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G20 Summit Cracks Open Door to Five Non-Members

Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 30 2010 (IPS) - The G20, a group of powerful political and economic decision- makers criticised for its exclusivity, has invited five non- members to its next summit meeting in South Korea in November.

The five invitees, who will participate in the upcoming summit in Seoul, are Ethiopia, Malawi, Singapore, Spain and Vietnam.

Malawi has been invited in its capacity as chair of the African Union; Ethiopia as chair of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD); Vietnam as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); Singapore as chair of the Global Governance Group (3G); and Spain as “one of the 10 largest economies in the world and a participant in the past four G20 summits”.

Ambassador Vanu Gopala Menon of Singapore told IPS the decision by South Korea to invite some non-G20 countries “appears to indicate that the G20 is moving towards practising variable geometry [the idea that not every country need take part in every policy but some can cooperate more closely], a concept advocated by 3G”.

He noted, however, that there is no formal position of chair of the 3G, and Singapore was only the convenor of 3G meetings. “We therefore cannot claim to represent the 3G although we will, in line with the 3G’s spirit of inclusivity and transparency,” he said.

Menon said that Singapore will do its best to represent 3G “views and concerns” at G20 meetings and other fora.

In keeping with the G20’s previous practice, South Korea has also invited several international organisations for the Seoul summit scheduled to take place Nov. 11-12. They include the United Nations, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organisation and the Financial Stability Board (FSB).

The G20 was spawned by the former G8, comprising the world’s most industrialised nations – namely the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada and Russia. It includes Australia, Mexico, South Korea, Turkey, and also seven developing countries – namely Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa – plus the European Union.

Addressing the General Assembly last week, Celso Amorim, the foreign minister of Brazil, decried the presence of only one African nation in the G20. “The Group must be adjusted to ensure greater African participation,” he said.

Amorim said the G20’s “relevance and legitimacy” can only be preserved if it maintains frank and permanent dialogue with all the 192 nations represented in the General Assembly.

Joseph Deiss, the president of the General Assembly, pointedly warned that “the United Nations is in danger of being marginalised by the emergence of other actors on the international stage”.

“The feeling is that a decision on urgent action can be taken more easily and quickly in a smaller forum,” said Deiss, a former president of the Swiss Confederation, making an oblique reference to the G20.

When the G20 suddenly gained a higher profile with the onset of the global financial crisis two years ago, there was apprehension the group would sooner or later try to upstage the United Nations and its key decision-making role.

As a result, some of the smaller and medium-sized members of the United Nations, unwilling to be shut out of the discussions, created a 27-member informal coalition, known as the Global Governance Group or 3G.

The 3G coalition was aimed at ensuring that the legitimacy of the world body was not hijacked by the G20.

The newly-formed 3G comprises the 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.

At a ministerial meeting held last week, the 3G reaffirmed the central role of the United Nations in global governance, “given its unique universality and legitimacy”.

The ministers welcomed General Assembly President Joseph Deiss’ decision to “reaffirm the central role of the United Nations in global governance” as the theme for the 65th U.N. General Assembly currently in session.

In taking up the development agenda, the 3G ministers said, the G20 should consider how it can complement and strengthen the important and on-going efforts of several international platforms, including the U.N. and U.N.-related agencies, in the area of development.

The G20 Working Group on Development could also support initiatives targeted at keeping global markets open, creating new opportunities for developing economies and providing assistance for developing countries, especially the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), to take advantage of these opportunities.

Addressing the General Assembly Tuesday, Singapore’s Foreign Minister George Yeo said that with the world becoming multipolar, global macroeconomic coordination has become more complicated.

Recognising the inability of the G7 or G8 to achieve such coordination, the G20 was formed two years ago when the global economy stared into an abyss after the collapse of the U.S. investment firm, Lehman Brothers.

“Without the G20 acting in concert, the economic crisis could well have led to a global depression,” he said.

The G20, whose members collectively account for some 85 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP), is therefore a vital grouping in the community of nations, the minister added.

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