The G20 Looks South

Bruno De Conti , Pedro Rossi, Arthur Welle, and Clara Saliba in Phenomenal World: In December 2023, Brazil began presiding over the G20. The one-year presidency, which will culminate in the annual summit being hosted in Rio de Janeiro in November 2024, is the third of four terms from the global South—following Indonesia in 2022 and India in 2023, and preceding the already decided South African presidency in 2025. When India’s Narendra Modi formally handed over the presidency to Brazil last November, Lula announced three priorities to “place the reduction of inequalities at the center of the international agenda: (i) social inclusion and the fight against hunger (ii) energy transition and sustainable development in its three aspects (social, economic and environmental) and (iii) reform of global governance institutions.” The proposals were well received internationally; now is the time for concrete agendas to build toward the November summit.

Image: Phenomenal World; Source: G20. Own formulation.

Though the Brazilian government’s proposals are progressive, the G20’s multilateral dialogue continues within the context of international institutions that long predate it—reflecting the balance of global economic power in the middle of the twentieth century. Forged after World War II, institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank, now undergird an international governance system that does not represent the tremendous changes that have occurred in the world economy since the fiscal rules they prescribed in the 1970s. Dominated by countries whose economies represent a shrinking share of world production and trade, these institutions reproduce asymmetries of power over the subjects of multilateral diplomacy—which are today indispensable for mitigating global climate change and extending social protections over the world’s economically and socially vulnerable populations.

The increased weight of the global South among countries making up the G20 indicates a changing balance of forces within the group—and shows how the moment is conducive for a shift in strategy. The group’s last summit in New Delhi illustrated the enhanced importance of the global South. Under the Indian presidency, this group of global South countries had at least two major victories representing the shift towards multipolarity: the absence of a unilateral position on the war in Ukraine and, more importantly, the inclusion of the African Union (AU) as a permanent member of the group.

The increased weight and, consequently, the increased political power of the global South within the G20 favors a new global agenda for the twenty-first century. Assuming the rotating presidency for the first time, the Brazilian government has a great opportunity to promote coordination among middle-income countries to pursue common goals. 

Though political diversity within the global South means a more formal diplomatic strategy for structuring an economic bloc might remain elusive, the Brazilian government’s listed priorities identify common interests that can strengthen joint action.

More here.

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