Global Alternatives 2024
New Discourse for the G20?

On March 14, 2024, the Valdai Club hosted an expert discussion titled “The West against the rest of the world: the role of the G20 in harmonising approaches to global development and promoting sustainable multilateralism.” The moderator was Oleg Barabanov, programme director of the Valdai Club.

Marina Larionova, Director of the Centre for Research of International Institutions of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, Sherpa of Russia in the Expert G20, emphasised that historically, the foundations of the G20 were laid during the first summits, the discourse of which was shaped by Western countries. The Global South is now beginning to take a fresh look at its role in global governance, but a fundamental discourse that can replace the one that currently dominates has not yet taken shape. In recent years, during the presidencies of Indonesia and India, a foundation for new approaches has been laid, and Brazil is also pursuing this course. However, the West is still trying to push through its interests and impose its values and approaches. Brazil is committed to reintegrating the Sustainable Development Goals into the mainstream agenda of international cooperation. Theoretically, everyone agrees with this, but problems arise with the tools for implementing this task. Larionova pointed out the special importance of the next two years, because starting in 2026, the G20 will be chaired by supporters of the G7. “It is very important that our expert community contributes to the formation of a new narrative,” she is convinced.

Victoria Panova, Vice-Rector of the National Research University Higher School of Economics, Sherpa of the Russian Federation in the Women's Twenty (W20), noted that the creation of the G20 was an indicator that the hegemon can no longer govern as before. The G20 started with more detailed decisions, but gradually specifics began to disappear from its agenda. In addition, the question of fulfilling the obligations undertaken by the countries arose. The situation is further complicated by attempts to politicize the G20 format, leading to the loss of the opportunity to agree and jointly solve common problems. It is a great credit to the Presiding States that they have resisted this pressure and continued to preserve the G20 as a platform for constructive interaction. This means that the G20 has a chance to remain relevant within the framework of the idea of equitable development that takes into account the interests of all parties.

“The world is currently rocked by multiple crises, creating the need to collaborate to better respond to global challenges,” said Rasigan Maharaj, Director General of the Institute for Economic Research on Innovation, Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa. “However, we are faced with antagonism that is difficult to resolve.” It is still unclear whether the G20 will be able to cope with this situation. It is obvious that the role of BRICS in G20 will increase. It needs to take into account the experience of the G7 and not repeat its mistakes that create inequality. We need to take opportunities to restore balance more seriously and avoid viewing the world as a “zero-sum game,” Maharaj said.

Nourhan ElSheikh, a professor of political science at Cairo University, pointed out that the main task of the G20 was initially to create a platform that would simultaneously unite large economies, Western and non-Western, and serve as a forum for interaction between developed and developing countries. For a quarter of a century, these plans have not been fully realised, but the G20 format still has great potential. This is especially true against the backdrop of the ongoing change in the global economic balance in favour of Asia. A big problem is the attempt of the United States to maintain its hegemonic status, to use the G20 for its own dominance and to resist the consensus rule. Perhaps expanding the G20 to thirty or forty participants would help compromise Western dominance. It would also be useful to “depoliticise” the G20 by shifting to a focus on purely economic issues.