Monday 13. July 2020

Disappointing G20 summit in Turkey

Oscar Mateos, Professor of International Relations at the University of Ramon Llull in Barcelona and staff member of the Centro de Estudios Cristianismo y Justicia, comments on the most recent G20 Summit in Antalya on 15/16 November.

The current crisis in international relations is to some extent due to the lack of any worldwide governing body with consensual support The magnitude of the global challenges confronting mankind makes it impossible for nation states—not even the USA—to control a reality that they are no longer able to influence alone. We do, it is true, have the United Nations, but the UN is also a player plagued with huge deficiencies and contradictions. Founded in the wake of the Second World War with the aim of guaranteeing world order and security, the majority of the UN’s most important decisions are limited by the interests and visions of the members of the Security Council who hold the power of veto.


The G20, a world government?

Without a “central authority”, the term coined by political scientist Susan Kell, today we are closer to a global regulatory body than to a “world government” capable of solving all our problems. This regulatory body is, moreover, increasingly pluralised and fragmentary, since, in trying to tackle some of these problems, national players work together with a large number of non-governmental players such as NGOs, companies, think tanks, lobby groups, etc. Moreover, in contrast to the UN as major player, a substantial number of regional and subregional organisations, transnational alliances and platforms have arisen in a context that is inevitably multipolar due to the rise of certain countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Turkey and Brazil.


Against this background the G20 re-emerged in 2008 as a meeting place for the Heads of State and Government of the twenty most important industrial and newly-industrialised countries. First established in 1999 as an association of the finance ministers of the nineteen largest economic powers and the European Union, it was in the autumn of 2008, in the middle of the world financial crisis, when the G20 first became one of the main fora for international decisions. The intention was clear: to create a space where it was possible to get to grips with the serious turbulences rocking the world’s financial markets. Since then the forum has expanded its agenda to include areas such as climate change and growing global inequality.


No specific plan of action

In a way similar to that of the World Economic Forum which meets annually in Davos, the G20 will present its diagnosis of current problems and discover their extent. However, until now no G20 diagnosis has led to any specific plan of action, but only provided rhetorical statements, full of good intentions but full too of worrying contradictions. On the one hand, the issue of the serious environmental crisis is raised, while on the other hand, economic growth and development (albeit with the tag “sustainable”) are exalted as the most important objectives. The preoccupations of the G20 reflect a world which sees all problems through an economic prism. A wider perspective is urgently needed.


A new G20 summit was held on 15 and 16 November in Antalya, Turkey. As usual the meeting was set to discuss the topics proposed by the rotating presidency, currently the Turkish government. As on previous occasions, the focus was on economic growth and the creation of employment. It is true that in recent years, by creating working committees in subject areas such as gender or the future of young people, the G20 has managed to reshape its agenda so that it can go outside the economic straitjacket in order to consider a few of the most important social challenges of our time. Nevertheless, the final document emerging from the summit was again characterised by a generalised tone that was at heart essentially economic and highly rhetorical, and this still gives cause for concern. The talk is of “inclusive and sustainable growth”, but these are merely words. They may at least indicate awareness that problems exist, but both the knowledge and the will to find truly new solutions are still lacking.


Oscar Mateos

Centro de Estudios Cristianismo y Justicia, Barcelona


Translated from the original text in German

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