G-20 | A multilateral platform in a polarized world

Faced with the challenges of the post-pandemic economic crisis to Russia’s aggression, the grouping, unlike in the past, finds itself in a difficult situation amid growing disunity.

Faced with the challenges of the post-pandemic economic crisis to Russia’s aggression, the grouping, unlike in the past, finds itself in a difficult situation amid growing disunity.

In a world where multilateralism seems out of breath, the meeting of G-20 foreign ministers in Bali delivered a few more blows. “We cannot deny that it has become more difficult for the world to sit together,” said Retno Marsudi, Indonesian foreign minister who hosted the meeting this week, even as the G-7 countries skipped a welcome reception and a concert to protest the presence of Russians. Sergei Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs. Lavrov left one meeting because of comments from Western countries on the war in Ukraine, and another just before the Ukrainian foreign minister, a special guest at the session on food security, took the floor.

It seems that the road between the meeting of foreign ministers, which is expected to be followed by an equally acrimonious meeting of G-20 finance ministers on July 15 and 16, which will finalize the agenda, can only lead to an even more contentious G-20 summit four months later on November 15-16, where Russian President Vladimir Putin has been invited and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to address the gathering as a special guest. The United States has already demanded that Mr Putin be disinvited or else the United States and European countries would boycott his speech. Sensing the difficulties, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who attended the G-7 summit in Germany as a special guest, also visited Kyiv and Moscow last month and met with the two leaders in the hope to keep the G-20 together as it faces what is probably its biggest organizational challenge in its 23-year history. India, which will assume the G-20 presidency in December, will have to shoulder the burden of ensuring the continued existence of the G-20 in a globally polarized world until 2023.

In many ways (minus the Russian-Ukrainian war), the current moment mirrors many of the crises that led to the creation of the G-20 in 1999. Back then, the multilateral geo-economic order was dominated by the countries of the G-8 (now the G-7, after the ousting of Russia), and it was clear that they were ineffective in the face of the Mexican, Asian and Russian financial crises of 1997-98.

Global South

The world’s largest economic grouping at the time, the 38-member OECD which was created as a result of the post-World War II reconstruction effort, was equally unworkable and weighed in favor of the United States and the United States. ‘Europe. This led to the first meeting of the G-20, finance ministers and central bank governors, to look at the world through a more “Global South” perspective.

Two men in particular, Canadian Finance Minister (and later Prime Minister) Paul Martin, and US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers were credited with the push for this broader group, which they said would go beyond the “davos dwellers” for people who work in “Detroit and Düsseldorf”, referring to the manufacturing hubs of the time. Together with economists from the OECD, which remains the strategic adviser to the G-20, they chose from a basket of emerging economies (all BRICS countries are part of the G-20) to create the G-20 as a “mix perfect” of the old world. and new, first world and developing world; aging traditional global elites and more populous, dynamic and growing economies.

The final list was as follows: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea (South Korea), Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey , United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as the European Union. Spain is a permanent guest, as are several international agencies like the UN, IMF, ASEAN, African Union, etc. that “finance ministers can’t count”, but a little-known fact, revealed by Mr Martin years later, was that Nigeria was supposed to be the “20th” member, and was dropped at the last minute in due to political unrest at the time. Today, the members of the G-20 represent 60% of the world’s population, 75% of world trade and more than 80% of world GDP.

The G-20 has no fixed headquarters, and the secretariat rotates among the countries hosting or assuming the chair of the grouping each year. Members are divided into five groups (India is in Group 2, along with Russia, South Africa and Turkey). The G-20 agenda, which still depends heavily on the advice of finance ministers and central governors, is finalized by a unique system of “sherpas”, who are special envoys of the G-20 leaders. Another feature of the G-20 is the “troika” meetings, comprising the countries that chaired the G-20 last year, this year and next year. Currently, the troika is made up of Italy, Indonesia and India.

The next big leap for the G-20 came during the the global financial crisis in 2007. It was clearly time for leadership to step in, and the first G-20 summit took place in 2008 in Washington DC, hosted by US President George W. Bush. Experts have seen the G-20 agreements in 2008 and 2009, where the grouping agreed to revive economies with a $4 trillion worth of spending boost, lowering trade barriers and implementing economic and governance reforms, as proof that the new grouping could actually work, and even save the global financial system through concerted action.

Global Priorities

This enthusiasm did not last, and the following decade brought new challenges, as China’s strategic rise, NATO expansion and Russian territorial aggression in Georgia and Crimea changed priorities. world. Today, the world continues to grapple with deepening geopolitical rivalries and possible dilution of the dollar-based system after sanctions against Ukraine, even as it faces the new realities of the post-COVID economy. . Globalization is no longer a cool word, and multilateral organizations are having a credibility crisis as countries around the world choose to be “G-zero” (a term coined by political commentator Ian Bremmer to refer to “Every nation for itself”) on the G-7. , G-20, BRICS, P-5 (permanent members of the UNSC) and others.

For India, the challenges of the G-20 come with the prestige of hosting the summit next November, when world leaders will travel to New Delhi and meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi months before national elections in 2024. Over the past few weeks, India has been more vocal about working with Indonesia to build consensus for the Bali agenda, and has also started the process of setting up G-20 structures here. . Former NITI Ayog CEO Amitabh Kant has been named the Prime Minister’s G-20 Sherpa, and former Foreign Minister Harsh Shringla will be the G-20 coordinator. The government plans to hold 100 preparatory meetings in different parts of the country, which has led to controversy over whether the G-20 summit or ministerial-level meetings would be held in Jammu-Kashmir.

Amid protests from Pakistan and China, the MEA said no decision had yet been made. The venue for the G-20 is likely to be at Pragati Maidan in Delhi, where construction of roads, conference halls, hotels and landscaping is underway. The biggest challenges, however, will remain for India to help Indonesia protect the G-20 idea and prevent it from fragmenting in the face of geopolitical fissures, where leaders are loath to hear each other speak, or even to sit in the same room together.

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