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Addressing the Global Trust Deficit

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered a powerful and inspiring speech at the inaugural address of the G20 Summit, 2022-23, addressing the issue of the Global Trust Deficit, which has been plaguing the world order since the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war.

Illustration by Geostrata

He proposed that the world should follow the principle of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vishwas, Sabka Prayas”, meaning “collective efforts, collective trust and collective faith”; as a guiding framework for global cooperation.

This is perhaps the third time that the issue of “Global Trust Deficit” has been addressed at a multilateral forum. The World Economic Forum in 2019 identified trust as the “ultimate human currency” as the crisis of trust is a barrier to economic growth, digital innovation, and social cohesion. UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, in September 2019 observed “Our world is suffering from a bad case of ‘Trust Deficit Disorder’...people are losing faith in political establishments, polarisation is on the rise, and populism is on the march".

These issues are real and pressing and need a critical eye to debunk the current logical fallacies behind the causes and consequences of the Global Trust Deficit. Often the popular belief has argued that globalisation is at the root of the global trust deficit. Globalisation has opened the world into a cohesive network of societies that have worked together for mutual prosperity.

More nations around the globe are living under a democratic governance structure. The lifespan of people is rising. Health services and education facilities are at the disposal of more people.

People of the world are more sensitised about foreign policy dialogues and as a result, these discourses have become dinner table conversations of families and friends in the nation. Bharat’s G20 Presidency gave momentum to this as major engagements of G20 reached every nook and corner of India than just the national capital. More than 50 cities in India hosted G20 events between December 2022 and September 2023.

External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar visited several universities nationally and internationally between 2022 and 2023 and engaged with the young minds and truly made G20 a people-centric discourse rather than an engagement of elites, termed as “Jan Bhagidari” by PM Modi, representing the notion of grassroots participation.

The democratised flow of information has been more superfluous than has ever been in the history of humankind. More information is at the disposal of the people than it used to be four decades back. If anything, globalisation has worked towards decreasing the Global Trust Deficit as a larger pool of resources and information is available than ever.

One of the possible causes of the Global Trust Deficit is the lack of effective communication and understanding among nations. The nations of the world are not engaging in meaningful dialogue, but rather in confrontational rhetoric. This leads to a vicious cycle of mistrust and suspicion, as each nation perceives the actions and intentions of the other as hostile and threatening. This was eloquently expressed by President Putin in 2007 at the Munich Security Conference.

“Only two decades ago the world was ideologically and economically divided and it was the huge strategic potential of two superpowers that ensured global security. This global stand-off pushed the sharpest economic and social problems to the margins of the international community’s and the world’s agenda. And, just like any war, the Cold War left us with live ammunition, figuratively speaking.”

President Putin brings to the forefront economic and social problems that need to be addressed in the agenda of the new emerging world order of the 21st century.

And this is what Prime Minister Modi rightly addresses in his inaugural address at the G20 Summit, 2023:

“The nations of the world also consider how to resolve this problem (of trust deficit). The world is facing various issues of turbulence in trade, inequality between North and South, distance between East and West, food, fuel and fertiliser management, terrorism and cybersecurity, among others. Every nation of the world has to work together to resolve these issues consensually”

A multipolar world is a world order that is based on mutual respect, cooperation, and dialogue among equal partners. These are the common values that need to be inculcated, not only by the national governments but also by the multilateral forums of the world. The G20 forum under India’s Presidency has evidently made an attempt in the right direction by making it a forum for addressing critical socio-economic issues in a multilateral context that can decrease the Global Trust Deficit.

African Union has been admitted into G20 as a member under India’s G20 Presidency. Global Infrastructure Initiative (GII), a platform to mobilise public and private capital for infrastructure development in low and middle-income countries was created. An international taxation framework was created to ensure fair and equitable distribution of taxation among countries.

A G20 Task Force on Pandemic Preparedness and Response was created to coordinate and strengthen global health systems and enhance vaccine production, and distribution for preventing future outbreaks of infectious diseases. A G20 Digital Public Infrastructure Initiative was created to support the development and deployment of digital identity, payments, education platforms, and health records as digital public goods to increase digital inclusion, innovation, and empowerment of member nations.

The new and emerging multilateral forums of the world bear a significant responsibility. The responsibility to create an institutional framework where trust maximises and accountability of sovereign nations to the world order is reinforced. The world looked at India’s G20 Presidency as it attempted to regenerate the confidence of the international society in global institutions and their ability to regenerate mutual trust among the nations.





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