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The Los Cabos G20 summit ended not long ago. It was a success in many ways, although its global coverage was swiftly overtaken by the Rio+20 Summit. In response to a question about Mexico’s G20 presidency, José Suarez Araujo — a young and bright Los Cabos resident whom I met during the summit said, “Tengo grandes esperanzas por parte de México, de que ayude a promover la economia global a través de la presidencia de los paises del G20” (I have great hope for Mexico’s role to help promote the global economy through the country’s G20 presidency).
Mexico seems to have lived up to José’s expectations. In its capacity as chair of the G20, Mexico had been striving for economic stabilization and strengthening of the global financial system. As an emerging country, Mexico had also included financial inclusion and development into the G20 agenda — two issues which are so dear to developing countries.
Like the G20 Summit in Cannes, the convening of the Los Cabos Summit coincided with the concerning situation in the eurozone, especially in Greece.
Accordingly, under the agenda item of global economy and a framework for strong, balanced and sustainable growth, many leaders had given particular emphasis to the issue. Hope was rejuvenated during the summit when the pro-Euro party won the June 17 election in Greece.
Since the first summit in Washington DC in 2008, the G20 has evolved significantly. As it convened its seventh summit in Los Cabos, the G20 was reaching a new level of multilateralism, which is a core pillar of the G20. As outlined in the Los Cabos Declaration, the G20 regards multilateralism as the best asset of the forum to resolve the global economy’s difficulties. And now, its multilateralism has been positively enhanced.
This new multilateralism of the G20 highlights a “commitment depth” among the G20 members. Despite some incompletion in the implementation of commitments from one action plan to another, the general picture is that the G20 members are deeply determined to realize their commitments.
This commitment has been made possible by an increase in mutual respect, and the willingness of all members to speak to each other openly. In this respect, members have already overcome the communication and negotiation barriers. They remind each other of what is still lacking in the implementation of commitments, and what steps still need to be taken. They are open to constructive criticism, and to learn from each other in relation to their respective national experiences. This is what President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called the “culture of communication”. It has become more of a habit among the G20 members to speak to each other at ease.
The new multilateralism has also created a new enthusiasm. Members seem to want to include other important issues that matter to their respective national interests, which do not always fall under the purview of the G20.
For example, in the Los Cabos Declaration, a new reference to weapons of mass destruction was made: Paragraph 49 of the Declaration states that the G20 supports the renewal of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) mandate, thereby sustaining global efforts to combat money laundering, the financing of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The inclusion of terrorism — in the context of its financing — is not new. Paragraph 35 of the Cannes Declaration makes a clear reference to it.
This enthusiasm is not without consequence. It has created a tussle between the need to stay focused, and the drive to enlarge the agenda of the G20. With the global economy remaining volatile and greater progress in the implementation of remaining commitments needed, focusing on the G20’s role as a premier forum for global economic cooperation is essential.
The G20 with its new level of multilateralism becomes more important to the global efforts in addressing global economic challenges. It gradually becomes more pivotal in the architecture of global cooperation.
In the past, the G8 used to be regarded as the primary forum that made decisions which affected the fate of the global economy. But its role is now diminishing for various reasons.
First, some countries in the G8 have been experiencing economic slowdown and stagnation, and thus their capacity to make contributions to the global economy and growth is not as high as in the past.
Second, the world is now transforming into what Nobel laureate Michael Spence called the “global wealth convergence”. Under this context, countries that were plagued with poverty and limited growth are now becoming emerging countries with substantial contribution to global growth.
Thus, today there are more countries that have the credibility and capacity to shape the gross world product, and many of these countries fall under the category of what many used to coin as the Third World.
G20 combines the potential of developed and developing countries. It carries with it a shared responsibility of making global growth strong, balanced, inclusive and sustainable. It converges the ideals of developed countries mainstreamed through D8 and those of developing countries through G77 (The Group of 77), G15 (Group of 15) or D8 (Developing-8).
As a multilateral forum, the G20 faces at east three challenges for its future work.
First, four G20 countries are also grouped into BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China — also known as the “Big Four”). Despite no proof of neglect in the BRIC countries obligations to the G20 and its commitments, during the Los Cabos Summit, some quarters had expressed concern over the BRIC’s potential to dilute the role of the G20. The impact of BRIC on the G20 in the future will depend on the transformation of the BRIC. Concern may rise when BRIC becomes increasingly institutionalized and turns into a building block of its own within the G20.
Second, the G20 is not a league of incredible members with mighty powers to save the world. Therefore, it is critical to ensure that countries outside the G20 also play an important role, and make significant contributions to achieving strong, balanced, inclusive and sustainable growth.
And third, it is also critical that G20 governments attain support from their people to the cause of the G20. This is especially important to ensure effective implementation of the governments’ G20 commitment. President Yudhoyono called this “two-layer politics” — also conceptually known as double-edged diplomacy.
As for Indonesia’s role in the G20, it shows consistent commitment. It persistently voices the concerns of developing nations, and makes sure that those concerns are reflected in the agenda, and in the work of its members.
This is what President Yudhoyono had underscored in the Los Cabos Summit: Indonesia spoke highly regarding the critical and continuing importance of development and financial inclusion.
On the last issue Indonesia, together with Mexico and Chile, signed the Los Cabos Declaration on Financial Inclusion.
The G20 will meet for its eighth summit in St. Petersburg, Russian Federation. The role of Indonesia as the voice of developing and emerging countries will remain critical.
The writer is an assistant to Special Staff to the President for International Relations. The opinions expressed are personal.