25 Aug 23

What is the G20 Conference?

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Last Updated on: 2nd October 2023, 02:59 pm

What is the G20 Conference?

The G20 Conference, or Group of Twenty, is an annual summit attended by leaders from the world’s major economies, along with representatives from the European Union. The G20 was established in 1999 in response to the global financial crisis, in order to facilitate international cooperation on matters related to the international financial system. Since then, the G20 has evolved to address broader global economic governance issues as well.

The G20 is made up of 19 countries and the European Union. The 19 member countries are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. These countries represent around 80% of global economic output, two-thirds of the world’s population, and 75% of international trade.

Goals and Priorities

The G20 aims to address issues that go beyond the capabilities of individual countries. The main goals and priorities include:

  • Promoting international financial stability
  • Formulating policies for sustainable economic growth
  • Advancing international trade and investment
  • Reforming and strengthening financial regulations
  • Modernizing international financial institutions
  • Tackling corruption, terrorism financing, and money laundering
  • Addressing climate change, energy security, and sustainable development

In essence, the G20 seeks to find collective solutions to global economic challenges through cooperation, policy coordination, and regulatory oversight.

Origins of the G20

The G20 grew out of the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, when it became clear that the major economies needed to come together to discuss global economic issues. At the G7 summit in 1999, plans were made to establish a new, broader forum that included major emerging economies like China, India, Brazil, and others alongside the traditional G7 economies.

The first G20 leaders summit was hosted by Germany in Berlin in December 1999. The summit focused on reforming the global financial architecture and increasing financing to developing countries. Canada hosted the second G20 summit in 2000, which saw the endorsement of key International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank reforms.

The G20 initially met annually at the finance minister and central bank governor level, with summits only occurring sporadically. But after the global financial crisis of 2008, the G20 was elevated to be the premier forum for international economic coordination. The first G20 leaders summit was hosted by the United States in Washington, D.C. in November 2008.

How the G20 Works

The G20 operates without a permanent secretariat or international staff. Instead, the chair rotates annually among members, who take on the agenda setting and hosting duties. The presidency runs from December 1 through November 30. Indonesia holds the G20 presidency in 2022, and India will take over in 2023.

Much of the background work for the G20 happens through various working groups and committees composed of senior officials from member countries. There are currently 10 working groups covering issues like international financial architecture, infrastructure investment, climate sustainability, health, and more. The working groups develop policy recommendations and action plans.

Ultimately, the real decision-making happens at the annual leaders summit. The summit brings together presidents, prime ministers, and other government leaders to negotiate and sign off on major policy initiatives, global reforms, and concrete action plans. The summit concludes with a joint communique outlining the outcomes and commitments.

Key Outcomes and Achievements

Over the past two decades, the G20 has played a critical role in stabilizing the global economy and financial system. Some of the key achievements include:

  • Coordination of over $5 trillion in fiscal support during the 2008 crisis
  • Implementation of Basel III global regulatory standards for banks
  • Reform of IMF governance and resources
  • Promotion of information exchange to tackle tax evasion
  • $75-100 billion mobilized annually for infrastructure investment in developing countries and emerging markets
  • Paris Agreement on climate change and reducing fossil fuel subsidies
  • G20 Action Plan on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The G20 has also catalyzed progress on issues like financial inclusion, disaster risk reduction, clean energy, and global health security. However, critics argue that the G20 has not done enough on many fronts, including tackling poverty, reducing income inequality, delivering debt relief, and advancing climate action.

Criticisms and Challenges

The G20 faces a number of criticisms and challenges, including:

  • Lack of formal authority – The G20 has no binding legislative or enforcement powers. Compliance with commitments is voluntary.
  • Narrow representation – Only 20 major economies are included, lacking voices from smaller and poorer nations.
  • Inconsistent follow-through – Commitments are not always implemented by national governments after summits conclude.
  • Non-transparent process – Civil society groups argue the G20 lacks transparency and public accountability.
  • Geopolitical tensions – Rivalries between members, especially between Western countries and Russia, can impede cooperation.
  • Agenda overload – With a sprawling agenda, the G20 risks losing focus and tackling too many complex issues at once.

Reform proposals for the G20 include creating a permanent secretariat, reducing the agenda to a few core issues annually, and inviting non-member stakeholders to participate. But the informal structure is also seen as a source of the G20’s strength, enabling candid high-level dialogue.

2023 G20 Presidency Priorities

India holds the G20 presidency in 2023 and will host the next leaders summit. As the “first developing country” to hold the G20 presidency, India has laid out four key priority areas:

  1. Accelerating economic growth – promoting macroeconomic stabilization, capital flows, infrastructure investment, and resilient global supply chains.
  2. Safeguarding the planet – advancing renewable energy, climate finance, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable lifestyles.
  3. Fostering human-centric development – driving job creation, skill development, digital public infrastructure, and financial inclusion.
  4. Promoting technological transformation – harnessing innovation for sustainable development while mitigating risks from new technologies.

India aims to position the G20 as the “premier forum for international economic cooperation” and make it more responsive to the needs of developing countries. But geopolitical tensions, a potential global recession, and disagreement over the war in Ukraine will test the G20’s ability to find consensus under India’s leadership.

The Future of the G20

As the primary forum for international economic cooperation, the G20 will continue playing a crucial role in an increasingly complex and fractured world. But sustaining its relevance and effectiveness will depend on the willingness of national leaders to look beyond narrow self-interests. The rise of multiparty international organizations also calls the G20’s legitimacy into question when voices from nearly 180 countries are left out.

Going forward, the G20 will need to deepen coordination with other major forums like the United Nations, World Trade Organization, and Paris Climate Agreement. It must also give greater voice to non-member countries, as well as non-state actors like businesses, investors, and civil society groups. Streamlining a crowded agenda while responding urgently to interconnected crises will be critical. The G20’s capacity to adapt its reach, representation, and work streams will determine its future role in global governance.

Year Host Country Priorities
2023 India Economic growth, climate action, human development, technology transformation
2022 Indonesia Global health architecture, sustainable energy transition, digital transformation
2021 Italy People, planet, prosperity

The G20 faces skepticism, yet remains vital for confronting shared challenges. Its effectiveness rests on both high-ambition commitments and follow-through by national leaders. With growing global crises, the coming decade will test whether the G20 can evolve beyond a talk shop and catalyze transformational breakthroughs. If not, its relevance may wane. But for now, the premier forum holds both promise and responsibility for steering the world economy in a more sustainable, inclusive, and just direction.