Photo: The G20 “Family Photo” at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. Public Domain. - Photo: 2018

G20 Leaders Keep the Multilateralism Torch Alive

By Santo D. Banerjee

NEW YORK | BUENOS AIRES (IDN) – Going by the 31-point G20 Leaders’ declaration titled ‘Building consensus for fair and sustainable development’, a plenty more drew the focus of the November 30-December 1 summit than preoccupation with shadow-boxing between the champion of ‘America First ‘ and the rest of the world.

This must have been much to the satisfaction of UN Secretary-General António Guterres who, during press briefings at the beginning of the G20 meeting described the event as an essential forum, in view of a lack of confidence and high level of confrontation within the international community, because globalization has divided the world into winners and losers.

Those left out, he said, “feel angry, that feel frustrated, that many times… I think it is very important to come together…” For this reason, Guterres said, the world’s largest economies, such as the G20 group, must support the UN’s 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, which was developed precisely to ensure a fair globalization and aims to eradicate poverty and address a wide range of governance problems worldwide.

Ten years since the first Summit, the Group of 20 Leaders met in Buenos Aires “to build consensus for fair and sustainable development through an agenda that is people-centred, inclusive and forward-looking”.

They focused on “the future of work, infrastructure for development, a sustainable food future and a gender mainstreaming strategy” across the board, and addressed the agenda promoting dialogue and the search for common ground.

Wrapping up the Summit December 1 Argentine President Mauricio Macri relayed the main points of “the declaration agreed by consensus,” and said that the G20 is “a common space for dialogue and working collaboratively,” and that the responsibility of the Argentine presidency was to “reach consensus”.

The summit was an opportunity to build a positive trade agenda and to reconfirm political support among G20 leaders to reform the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in order to improve its efficiency and functioning.

“The system is currently falling short of its objectives and there is room for improvement. We therefore support the necessary reform of the WTO to improve its functioning. We will review progress at our next summit,” said the     G20 Leaders’ Declaration.

Leaders focused on the fight against climate change. They noted the outcome of the last IPCC report ahead of the COP24 of the United Nations Climate Change Meeting in Katowice, Poland, December 2-14, 2018. Signatories of the Paris Agreement reconfirmed their commitment to its full implementation

They also discussed sustainable development, including the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This would provide clear guidance for future investments and the implementation of these agreements, though the U.S. administration insisted on its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

The Leaders’ Declaration affirmed the G20 “commitment to leading the transformation to sustainable development and support the 2030 Agenda as the framework for advancing this goal and the G20 action plan”. Furthermore, “signatories to the Paris Agreement, who have also joined the Hamburg Action Plan, reaffirm that the Paris Agreement is irreversible and commit to its full implementation […].”

“The reaffirmation of the Paris Agreement as irreversible by the G20 is a sign of hope and shows to the world that the US remains isolated in its position on climate change”, said Ramiro Fernandez, Director of Climate Change and Renewable Energy at Fundación AVINA and Co-Chair of the F20 platform.

“The Buenos Aires Agreement, reinforces the commitment on climate change under the G20, showing progress on the implementation of the G20 Climate and Energy Action Plan and a new program on climate adaptation. This progress raises the bar for Japan’s G20 leadership next year to keep climate change as a top priority,” Ramiro Fernandez added.

The F20 platform consists of more than 45 foundations and philanthropic organizations from different parts of the world. They seek for pathways towards sustainable development and call for common and transnational action based on positive transformation examples.

The G20 also confirmed they would continue to work together to seek a consensus-based solution to address the impacts of the digitalisation of the economy on the international tax system with an update in 2019 and a final report by 2020.

The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Secretary Genral Angel Gurría said the transformation now underway holds many promises but also much anxiety among citizens. He referred to the OECD report to the G20, Bridging the Gender Divide, which reveals the extent to which women are lagging behind in the digital revolution.

Developing skills strategies that are better targeted at under-represented and disadvantaged groups was just part of the policy response, he said. “Collective action now will enable us to achieve better, faster progress and ensure the digital revolution works for all.”

On the challenges posed by digitalisation in the area of taxation, Gurría said a consensus solution is within reach, “the G20 needs to show unity and commitment” to achieve it. The OECD report on the issue will serve as a basis to find an effective response by the target date of 2020.

Despite differences between countries on a number of issues, particularly on climate and trade, OECD Chief of Staff and G20 Sherpa Gabriela Ramos welcomed the progress on reaching agreement on a broad range of policy areas.

“Ten years ago G20 leaders met to deal with the financial crisis and proved what can be achieved collectively if there is sufficient political will. Today we are faced with new challenges and tensions. But however difficult they may be, it is vital that dialogue between governments remains open. The value of the G20 as an important forum has been proved once again at this Summit,” Ramos said.

The G20 leaders condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. They committed to the full implementation of The Hamburg G20 Leaders Statement on Countering Terrorism: “We will step up our efforts in fighting terrorist and proliferation financing, and money laundering. We urge the digital industry to work together to fight exploitation of the Internet and social media for terrorist purposes.”

The leaders of the EU countries present at the G20 held their coordination meeting in the margins of the summit. In the context of the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, they agreed the urgent need to establish what happened on October 2, 2018.

Since the killing of Khashoggi, who was a frequent critic of the kingdom’s de facto leader, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), it was his first appearance at a major international event. According to the CIA, MBS is the one who ordered the journalist’s killing.

The Saudi Crown Prince was a “protected pariah” at the G20 Summit. He was positioned at the far edge of the back row in the annual “family photo” with attending leaders on December 1. Some of them including Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel had let it be known before the summit that they would not see Mohammed in Argentina.

“The crown prince also holed up in the fortified Saudi Embassy away from the rest of the Saudi delegation after his arrival here, amid moves by Argentine prosecutors to investigate human rights complaints against him,” reports the Washington Post.

“But Mohammed was also secure in the knowledge that President Donald Trump had already said that the crown prince’s culpability, if any, would not rupture the U.S. relationship with Riyadh. That guarantee helped convince Mohammed that he could make the trip on behalf of his country, which is slated to play host to the same G-20 gathering in 2020,” the Washington Post adds.

In a news conference on November 29, Argentine President Macri justified the prince’s presence at the summit. “Saudi Arabia is a member of the G20 so the prince has to come,” said Macri, who went on to meet with him on December 1. His role in the killing of Khashoggi, Macri said at the news conference, is a subject that “has impacted the world and that may be discussed in bilateral or general meetings. But he is part this community and is now in the country to participate starting tomorrow.”

The G20 brings together 19 countries plus the European Union (EU), which is a full member of the Group alongside four of its member states: France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. In addition, Spain is a permanent invitee of the G20.

The 19 countries are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The G20 members together account for over 80% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) and host almost two-thirds of the world’s population. The EU has its own seat at the G20 table as it is one of the largest global economic areas with specific competences in trade matters, economic policy and financial regulation, development, energy and climate change.

The G20 was established in 2008 amidst the global financial crisis to increase international economic cooperation. Since then, G20 members have been meeting annually to discuss a wide range of issues related to economic and financial cooperation.

G20 policy-making is enriched by the participation of key international organizations regularly invited to G20 meetings, guest countries invited at the president’s discretion and engagement groups composed of different sectors and the civil society.

The international organizations are the Bank for International Settlements, Financial Stability Board, Financial Action Task Force, International Labour Organization, International Monetary Fund, United Nations, World Bank Group, World Health Organization, World Trade Organization, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Inter-American Development Bank, and CAF-Development Bank of Latin America.

Civil society organizations include the G20 Engagement Groups: Business 20, Civil 20, Labour 20; Science 20, Think 20, Women 20 and Youth 20. [IDN-InDepthNews – 02 December 2018]

Photo: The G20 “Family Photo” at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. Public Domain.

IDN is the flagship of International Press Syndicate. –

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