Arshad Shaikh looks at the recently concluded G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia. The war in Ukraine cast its ugly shadow on the summit but the saving grace was the release of a joint communique at the end. G20 Bali also saw the Presidency of G20 being handed over to India. Although there were no path-breaking outcomes or dramatic announcements, the leaders of G20 capitalised on the opportunity for optics that their meetings provided. This could be seen in the way the leaders posted images and videos on their official social media handles. The nationalist media from these countries utilised the summit in portraying their leaders as statesmen commanding global esteem. G20 agreeing to work together was seen as a plus given their deeply fractured relations and divergent views on many of the major issues confronting the globe.

The two-day 17th G20 summit concluded in Bali, Indonesia on 16 November 2022. According to the group’s website – “The G20 is a strategic multilateral platform connecting the world’s major developed and emerging economies. The G20 holds a strategic role in securing future global economic growth and prosperity. Together, the G20 members represent more than 80 per cent of world GDP, 75 per cent of international trade and 60 per cent of the world population.” Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the UK and the US – constitute the G20.

The group has a one-year rotating Presidency allowing that country to set an agenda or theme for meetings. Currently, the Presidency is held by Indonesia and will be handed over to India on 1 December. The theme of the Bali conference was “Recover Together, Recover Stronger”. The summit in Bali was supposed to focus on global health measures and economic recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, recent escalations in the war in Ukraine, cast an ugly shadow on the conference. American President Biden huddled with his team late in the night with news streaming in that a Russian-made missile had landed in Poland, killing two people. Things could have escalated, as Poland is a member of NATO. However, the situation cooled off after it became known that the missile was accidentally fired by Ukrainian air defences.

With relations between many leaders at its lowest ebb, the G20 was seen as a chance for these heads of states to meet each other one on one and exchange views and opinions. No dramatic announcements or breakthroughs were anticipated nor made. However, the opportunity for optics was utilised to the hilt and this was reflected through the coverage of the summit by TV channels and in social media.

MAJOR TAKEAWAYS

The most important takeaway of the G20 summit in Bali was the agreement on the wordings of the final communique. It was obvious that there could not be any consensus on any outright censure of the Russian aggression on Ukraine. The redeeming feature was the compromise that was arrived at and which was reflected in the wording of the G20 Bali Leaders’ Declaration that, “Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy. There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions. Recognising that the G20 is not the forum to resolve security issues, we acknowledge that security issues can have significant consequences for the global economy.”

The 52-point declaration ticked all the boxes in addressing the most important and urgent issues for the planet. Some of them are global economic recovery, commitment to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), peaceful resolution of conflict, promotion of sustainable finance and capital flows, ensuring global food security, commitment to achieve global net zero greenhouse gas emissions/carbon neutrality by 2050, full and effective implementation of the Paris Agreement and its temperature goal to tackle climate change.

The declaration also talked about preparedness for future pandemics, digital transformation, free trade, privatisation of infrastructure, migration, access to education as a human right, women empowerment, cultural diversity, tackling corruption, terrorism and money laundering.

INDIA ASSUMES G20 PRESIDENCY

India assumes the Presidency of the G20 from 1 December. Experts are suggesting that this is a unique opportunity for India to play the role of peacemaker. Since most countries have strongly aligned themselves with either Russia or Ukraine, India can try to broker peace as it has maintained a middle path in the conflict and tried it best to project a “non-aligned” posture.

In the context of ensuring food security, India is promoting the year 2023 to be observed as the “International Year of Millets”. Not only are millets healthier than conventional grains like wheat and rice, they are also more eco-friendly, being heat tolerant and requires less water for growth. India is pushing for stability in the energy markets. We advocate a more gradual phasing out of coal to meet the needs of our economy.

The G20 Presidency will offer us a chance to spell out a balanced approach towards climate change and meeting the emission targets. Prime Minister Narendra Modi indicated in Bali that India’s leadership of the G20 would be “inclusive, ambitious, decisive, and action-oriented”.

His remarks at the closing session talked about inclusive development and giving priority to women’s participation in the G20 agenda. He spelt out India’s theme under its Presidency by saying: “Without peace and security, our future generations will not be able to take advantage of economic growth or technological innovation. The G-20 has to convey a strong message in favour of peace and harmony. All these priorities are fully embodied in the theme of India’s G-20 Chairmanship – “One Earth, One Family, One Future.”

WALK THE TALK

Today the world is divided into nation states. All understand and realise the importance of global unity and peace. Despite this undeniable fact, the world is mired in war and conflict. The Covid-19 pandemic revealed the pain and tragedy caused by the “me first and me only” policy adopted by nations. The pandemic brought home the fact in any crisis; we are all in it together. Cooperation and benevolence by the rich and powerful nations towards the poor and developing countries is a sine qua non for peace and prosperity. Hence, efforts by platforms such as the G20 are welcome and laudable. The most important challenge is the ability to “walk the talk”.

The declaration is full of noble objectives and principled commitments. If only the member countries would translate their words into actions, the world would become a much better place. The developed world must assure and demonstrate to the underdeveloped that they will not use globalisation, free trade and privatisation as a ruse to reduce the state to an instrument of global capital that is intolerant of other cultures, traditions and values. A new world order should not mean the law of the jungle and survival of the fittest. It must embody the concept of justice, fraternity and universal brotherhood.

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