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Smaller Nations Fear Marginalisation by Elite G20

Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 21 2010 (IPS) - The 27-member Global Governance Group (3G) is challenging the politically and economically powerful G20 not to marginalise the interests of small and medium-sized countries or undermine the United Nations in key decision-making.

The warning comes ahead of a G20 summit in Toronto this weekend – a meeting to be attended by a powerhouse of political leaders, including the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, China, India, Brazil and South Africa.

Ambassador Vanu Gopala Menon of Singapore, a country taking a lead role in the 3G, told IPS it is important for the G20 to engage the U.N. membership and vice-versa.

“So, I am a little perplexed by the suggestion that U.N. secretary-general (Ban Ki-moon) will be going to the Toronto G20 Summit as an observer,” he said. “As far as I am aware, the secretary-general has been invited to the Toronto summit as a participant, with the right to participate fully in all discussions.”

This confusion over Ban’s status underscores the need for all future hosts of G20 summits to invite the secretary- general and his senior officials to the summits and preparatory meetings as a matter of course, he said.

“The invitations should be issued automatically without a need to ask for one,” Menon said.

He also pointed out that the actions and decisions of the G20 have implications beyond its membership. Many U.N. member states have felt some impact from such decisions.

“Unlike the U.N., where we all have a voice, the G20 process is closed. This has understandably given rise to some concerns from the U.N. membership,” Menon added.

The G20 includes the “world’s most industrialised nations” (and formerly known as the G8): Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Britain and the United States.

Its other members are Australia, Mexico, Turkey and South Korea (categorised as industrial nations), Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa (categorised as developing nations), plus the 27- member European Union.

The newly-formed 3G comprises 27 countries: Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Botswana, Brunei, Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Jamaica, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Monaco, New Zealand, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, San Marino, Senegal, Singapore, Slovenia, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, Uruguay and Vietnam.

The summit takes place in Toronto Jun. 26-27, to be followed by another summit in Seoul, South Korea Nov. 11-12.

The G20 constitutes 80 percent of world’s gross domestic product (GDP), said Singapore’s Foreign Minister George Yeo, as he described the catalyst for forming the 3G during a meeting in Davos, Switzerland that he hosted last year.

“Power itself confers legitimacy,” he noted. “At the same time, it cannot be that the interests of small countries can be given short shrift.”

In international politics, he said, “what isn’t organised and what isn’t heard tend to matter less.”

In a statement released Monday, the 3G said pointedly: “Given the complexities and interdependencies of the global economy, it is important for the G20 to be consultative, inclusive and transparent in its deliberations for its outcome to be effectively implemented on a global scale.”

The impact of the economic crisis on global growth, poverty reduction and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has been significant, it added.

The decisions of the G20 would have a bearing on the development prospects of non-G20 countries, in particular the developing and least developed countries, the statement continued.

The G20, in its deliberations, should take into account the concerns and aspirations of non G20 countries and different national and regional circumstances. The G20’s decisions should also protect the development gains made by these countries, particularly the most vulnerable, it urged.

In this regard, financing for development will require creative and innovative approaches in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

“Keeping trade open will also be essential for sustained global recovery,” the statement added.

Asked what long-term impact the 3G will have on the G20, Menon told IPS: “The 3G has been around for less than a year. We have been making the point that the actions of the G20 should strengthen and not undermine the United Nations.”

“My sense is that our message resonates with the wider U.N. membership, minus perhaps a few members. We hope to build on this initial success in the period ahead,” he added.

Meanwhile, the 3G said it welcomes Canada’s decision, as host of the summit, to invite the U.N. secretary-general.

The 3G also welcomes Canada’s decision to include the chairs of some regional organisations in the Summit.

The participation of these and other established regional organisations in G20 Summits should be regularised, the 3G said.

The G20 should take on a “variable geometry” configuration to allow non-G20 countries to participate in discussions on specialised issues, it said.

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