The Group of Twenty (G20), composed of 19 member nations—the European Union and now the African Union as well—serves as a pivotal global forum for addressing critical economic and financial issues. Each year, a member country takes up the presidency, leading the discussion on an array of pressing global challenges.
Illustration by The Geostrata
In 2022, India assumed the role of G20 President, charting a path towards sustainable development, climate resilience, and a more equitable world in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the presidency baton soon to be handed over to Brazil in 2023, it is imperative to examine the transition of goals from India's leadership to Brazil's stewardship.
Brazil has officially taken over the presidency of the Group of 20 on December 1, 2023, for the first time. Prime Minister Narendra Modi completed the transition by handing over the gavel of the presidency to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva.
Brazil, a nation renowned worldwide for its football culture, is treating the rotating presidency of the G20 as a kind of diplomatic “World Cup”. The New Delhi Summit highlighted that this group has established itself as one of the world’s main global governance bodies in the wake of a crisis that shook the global economy.
Brazil aims to combat these issues head-on, focusing on rectifying disparities. This encompasses addressing income inequality, inequalities in healthcare, education, and access to food, gender, race, and representation disparities.
To instigate meaningful change, the reduction of inequalities is now placed at the forefront of the international agenda by Brazilian diplomacy.
This bottom-up approach that has been adopted by Brazil to tackle the minute-to-minute everyday issues faced by millions around the world seems to be the sustainable way forward in the context of development.
NEOLIBERALISM 'S PERSISTENT PROBLEMS
Brazil, under its G20 presidency, may continue to address the problems associated with neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is an economic and political ideology that gained prominence in the late 20th century. It emphasises limited government intervention in markets, deregulation, privatisation, and free-market capitalism.
While neoliberal policies have been adopted globally, they have come under scrutiny for exacerbating income inequality, concentrating wealth among the rich, and often failing to address the needs of marginalised populations.
Under India's G20 presidency in 2022, a major concern was the inadequacy of neoliberal economic policies in addressing these issues.
As a country with a history of income inequality and social disparities, Brazil might push for a more equitable global economic system. The need for addressing neoliberalism's shortcomings lies in promoting economic fairness, reducing wealth inequality, and ensuring that economic policies benefit a broader spectrum of society.
STAGNATION IN THE GLOBAL FINANCIAL SYSTEM
Brazil, during its G20 presidency, may emphasise the need for substantive changes to the global financial system, which has witnessed various crises, including the 2008 financial crisis, the COVID pandemic, post-pandemic recessions due to wars, etc., and has been criticised for lacking fundamental reforms to prevent similar disasters.
The need for reforms to create a more stable and resilient financial system has been a recurring issue in G20 discussions.
This could involve measures to enhance financial regulations, ensure responsible lending and borrowing, and protect against future economic shocks. The global economy needs a financial system that is robust and responsive to crises to avoid destabilising global markets.
ONGOING EMERGENCE OF NEW CRISES
The 21st century has witnessed the emergence of various new global challenges, including climate change, pandemics, and the growing digital divide. These crises compound existing issues such as wealth inequality, hunger, and sustainable development challenges. Brazil's G20 presidency may recognise the need for proactive measures to address these new and evolving challenges.
This involves adopting policies that address climate change, promote food security, and support sustainable development goals. As these crises threaten the wellbeing of populations around the world, there's a pressing need for global cooperation and action.
OUTDATED GOVERNANCE INSTITUTIONS
Many of the world's governance institutions, including international organisations like the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund, were established in the mid-20th century.
These institutions have been criticised for their inability to adapt to contemporary global challenges, for the unequal distribution of power within them, and for their highly Eurocentric nature.
Under Brazil's presidency, the focus might be on reforming and modernising these institutions to make them more responsive to current global needs. Adapting governance structures to be more inclusive, equitable, and effective is essential for addressing the evolving challenges of the 21st century and ensuring that these institutions remain relevant and capable of addressing global issues.
PRIORITIES OF BRAZIL'S PRESIDENCY
Guided by the motto “Building a fair world and a sustainable planet,” Brazil’s presidency will have three priorities:
Social inclusion and the fight against hunger
Energy transition and sustainable development in its three aspects—social, economic and environmental
Reform of global governance institutions
These priorities will be dealt with by a workforce divided into two task forces.
THE GLOBAL ALLIANCE AGAINST HUNGER AND POVERTY
Hunger and poverty are persistent global issues that have been exacerbated by various factors, including economic disparities, armed conflicts, and, more recently, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite significant progress in reducing poverty and hunger in recent decades, these problems persist in many parts of the world.
The need to address hunger and poverty is pressing. The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal 2 aims to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030. Achieving this goal is vital for the well-being of millions of people.
Increasing representation for emerging countries in institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund is also essential. It reflects the changing global economic landscape, as emerging economies are playing an increasingly significant role in the world economy.
Ensuring they have a say in decision-making is vital for the legitimacy and effectiveness of these global financial institutions.
THE GLOBAL MOBILISATION AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE
Climate change is one of the most critical global challenges facing humanity. The world is experiencing rising temperatures, more frequent and severe weather events, and other climate-related problems.
Political leaders and governments have been slow to take decisive action, despite the urgency of the situation. The Paris Agreement and other international efforts have set goals for reducing carbon emissions and limiting global warming.
The need to address climate change is urgent. The consequences of inaction are catastrophic, including extreme weather events, sea-level rise, food and water scarcity, and threats to ecosystems and biodiversity. The fight against climate change requires not only resources and technology transfer but also strong political will and determination from governments.
This includes committing to and implementing emissions reductions, transitioning to cleaner energy sources, and collaborating on a global scale to meet climate targets. The Global Mobilisation Against Climate Change recognises the importance of this global challenge and the need for collective action to mitigate its effects.
In summary, these two task forces address pressing global challenges that require a combination of resources, technology transfer, political commitment, and international cooperation. Hunger, poverty, and climate change are complex issues that impact people around the world, and addressing them is not only a moral imperative but also essential for global stability and sustainability.
The G20 Summit is expected to continue conversations on finance, sustainable infrastructure, and climate change, among other topics such as diplomacy and international cooperation. It reiterates the potential of this group’s economies in emerging and developed countries, which represent 80% of the global GDP, 75% of all exports, and around 60% of the world’s population.
As a highly representative organisation, it is considered one of the main duties of this group to prioritise inclusivity and cohesion. Brazil aims to achieve this by structuring its work based on three overarching guidelines:
Firstly, the political and financial tracks will be coordinated and made to work in tandem. It serves no purpose to reach a consensus on optimal public policies without allocating the required resources for their execution.
Secondly, society’s voice will be given prominence. Governments do not exist in isolation from society, and during Brazil’s presidency, engagement groups will have the chance to present findings and suggestions to government officials.
Thirdly, the G20 will remain resolute in not permitting geopolitical matters to dominate the discussion agendas of its bodies. A divided G20 is not in the nation’s interests, and the only way to address contemporary challenges is through collective action.
The global community anticipates progressing towards sustainability through the worldwide adoption of Brazil’s advancements in clean energy.
For example, in its pioneering industry of ethanol-based biofuel, which is mandatorily blended with gasoline for all automobile use in the country, the initiative encompasses 19 additional countries and 12 international organisations, with an open invitation for new members to join.
It was instigated as a response to India's comprehensive biofuels programme, encompassing a range of measures from blending 20% ethanol in gasoline to the production of flex-fuel vehicles and the advancement of second-generation biofuels.
In shaping this policy, Brazil and India collaborated across governmental, academic, technological, and business domains. Brazil has historically held a multifaceted role as a global player in biofuels, being a producer, consumer, and advocate.
In terms of bilateral trade, the past year witnessed record-breaking commerce between Brazil and India, amounting to USD 15.2 billion. India stands as Brazil's fifth-largest trading partner, second-largest in Asia, and the fifth-largest source of Brazilian imports, contributing USD 8.85 billion.
Furthermore, there is an opportunity to establish a strong partnership in the aviation sector, with Embraer participating in India's government tender for the acquisition of 40 military transport aircraft with the C390.
In this presidency, they aim to have a robust debate on the permanent membership of the UN Security Council to keep up with the changing geopolitical power-sharing arrangements of the world from 1945 until 2024.
It is evident that India has set the pedestal quite high with its performance throughout 2023 and looks forward to working along with Brazil to make the troika of presidencies in these tumultuous times a success.
BY SOMYA MAAN