EXPLAINER - What is so important about the G20, other than economies?

Since its inception in the late 1990s, the Group of 20 was created as an international body to deal with financial crises.

EXPLAINER - What is so important about the G20, other than economies?

It has evolved into a forum that addresses urgent issues like global vaccine access and climate change. The leaders of the largest economies in the world will meet this weekend to see if the G-20 structure is able to adapt to changing times.

Who's in the FOLD?

The Group of Seven industrialized countries - which was known as the Group of Eight until Russia's suspension due to its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula Peninsula -- is probably the most well-known "G" grouping. The Group of 20 includes the following countries: Britain, Canada France, Germany Italy, Japan, USA, and Canada. The other members are a dozen countries with established powerhouses and fast-growing economies, including Argentina, Brazil, China. The 20th member is the European Union. Since the EU is made up of 27 countries, including three from the G-7, the G-20 represents a lot more than just the interests of individual countries.


The G-20 is impressive in terms of both population and economic weight. The G-20 member countries account for 60% of the global population and 80% each of the world's gross national product. It's not uncommon for members to disagree - 75% of international trade is done by the G-20 countries.


The Group of 20 is considered the most important international forum for financial and economic cooperation. G-7 finance ministers established the larger grouping in 1999 to allow other countries to have their say after an Asian economic crisis of 1997. Washington demanded that the G-20 be elevated to the status of heads of government and state after the 2008 financial crisis. At their summit in Pittsburgh in 2009, the leaders declared that they would "turn the page on an age of irresponsibility" and adopt a series of policies, regulations, and reforms to meet 21st-century global economic needs.


A membership update might be a good idea, particularly in light of the urgent need to address climate change. Rosario Forlenza is a professor of contemporary anthropology at Rome’s LUISS university. He says that the G-20's "emergence [as a forum] for international policy coordination seemed to be the only silver lining from that mess." He and others also noted that South Africa is still the only African G-20 member. Forlenza states that Africa is essential when it comes to climate issues. It is glaring that Nigeria, Africa's largest economy and most populous country, has been absent.


"Sherpas" worked hard to reach an agreement for the final declaration of the G-20 before presidents and prime minsters arrive in Rome for summit. In this context, diplomats and other government officials are referred to as "Sherpa". The term refers to the Himalayan people who are known for their mountaineering skills and who lead the way to the summit.

Ministerial-level meetings take place in the months before the G-20 summit. They cover topics such as foreign affairs, commerce and finance, education, health, and the environment. These thematic huddles result in pledges. G-20 finance ministers supported a radical revision of international taxation in Venice, this summer. It would include a 15% minimum corporate tax to discourage mega-companies seeking refuge in low-rate tax havens. Before the curtain falls, the Rome summit will be an opportunity to seal the deal.


Every year, the G-20 presidency rotates and, with it, the country hosting the annual summit. In December 2020, Italy assumed the presidency. Year by year, summits have been held in Saudi Arabia (in Nov 2020, an event that was not possible due to pandemic precautions), Japan and Argentina, Germany, China Turkey, Australia, Russia.


G-20 summit offers host countries the chance to make progress on important issues. Mario Draghi, the Italian Premier, is committed to economic empowerment of women. Draghi, an economist and former president of the European Central Bank stresses the negative effects of economic growth on women who are excluded from the labour market. This is often due to elder care or child-care needs. Australia's 2014 G-20 summit set the goal to reduce gender unemployment by 25% by 2025.


The summit site will be surrounded by Italian security forces. They will also keep an eye on EUR, a neighborhood in Rome that is famous for its Fascist architecture. Protesters plan events near postcard backdrops in the historical heart of Rome to draw attention to their causes, despite being miles (or kilometers) away from the G-20 leaders. Tibetan activists have organized a rally at Colosseum on Friday afternoon when most leaders arrive in Rome. Protesting human rights violations, the activists want to boycott 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

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