraine and imposed heavy sanctions while China, host India and some other countries have not – the search for common ground for other issues proved to be particularly challenging.
Indeed, through its G20 presidency that began in December last year and ends in November, India has struggled to build consensus around the war in Ukraine. That, in turn, prevented it from issuing key outcome documents from several G20 working groups and meetings hosted by India over the past several months.
These challenges also plagued the last G20 presidency under Indonesia. India hopes to do better. But its performance so far has been “disheartening”, Kugelman said. The summit on September 9 and 10 will be its last chance to demonstrate its effectiveness.
The success of that, however, is still in doubt especially since China’s Xi decided to skip the annual summit for the first time. Russian President Vladimir Putin will also not attend, and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will likely not attend the conclave either.
If India fails to secure a joint declaration at the end of the G20 due to the divisiveness of the members, that, too, will be an embarrassing first.
‘The most important platform’
However, other experts like Ashok Kantha, a former Indian ambassador to China, think that the G20 remains “the most important platform for international financial and economic issues and for the development agenda “.
“There is a sense that the concerns and feelings of the Global South are being ignored,” Kantha said and that international organizations such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are rooted in the post-World War II era, which dominated by a small number of countries.
India tried to highlight the concerns. At the beginning of its presidency, it held a virtual meeting in the Global South attended by 125 countries. In that gathering, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that “three-fourths of the people live in our countries. We should also [an] sound equivalent.”
Many economists and some millionaires have called on the G20 to introduce a global tax on the superrich, citing growing inequality.
Meanwhile, in late August, and before the G20 summit, Modi suggested that the African Union should become a full member of the bloc – currently South Africa is the only country from the continent that is a member of G20. He described his proposal as an example of India’s “vision of inclusiveness”.
“The Indian government recognizes that global governance led by the UN system has failed and that there are alternative, non-Western forums or a mix of the two that should take on some of the responsibilities,” said Happymon Jacob , a foreign policy analyst. and associate professor of disarmament studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.
“The reality of the age requires that we have more forums because a large part of humanity is not represented in traditional forums and it needs to be heard,” added Jacob.
That is compounded by the fact that the G20, which should primarily deal with issues such as climate change, development, global governance and green technology, among others, has been dragged into security debates. in the world like the war in Ukraine.
“The West is focused on the Russia-Ukraine war, and it believes that its conflict is the world’s conflict,” but it is not there when the Global South needs help such as a climate adjustment fund or when Sri Lanka has suffered the worst financial crisis, added Jacob.
“This focus only on security does not help. The Global South has its problems, and it needs to be heard. It is not enough to only hear the issues that concern Americans and Europeans. That is not good. .”