With G20 at a crossroads, a new vision can reshape the world order

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hosting of the G20 summit at the newly constructed Bharat Mandapam in New Delhi on Sept. 9-10 will mark the culmination of a year-long effort involving more than 200 meetings and several thousand delegates in different parts of the country. Official engagements have been supplemented with conclaves involving businesspeople, universities and think tanks that have thrown up new and exciting ideas on boosting global cooperation.

The G20 is a product of a globalized world and is now the “premier forum” to address pressing international economic challenges. This makes sense since the G20 includes 65 percent of the world’s population, 85 percent of global economic output and 75 percent of global trade.

The Indian presidency is taking place at a time when the world is facing serious challenges. Even before the global economy recovered from the ravages of the pandemic, the Ukraine war had a devastating effect on developing countries. The New Delhi summit should have been an opportunity for the G20 to address this shared catastrophe.

Unfortunately, the principal efforts of advanced countries have been directed at ensuring Russia is punished for starting the conflict. This has affected the G20 as well. Despite numerous meetings of G20 ministers and officials in India, not a single consensual document has been approved. The US-led Western alliance has insisted that any joint statements include specific criticisms of Russia, along with veiled negative references to China.

India has consistently worked toward highlighting the positive agenda that serves the emerging economies and the developing world in general. In its capacity as president of the G20, India convened a hybrid summit of 120 developing countries in January this year, titled “The Voice of the Global South.”

Indian officials said the conference would deliberate “on those concerns, interests and priorities that affect the developing countries, and unite in voice and purpose in addressing these elements.” A later report quoted Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, the external affairs minister, as saying that, as the forum’s president, “India would represent countries that are not at the G20 table.”

In the past year, countries in the Global South have been struggling with the high costs of imported food and energy, the negative impact of climate change and the start of the El Nino weather pattern — the combined effects of which have saddled them with burdens amounting to trillions of dollars. The transition away from fossil fuels, for instance, means that emerging economies, excluding China, will require $1 trillion per year until 2025 and twice that until 2030 to meet their development needs.

National leaders have insisted on the need for the reform of global institutions. Their principal targets are the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which were set up by advanced countries even before most African states had thrown off the yoke of colonialism. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has described these institutions as “a morally bankrupt global financial system that perpetuates poverty and inequalities.”

Saudi Arabia’s 2020 presidency of the G20 played a major role regarding digital health focusing on IT infrastructure, equity of access, policy and regulatory environment, and upgrading of workforce and institutional capacity.

Talmiz Ahmad

The Indian presidency’s focus has been directed at the interests of the Global South, mainly inclusive and resilient growth, green development and climate finance, women-centric development, and technology-led transformation. The last has been particularly novel and exciting. Technology-related conclaves in India have prioritized the harnessing of diverse applications of technology in the areas of health, biotechnology, pandemic preparedness, digital currencies and cross-border payments, as well as the use of data in general.

Saudi Arabia’s 2020 presidency of the G20 played a major role regarding digital health focusing on IT infrastructure, equity of access, policy and regulatory environment, and upgrading of workforce and institutional capacity.

In the wake of the Ukraine war, the US has attempted to mobilize support for sanctions against Russia. However, hardly any nation in Asia, Africa and Latin America has imposed sanctions or accepted the US pursuit of a global polarization that would revive the prospect of a new Cold War. Most nations dislike the idea of confrontation and conflict, and, instead, prioritize development in a multipolar order.

In an effort to win friends and influence developing nations ahead of the G20 summit, US President Joe Biden announced a commitment to the development of the Global South through major American and World Bank funding for infrastructure and climate. But this seems a politically charged agenda, focusing more on competing with China than serving the genuine needs of developing countries.

The gradual distancing of the G7 nations from the interests of the developing world offers opportunities for the major emerging economies to work more closely with each other, coming up with a new vision for global transformation that prioritizes the interests of the Global South and shapes practical time-bound initiatives to realize it.

This challenge can be effectively met by Saudi Arabia and India working together with like-minded countries — a subject that should be high on the agenda when Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Modi in New Delhi after the summit. Together, the two leaders can shape a new global economic order.


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