Global Alternatives 2024
The Role of the G20 in the Development of a Multipolar World

In the G20, we have a very clearly consolidated bloc of countries of the political West, and, on the other hand, the consolidation of the global Non-West is far from optimal. Let’s hope that the current Brazilian presidency of the G20 will be able to correct this situation, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Oleg Barabanov.

The Group of Twenty (G20) dates back to 1999, when the first ministerial meetings were held; since 2008 it has also brought together heads of state and government. Both of these dates are quite significant. Both years were times of global financial and economic crises. While they more or less affected the entire planet, they hit the developing countries of the Global South and the Non-West hardest. Both of these crises served to obviate the need to find a political and regulatory balance in relations between the developed and developing world, between rich and poor, between the proverbial “golden billion” and the rest of humanity.

The key problem that was voiced then, and which unfortunately has not been resolved to this day, is the underrepresentation of the countries of the Global Non-West in international economic institutions of global regulation and management. If at the political level two large non-Western countries — Russia and China — are permanent members of the UN Security Council, and the veto power gives them the opportunity to block those draft decisions that are beneficial only to the West, and in general, every state in the UN General Assembly has one vote, and therefore formal equality is present, then in international financial institutions the situation is completely different. Both in the International Monetary Fund and in a number of other structures, there is not even formal equality, since there is no principle of “one country, one vote,” but the number of votes each country has is determined by its economic power. Accordingly, it is Western countries (in the political sense of the word) that have a decisive, dominant influence on development and decision-making.

In this way, inequality in development was perpetuated and reinforced. This was combined with a range of financial, economic and investment practices that many representatives of developing countries called neo-colonial. In addition, many of the countries of the Global Non-West were recipients of loans from the IMF and other structures, and their macro-financial requirements often caused serious social discontent in these countries and were sometimes perceived as a brake on the development of their own industry and investment policy. In many ways, the consequences of this debt burden and the strict IMF requirements that have accompanied it were the reason that developing countries became the main victims of global financial crises, especially in the 1997-1999 period.

In addition to the IMF, the World Bank and other institutions, the leading countries of the political West also had their own informal structure — the Group of Seven (G7). Within its framework, they could coordinate their policies, agree upon decisions and then act as a kind of united front at the global level. This G7 was often perceived in the developing world precisely as a symbol of inequality and consolidation of the dominant position of the Western countries.

Why the G20 Won’t Save the World
Andrey Kortunov
We need to look for other means and other platforms for making decisions that correspond to the specifics of the moment that we are all experiencing. The G20 may become one of the important nodes of the complex new global governance mechanism, but it is incapable of replacing the whole mechanism.

That is why these tasks of overcoming underrepresentation and inequality, relevant previously, became especially acute during the period of global financial crises. The countries of the political West were accused (and, admittedly, quite rightly) of being directly responsible for provoking the crises, as well as not bearing the brunt of it, as their dominance in decision-making had allowed them to redirect it towards developing countries.

It was in this atmosphere and in this context that the G20 emerged, first as a ministerial format, and then at the summit level. It was the expansion of representation that became its key symbolic feature. It is not by chance that one of the very first tasks on the G20 agenda was the redistribution of voting quotas between countries within the IMF. This process, however, was quite difficult, and, by and large, led to only half-hearted results. No real balance in the number of votes between developed and developing countries in international financial institutions has been achieved.

The reason for this, in part, lies in what can be called to some extent the “birth trauma” of the G20. Since its creation was discussed, among other things, within the G7, the G20 was perceived by many as a kind of G7+. After all, even before the creation of the G20, the G7 periodically invited several leaders from developing countries to its meetings, and held one of its meetings in such an expanded format. In accordance with this logic, the institutionalisation of these expanded meetings of the G7 eventually received the name G20. At the same time, phantom memories that the G20 as being nothing more than G7+ persisted for quite a long time, their echoes can be found right up to the present day. In any case, it is by no means uncommon to assert that it was the G7 that became the institutional organizer of the G20, and that the countries of the political West thereby showed their goodwill. There was an implicit notion that everyone else should be grateful to them for this.

At the same time, the creation of the G20 did not lead to the self-dissolution of the G7. It has survived and still holds regular meetings with its own agenda and priorities. All this makes it possible to use the aforementioned mechanism of internal consolidation of the political West. Given that it has become almost a tradition in recent years that G7 summits are held earlier than G20 summits, the opportunity for “synchronising watches” and intra-Western coordination regarding their common position at the G20 remains quite strong.

It should be noted that the countries of the global Non-West also understood the need and expediency of creating their own mechanism of this kind, partly similar in format to the G7. This led to the creation of BRIC — around the same years when the G20 was created — in 2006-08. Then the Republic of South Africa was accepted into BRIC, and the abbreviation BRIC was changed to BRICS. In 2024, another expansion of BRICS took place. Thus, this association of leading countries of the Global Non-West increases its inclusiveness and representativeness.

In this context, the G20 has essentially turned into a kind of forum for a meeting between the West and the Non-West.

In our subjective opinion, quite often this has led to the fact that the parties sometimes tried to avoid a serious discussion of problems and act only according to the classic formula “we are for everything good and against everything bad.” In any case, reading many communiqués following the results of the G20 summits, one cannot get rid of precisely this feeling. These communiqués are sometimes much more emasculated and empty in essence than the communiques of the BRICS summits, and even than the communiqués of the G7 summits. In both BRICS and the G7, like-minded people come together who are generally on the same wavelength in terms of values and politics. Therefore, the results of their discussion are quite productive. We repeat, that this cannot be said about the G20. The reasons for this lie partly in the fact that in terms of political PR, any state hosting the G20 summit is interested in ensuring that the event goes smoothly and without scandals. Because of this, it is better to focus on general and non-conflicting topics. Secondly, on the one hand, in the G20 we have a very clearly consolidated bloc of countries of the political West, and, on the other hand, the consolidation of the global Non-West, frankly speaking, is far from optimal. Let’s hope that the current Brazilian presidency of the G20 will be able to correct this situation.

Modern Diplomacy
India’s G-20 Summit Promotes Democracy, Diplomacy and Dialogue
Nivedita Das Kundu
The expectation is that India’s G20 presidency will become a big banner in Prime Minister Modi’s election campaign to showcase him as a great global statesman from a powerful country that can lead the G20 bloc to reach its goals by overcoming geopolitical rivalries and competitions and bringing consensus on a number of global issues and concerns, writes Nivedita Das Kundu
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.