News ID: 197284
Published: 0244 GMT July 25, 2017

The G20 needs to go back to its roots

The G20 needs to go back to its roots

When the finance ministers of the G7 countries proposed the G20 in the late 1990s, a good sense of realism prevailed. They recognized that addressing issues of global finance required the political support from — and involvement of — emerging market economies.

This view proved prescient in seeking policy responses to the 2007–08 global financial crisis. The leaders of the G20 met at their first summit in Washington D.C. in 2008 to agree on measures to resolve the crisis through dialogues among the ‘systemically relevant’ countries, IPS reported.

At its creation, the G20 was thus meant to facilitate coordination, cooperation and problem-solving among key actors in a specific policy field, which then was global financial stability. The G20 was not meant to be a jack-of-all-trades, offering welcoming words and restating support for long-accepted and previously reconfirmed goals, as most subsequent G20 summits did.

Why had there been so little real progress? What concrete measures would be taken? Neither question was asked let alone answered — to avoid a spiral of reiterations at subsequent summits.

Not solving the most pressing problems

So far, the G20’s record of practical follow-up to its communiqués has been less than sterling. But this could reflect its shift from solving the most pressing problems to considering all possible facets of a more desirable world.

Forget for a moment the failure to clearly add value. What would the 2017 Hamburg summit have done, if it had stuck to the original G20 idea and approach? Which one or two global key challenges could it have focused on to suggest concrete measures?

One focus could have been mass starvation in Africa, with a clear promise to augment, in a meaningful way and within a few days, financial and other support for the UN Refugee Agency and the World Food Program. A second could have been mitigating and adapting to climate change.

Even if only 19 of the 20 had stated what concrete breakthroughs they would make on the Monday morning following the Hamburg summit, much could have been gained by inspiring others to ratchet up their corrective measures. Why was such a determination to lead not in evidence?

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