So the G7 met in Japan this past week. And the media did in fact pay some attention to it. But the attention was largely for the wrong reasons. This caucus/club was often in the past dismissed by those not invited to the party. Countries and experts alike referred to the G7 as the ‘Rich Man’s Club’. The emergence of the G20 – at the time of the global financial crisis – redirected attention to this Informal as opposed to the G7. There was criticism of course. Media, experts and representatives of those countries not included reflected on the lack of legitimacy, failing to be universal, self-identification, etc. But the G20 was never attacked for being a narrow interest as the G7 had been. The G20 was the first, and remains the most notable global summit platform of established and emerging powers. Indeed at the time of the G20’s creation, there was much discussion of the likely passing of the G7 summit. Obviously that didn’t happen.
It is jarring. It shouldn’t be, but given the strategic actions of the leading state, it is. We all have gotten so used to the exercise US military muscle (or not), especially in the Middle East, it is shocking almost, to see diplomacy in the lead. It takes some getting used to. So the Iran deal has been concluded. As Robin Wright described it in The New Yorker:
The agreement is the Obama Administration’s boldest foreign-policy initiative. It marks the first success in dealing with Iran since its 1979 revolution and the prolonged seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran.
A few surprises are worth mentioning – and then there were a lot of non-surprises. On the not a surprise side. Well start with headlines from most of the international press. Early headlines focused on the cool reception delivered to President Putin by various Western leaders and then the early exit of Russia’s President. Putin left before the collective lunch and before the release of the communique following the lunch. All-in-all reasonable political theatre but little to do with the G20 agenda.
After serious progress at APEC among the leaders, what can we expect from this weekend’s G20 leaders meeting in Brisbane. The continuing knock on the G20 as a “talkfest” continues. Chris Giles of the FT, no fan of the G20, declaring:
It leaves the G20 as something of a forum for grandstanding, bilateral meetings over geopolitics and impotence on world economic affairs.
There are repeated warning from media and other experts that the G20 has somehow reached a watershed. Ben Doherty at the Guardian has declared: “This week’s Brisbane meeting of the Group of 20 will be a crucial test: can it be a genuine agent for change, or just another tired horse on the merry-go-round of international confabs?”
So we are about to enter high season in the global summitry calendar. First up will be the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation scheduled for Yanqi Lake just outside Beijing proper on November 11 and 12, 2014. This is in turn followed by the ASEAN Summit (technically not a global summit) where the day following is the global summit meeting called the East Asia Summit (EAS). This Leaders Summit includes 18 Asia-Pacific leaders now that Russia and the United States have been added as of 2011. The meeting this year will take place in Naypyidaw the capital city of Myanmar. And with a final burst of energy Leaders will meet for the G20 Leaders Summit on November 14-15th in Brisbane this year. It is a tight schedule designed to allow leaders to attend all three and then to return to their home countries.
Well it certainly has not been ‘the best of times’ – particularly not if you’ve been reading the international pundits. And indeed there is a lot of tension, strife and conflict in the international system whether in the Middle East, or in Eastern Europe or in Asia in the South China and East China Seas. No matter where you look it seems you can find these nasty conflicts.
Having just looked at the global economy, and more precisely, the efforts of the great powers, in significant measure through the G20 to avoid a new Great Depression, I thought it might be useful to turn my sights on another critical area of global governance – in this instance trade.
So the assessment of what is broken, and what is not, at the global governance level continues among the experts.
First a rare corrective to the gloom-and-doom assessments particularly from the international media.
Dan Drezner recently released his book examining the response, especially of the G20 to the Great Recession. The book is entitled – The System Worked: How the World Stopped Another Great Depression.
Today’s realities demand positive international cooperation. Shared global challenges require creative multilateral solutions. Annual world leader summits like the G-8 and G-20 are free from the traditional trappings of fixed institutions like the United Nations. These gatherings adapt more easily to shifts in power, influence and political alignment.
The above is from the current Stanley Foundation website. I have had the great pleasure of working with various individuals and experts from this serious and effective US foundation.
The Stanley Foundation (TSF) has been in the multilateral business for quite some time. As its website identifies, the Foundation began programming in 1960.
Much anticipated, the second cycle of the BRICS Leaders meetings commenced in Fortaleza Brazil on July 15th. And as expected the first really concrete contribution to international development got off the ground – the BRICS Bank called the “New Development Bank”. This will change how many view the BRICS.