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Special Content

Issue no : 03, 15-21 April 2023

G20 Foreign Ministers' Meet India Pitches for Democratising Global Decision Making


Sameera Saurabh

The G20 Foreign Ministers' Meet themed 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam - One Earth. One Family. One Future', was held in New Delhi from 1st March to 2nd March 2023. It was one of the largest events hosted by any G20 presidency so far. The meeting was crucial as it came at a time when the world faces multi-dimensional challenges ranging from insufficient progress towards certain Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss, economic slowdown, debt distress, uneven pandemic recovery, growing poverty and inequality, food and energy insecurity and global supply chain disruptions aggravated by geo-political tensions and conflicts Such as the increasingly bitter rift between the US-led West and the Russia-China combine over the Ukraine conflict. Overall 40 delegations, including of 13 international organisations, participated in the Foreign Ministers' Meeting. The nine guest countries participating at the level of Foreign Ministers were Bangladesh, Egypt, Mauritius, Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Singapore, Spain and the United Arab Emirates. The Foreign Ministers from the world largest industrialised and developing nation held crucial deliberations on key global challenges but fell short of issuing a Joint Communique.

PM Modi's Call for Consensus: Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, in his inaugural speech, called upon the G20 countries to build consensus on pressing global challenges and not allow differences on geopolitical tensions to affect overall cooperation. PM Modi also invoked Mahatma Gandhi and Buddha in his speech urging delegates to draw inspiration from India's civilisational ethos and "focus not on what divides us, but on what unites us." He pointed out that the world looks upon the G20 to ease the challenges of growth, development, economic resilience, disaster resilience, financial stability, transnational crime, corruption, terrorism, and food and energy security.

Outcome Document Highlights

Resolve for Enhanced Cooperation: The Outcome Document adopted at the end of the G20 Foreign Ministers Meet said supply chains of both food and agricultural products including fertilizers should be kept reliable, open and transparent. The meeting brought into focus deepening cooperation on counterterrorism, counter-narcotics, global health, global talent pool, humanitarian assistance and disaster risk reduction, as well as gender equality and women's empowerment.

Advocating Revitalised Multilateralism: G20 Foreign Ministers noted that the need for revitalised multilateralism to adequately address contemporary global challenges of the 21st Century, and to make global governance more representative, effective, transparent and accountable, has been voiced at multiplefora. The role of United Nations was also discussed and it was felt that the United Nations must be responsive to the entire membership, faithful to its founding purposes and principles of its Charter and adapted to carrying out its mandate. The deliberations revealed that a more inclusive and reinvigorated multilateralism and reforms are required forsuccessfully implementing the 2030 agenda. The ministers agreed to step up efforts to make a meaningful contribution for the success of the SDG Summit in September 2023, COP28 in December 2023, and the Summit of the Future in 2024.

Commitment to Peace and Stability: The G20 Foreign Ministers noted that it is essential to uphold international law and the multilateral system that safeguards peace and stability. This includes defending all the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and adhering to international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians and infrastructure in armed conflicts. The ministers opined that the use or threat of nuclear weapons is inadmissible. The peaceful resolution of conflicts, efforts to address crises, as well as diplomacy and dialogue, are vital. Today's era must not be of war.

Renewed Commitment to Bali Declaration: The meeting recalled the Bali Declaration wherein leaders had reaffirmed that the rules-based, nondiscriminatory, free, fair, open, inclusive, equitable, sustainable and transparent multilateral trading system, with the WTO at its core. The meeting agreed that focussed commitment to the declaration is indispensable to advancing the shared objectives of inclusive growth, innovation, job creation and sustainable development in an open and interconnected world as well as to supporting the resilience and recovery of a global economy under strain due to COVID-19 and global supply chain disruption.

Focus on Food Security: The document notes that the G20 countries are deeply concerned by the challenges to global food security exacerbated by current conflicts and tensions. The Ministers agreed that promoting the availability, accessibility, affordability, sustainability, equity and transparent flow of food and agricultural products including fertilizers in all corners of the globe, to fight hunger and malnutrition, is the need of the hour. Supply chains of both food and agricultural products including fertilizers should be kept reliable, open and transparent. Support for increased cooperation in areas like agrobiodiversity, minimising food loss and waste, improving soil health, climate-resilience and sustainable agriculture, connecting local, regional and international markets, and strengthening Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS), as well as promoting healthy diets and nutritious foods is essential.

Moreover, systems that underlie food security such as water and fertilizers, should be bolstered to ensure sustainable agriculture and durable and climate-resilient solutions. Ministers have underlined the importance of full, timely, improved and continued implementation by all relevant stake-holders of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and the Memorandum of Understanding between Russia and the UN Secretariat, that was brokered by Turkey and the UN on 22nd July 2022 as a package, to reduce global food insecurity and to enable unimpeded flows of more food and fertilizers to developing countries in need.

Emphasis on Resilient Energy Supply Chain: Referring to energy security, the G20 Foreign Ministers agreed that undisrupted, sustainable, and resilient supply chains are important to ensure affordable, reliable and sustainable access to energy for all. Strengthening sustainable supply chains as well as circular approaches and promoting inclusive investments are necessary to meet growing energy demand.

Tackling Climate Change: The Foreign Ministers reaffirmed the steadfast commitments of their leaders, in pursuit of the objective of UNFCCC, to tackle climate change by strengthening the full and effective implementation of the Paris Agreement and its temperature goal, reflecting equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities in light of different national circumstances.

The G20 Foreign Ministers urged developed countries to fulfil their commitments to deliver on the goal of jointly mobilising USD 100 billion per year urgently by 2020 and through to 2025 in the context of meaningful mitigation action and transparency on implementation. The ministers extended their support for continued deliberations on an ambitious new collective quantified goal of climate finance from a floor of USD 100 billion per year taking into account the needs and priorities of developing countries, that helps in fulfilling the objective of the UNFCCC and implementation of the Paris Agreement. A commitment was made to strengthen actions to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.

Recognising the Threat of Future Pandemic: The G20 Foreign Ministers reiterated that the threat of future pandemics is very real and the G20 countries must work collectively to institutionalise and operationalise the multisectoral actions needed for health emergencies prevention, preparedness, and response.

Bone of Contention: Ukraine Conflict: Acknowledging that the war in Ukraine has further adversely impacted the global economy, the Foreign Ministers also held a discussion on the issue. However, all members were unwilling to budge from their respective national positions as expressed in other forums, including the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly. Instead of adopting a new resolution in this context, the Outcome Document invoked the earlier Resolution No. ES11/1 adopted on 2nd March 2022 on the subject. The resolution adopted by majority vote (141 votes for, 5 against, 35 abstentions, 12 absent) deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine and demands its complete and unconditional withdrawal from the territory of Ukraine. Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed that it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy - constraining growth, increasing inflation, disrupting supply chains, heightening energy and food insecurity, and elevating financial stability risks. There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions. However, recognising that the G20 is not the forum to resolve security issues, it was acknowledged that security issues can have significant consequences for the global economy.

EAM Shri S Jaishankar's Address: India's External Affairs Minister Shri S Jaishankar also addressed the forum and said that a considerable meeting of minds has been captured by the Outcome Document. He said that the war in Ukraine had severely impacted world economy and the Global South. He reiterated Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi's remarks that G20 countries also had a responsibility towards those not in the room. Shri S Jaishankar seconded PM Modi's concerns about the challenges the participating countries should address, which include the impact of the pandemic, the lives lost in natural disasters, the breakdown of global supply chains, debt and financial crisis. He noted that the G20 countries have individually and collectively an obligation to contribute to international growth and prosperity, adding that these can be implemented through sustainable partnerships and goodwill initiatives.

Conclusion: As the world continues to grapple with a range of complex challenges, including the COVID-19 Pandemic and climate change, the need for greater international cooperation and collaboration has never been more pressing. However, the deepening division between Western countries and Russia-China combine poses humungous challenges before countries like India that has been making unflinching efforts to foster consensus. Nevertheless, the silver lining was that negotiators were able to achieve consensus on all issues of concern to the Global South (developing countries), including strengthening multilateralism, food, fuel and energy, security, climate change, and other issues.

(The author is Economic Adviser looking after Finance and Budget Division of Ministry of MSME. She can be reached at sameera.saurabh@gmail.com)

Views expressed are personal