Challenges ahead for the G20 grouping

A grand diplomatic arrival on the world stage and an oasis of ideas – these are among some of the imprints the G20 summit left on the minds of Indians. Throughout the past year, people watched how the government left nothing to chance to make the event grand. G20 was the first of its kind summit in India’s diplomatic history, bringing India to the centre of focus when crises of every sort loom over world affairs. India scored apparent diplomatic success by convening a series of meetings over diverse themes at a pan-Indian scale.

The G20 grouping transpired as a collateral international forum to deal with the global financial crisis. From 1999, the forum has encountered the responsibility of confronting significant large-scale crises that emerged ever since. The G20 faced scaled-up challenges such as the cause of disparities and marginalisation beyond the stalling of the financial crisis. Thus, years of arduous consensus-building exercises aim at fostering a common consensus within its member countries. Furthermore, several other international forums, including the G20, contend with rising to the newer realities of growth and promises of overcoming marginalisation.

The G20 grouping flags the priority of robust economic growth, development, and inclusiveness, though, ironically, the forum’s capacity to advocate and draft objective solutions for inequalities and marginalisation is limited. And navigating the complexities of the crises warrants a nuanced and pragmatic approach. Most importantly, the amplified phenomenon of universalistic notions of co-existence cannot relinquish the issues of inequalities and inclusiveness in the divided international order. This is particularly in the context of multinational organisations, i.e., which were established to solve and adjudicate an increasing number of disputes.

In times of rising global integration, free trade, and multilateralism, supranational organisations like the World Trade Organisation and G20 continue to face challenges from geopolitical tensions. The multilateral frameworks and the G20-like grouping(s) did not envisage such an eccentric character of world affairs when they were established. Consequently, with the rise of recurring facets of nationalism, aspirational universalism has been concocted, encompassing inclusiveness. This concoction challenges the G20’s functionality, leading to a departure from the practical implementation of inclusiveness.

Furthermore, the G20 grouping represents two-thirds of the global population, but the length of aspirations and pace of the momentum to adjust and evolve has been asymmetrical. This registers a disjuncture of two-fold reality, i.e., having a substantial demographic presence but non-existent institutional capability in many member countries to respond briskly to a crisis.

Therewithal, when juxtaposed with their developed economies counterparts, the G20 member countries, who are mainly developing economies, are constrained due to limited permissible fiscal space to weather shocks. Thus, this necessitates a comparison of priorities — inclusiveness and vulnerabilities between the developed and developing economies. Besides, the predicament of the G20 member countries is much more severe than the more than 150 countries who are not part of the G20 grouping. And further marginalisation will only risk fostering opposing scenarios.

Because the G20 grouping is perceived to orchestrate a consensus-driven approach to evade financial crisis and drive growth, the fruits of inclusive growth appear elusive. Interpretation of growth as inclusive and the discovery of nationalistic universalism as a way to establish an inclusive world order call the approach into question. Inopportunely, this does not help in understanding the real meaning of inclusiveness. It is proven that mere economic growth is insufficient to bring greater justice and inclusiveness. Additionally, the persistence of Wallerstein’s hierarchies affecting regions highlights systemic problems the peripheral countries endure.

Instead of focusing on fairness and inclusiveness, the forums and conventions rely on market forces. It is conveniently understated that over-reliance on market forces resulted in marginalisation and deceleration of the importance of institutions and practices. As a result, the G20 member countries face intensifying challenges in the form of debt and its consequences of increase, widening income gaps, and a range of inequalities. This sluggishness of the G20 member countries reveals non-inclusivity and a lack of objectivity.

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On the other hand, the so-called inclusivity adopted by the G20 member countries and the Global South is plagued by political expediency. While the G20 grouping and the Global South fight for the exclusion of the new world order, they must be wary of creating their version of exclusivity. Looking beyond that, the foremost thing the G20 grouping may consider is acknowledging and charting consensus-building measures to rebalance their economies. The focus must be unequivocally on economic growth as a self-sufficient objective to stimulate equity and inclusiveness. The granularities of marginalisation in the form of class differences, oppression and discrimination in developing and low-income economies underline that the new reality is rife with danger. The rationale behind growing aspirational universalism looks inconsistent with these facts.

The new orientations embodied by orientations witnessed within the G20 forums disregard the questions of marginalized and deprived. This proves how globalised foreign policies are essentially nationalistic at the core. A growing number of countries are walking into the Thucydides trap, increasing the risk of several countries probing into aggressive narrations globally to cover their failures domestically. Thus, with the hindsight of over two decades, G20 is facing an upfront challenge to be an enduring body to find a way to deal with multiple causes of global crises. Overcoming nationalistic polarisations, coping with the representativeness deficit, and redefining the force field of inclusion would determine the relevance and continuity of the G20.

The writer is Associate Professor at the Centre for East Asian studies at JNU’s School of International Studies

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