G20: Reflection and Projection
As major players accompanied their respective heads of state to the beach-laden shores of Los Cabos, Mexico for this year's G20 Summit Monday, those of us remaining were left to question and comment on the body's legitimacy as well as on its unfolding proceedings.
New Rules for Global Finance in partnership with Heinrich Böll Stiftung, envisioned a way to seize this opportunity. In holding their event, "Promises of the G20 Process: Prospects for Enhanced Transparency and Accountability" , on June 18, 2012, the same day as the opening of the G20 Summit, it provided a platform for such debate. Event Chair and New Rules for Global Finance Executive Director, Jo Marie Griesgraber, sought to highlight this significance.
Among the panelists in attendance, a wide array of concerns was noted. Each participant sought to highlight their grievances with the economic super-committee, while some remarked on its advantages.
The complaints, familiar to those who play a role in the international community, call attention most broadly to a lack of democratization within the G20. While acknowledging that the G20 is not in itself a formal institution, it could be argued that its legitimacy would only be strengthened by such a foundational shift. The panelists pointed to the fallout that a lack of democracy creates: an increased business presence, a dominance of the EU member states, a lack of accountability to the interests of civil society groups, and an underrepresentation of other developing countries.
To give an example, Nancy Alexander, Director of the Economic Governance Program at the Heinrich Boell Foundation of North America, cited the United States as the one of the worst, out of the twenty major economies, in reaching out to civil society groups. She asserts that this type of action instead leaves space for tighter collaboration between the G20 and B20 members (a group of 23 business organizations and 120 companies that submit recommendations to the G20 on their behalf). While the B20 has contributed to some commendable work, this poses a red flag for Alexander. Viewing environmental protection as often a lower priority to the B20 block, she feels that "going green," as well as the ideas of the civil society groups, should not be compromised in the process.
Another panelist, Bernardo Lischinsky, who serves as Senior Advisor at the IMF, posed a related issue. He spoke for the developing countries that are oft-overlooked, and thus lack a presence to assert their interests. With German Chancellor Angela Merkel continuing to stand firm to her proposed austerity measures to aid the Eurozone crisis, Lischinsky asks "How can we [developing countries] get growth out of austerity measures?" He feels that a wider pool of participants within these discussions would perhaps solicit a broader solution to the persisting crisis.
Thea Lee the Deputy Chief of Staff at the AFL-CIO, on the other hand, presented an interesting counterpoint. Although overall she agrees that the current number of twenty members does not encompass enough countries, Lee suggested that a body represented by all nations would be "too unwieldy."
The director of policy and research at Oxfam America, Gawain Kripke, probably stood as the panel's leading skeptic. Asserting that the G20 has no mandate and is unauthorized, he noted the host of concurrent problems this creates. With a lack of clearly defined institutional structuring and accountability, it allows for a few to make the decisions for the many. Kripke asserted that this influence can also be reciprocal; if countries decide not to take action on a particular issue it in effect creates a "ceiling" which serves as a disincentive for action by others.
The final panelist, Johannes F. Linn, is a Resident Senior Scholar at the Emerging Markets Forum. Linn called the group to action. Emphasizing the trivial nature of talk without action, he asked what suggestions the panelists had for actually increasing the G20's effectiveness. I invite you to think about the same.
Despite its downfalls, the G20 proved earlier this week to be a productive force in creating solutions to pressing issues. Not surprisingly the Eurozone crisis dominated the talks in Mexico this year. In just two short days, the top twenty economies united to support Europe's plan to integrate its banking sector in the hopes of improving the currently bleak economic climate.
While acknowledging the need for increased G20 reforms, the G20 can be identified as an improvement on the exclusivity of the UN Security Council instead giving "middle-income countries [...] a greater voice and, thus, a greater stake, in the stability and effectiveness of the international system" as Pauline H. Baker and Princeton N. Lyman suggest in their article "South Africa: From Beacon of Hope to Rouge Democracy?" within the book Powers and Principles: International Leadership in a Shrinking World edited by Michael Schiffer and Global Solutions.org's own board member, David Shorr.
A continuance in this direction for the G20, proves hopeful in the desire of the international community for the existence of a more accountable and representative global body.
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