The Group of 20 has transformed since its inception in the late 1990s as an international body fighting financial crises into a forum to address pressing issues such as global access to vaccines and climate change. Whether the structure of the G-20 is suitable to help meet the changing needs of our time will be put to the test when the leaders of the world’s largest economies hold their first face-to-face summit since the pandemic in Rome. this week-end.
Who is in the fold?
The Group of Seven industrialized nations – which was the Group of Eight for a few years before Russia was suspended for its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula – is probably the best-known “G” group.
The Group of 20 falls back on the seven: Great Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. The other members include a dozen other countries, established powers as well as fast growing economies: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey.
The European Union is the 20th member, and since the EU is made up of 27 nations – including three in the G-7 – the G-20 actually represents the interests of many more countries.
How much does it count?
In terms of population and economic weight, the G-20 is impressive. Member countries represent 60% of the planet’s population and 80% of the world’s gross domestic product. There is also a lot of back and forth between members – the G-20 countries account for 75% of foreign trade.
How did that happen ?
The Group of 20 is considered the premier international forum for economic and financial cooperation. Following a 1997 Asian economic crisis and its aftermath, G-7 finance ministers created the largest group in 1999 so that other countries could have their say.
After the 2008 global financial crisis sparked by the subprime mortgage debacle in the United States, Washington pushed for the G-20 to be elevated to the level of heads of state and government.
The leaders, at their 2009 summit in Pittsburgh, said they intended to “turn the page on an era of irresponsibility and adopt a set of policies, regulations and reforms to address the needs of the 21st century global economy ”.
Is the G-20 still relevant today?
Some suggest that a membership update could be helpful, especially given the urgency to tackle climate change.
After the global crisis triggered by US subprime loans, “the emergence of the G-20 as a forum for international policy coordination seemed to be the only bright side of this mess,” says Rosario Forlenza, professor of contemporary history and anthropology at LUISS University in Rome.
But he and others note that South Africa is still the only African country in the G-20. When it comes to climate issues, “Africa is crucial,” says Forlenza. The absence of Nigeria, which has the largest economy and the largest population in Africa, thus appears to be a glaring gap.
Before presidents and prime ministers arrived in Rome for the summit, the “sherpas” worked for a long time to find an agreement on the final declaration of the G-20. Referring in this context to diplomats or other government officials, the term “Sherpa” is used in recognition of the Himalayan people renowned for their expertise in mountaineering and who are leading the way to the top.
As in a multi-act play, in the months leading up to a G-20 summit, ministerial-level meetings are held, ranging from foreign affairs, trade, finance, education, health and environment. These thematic caucuses bring back pledges.
In Venice this summer, for example, G-20 finance ministers backed a sweeping international tax review that would include a minimum 15% corporate levy to deter mega-companies from taking refuge in low-rate tax havens. The Rome summit is an opportunity to seal the deal before the curtain falls.
The road to Rome
Each year, the G-20 presidency rotates, and with it, the country that hosts the group’s annual summit.
Italy took the helm in December 2020. Going back year after year, previous summits were held in Saudi Arabia (in November 2020, a rally that took place remotely due to precautions against the pandemic), Japan, Argentina, Germany, China, Turkey, Australia, Russia, Mexico, France, South Korea, Canada, United States, Great Britain and United States
At the heart of the matter
The G-20 summit gives host countries a chance to push forward the issues that matter to them.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi is keen to empower women economically. An economist who previously served as President of the European Central Bank, Mr Draghi often points to the extent to which women are excluded from the labor market – often due to the need to care for children or the elderly at home – slows down economic growth. The 2014 G20 summit in Australia set a goal of reducing the gender gap in employment by 25% by 2025.
Outside the bubble
Italian security forces will establish a wide and narrow security perimeter around the summit site at EUR, an area of Rome outside the city center notable for its Fascist-era architecture.
Protesters are planning events near postcard sets in the historic heart of the Italian capital to draw attention to their causes, though they are miles from the reach of G-20 leaders.
Among them are Tibetan activists who have called a rally at the Colosseum for Friday afternoon, when most of the leaders arrive in Rome. Activists protesting human rights violations want a boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
This story was reported by The Associated Press.