Oxfam's full post mortem on the G20 summit

OK, this is the last post on the G20 for a few days. This is Oxfam’s more considered analysis of the communiques and accompanying intelligence gleaned over the course of the last few days. Hope it makes sense.

Summary (for full paper click here): G20 leaders met for the second time in London on 2 April, as the global economic crisis began to crash across the borders of poor countries with ever-greater severity. Oxfam’s research shows rising human impacts in the shape of job losses, falling remittances to the families of migrant workers and a particularly severe impact on women workers in global supply chains. Based on the latest forecasts, published on the eve of the summit, Oxfam estimates that the crisis could push 100 million people into poverty in 2009 alone.

Against this backdrop, how did the G20 leaders perform? After a summit, leaders invariably claim success, seeking to extract the maximum political mileage from their efforts. This paper provides an independent assessment of the G20 process and the three documents3 released on the day of the summit. It should be noted, however, that the true significance of many of the agreements signed on 2 April will only emerge over the coming months and years.

Our overall analysis is that the Summit itself could prove an historic moment in a critical year for the twin crises of climate change and economic meltdown. It could mark a global power shift towards the large developing countries such as China, India and Brazil, and the partial eclipse of the old G8 club. The decisions and declarations were, as with any such event, a mixed bag.

The G20 ended on a note of high optimism that the rich countries were prepared to dig deep to find a significant fiscal stimulus to help poor people and countries, and that the ‘casino capitalism’ of the last 35 years was to be reined in, and the vital role of states in promoting equity and economic justice be fully acknowledged.

Alas, bitter experience tells us that the euphoria at such events too often sours, as big numbers magically melt away or prove less generous under scrutiny, and as the long slog of implementation proves much harder than ringing declarations by sleep-deprived politicians. Moreover, in the middle of the worst economic crisis in 60 years, politicians need to be held to more demanding standards of leadership than during ‘peacetime’. While those present may have breathed a sigh of relief that the summit achieved more than the low initial expectations, the truth is that real results are likely to fall far short of the hopes of transformational change that were widespread at the end of 2008. The true test of the London Summit lies in what happens next, particularly in the crucial rounds of global diplomacy during the rest of 2009.

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Comments

2 Responses to “Oxfam's full post mortem on the G20 summit”
  1. Tomás

    Great reporting on the G20 Duncan. Our attention was kept out of London as our former president, Raúl Alfonsín, just passed away on Tuesday.
    Bitter truth for us is that we don’t even think our president was even noticed in the event. It’s a good thing she was there, but it’s very likely that her presence was ignored to say the least.
    Greetings from your argentine reader

  2. Duncan

    This sent in recently from Peter, who asked me to post it as a comment:

    Excuse the belated reply to your excellent blog and the full Oxfam post-mortem of the London G20 summit. You deserve kudos for your keen observation and analysis. Here are a few specific comments:

    (1) I agree that, as always, the result is a mixed bag. And yes,
    public G20 acknowledgement of the impact of the economic crisis on the South is important, as is the commitment of money to help the
    developing world.

    (2) But it is hard to know (cf. Wall Street Journal, Financial Times)how much of the total money promised is really new money. As I understand it, the injection of new, dedicated resources into the IMF is genuine, but the substance of other funding promises are less
    certain. It remains to be seen. Your caution on “creative accounting” (p. 2 of the full report) is well placed.

    (3) Aid commitments – alas, yes, most countries are way off track.

    (4) Reform of IFIs – this, as you know, is a long-standing concern for the G7, the G8 and now the G20. Real deep-going reform (particularly the quota review), remains problematic. Will European countries be more willing than in the past to cut back their voting power in favour
    of China, India, Brazil? But at least this keeps the issue on the agenda, and sets a new deadline.

    (5) Climate change – yes, the London record is disappointing but this does not surprise me. In large part, this is a function of the agenda: the G20, both at the finance ministers’ and leaders’ level, is still mainly financial and economic, although linkages to other issues (trade, climate, etc.) have entered the scene. Following previous
    summit practice, here too, the G20 leaders referred this issue to the Copenhagen conference – rightly so, that is the appropriate global venue, I think.

    (6) Finally, the tricky question of the relationship of the G20 and the G8. Although the G8 still has its advocates, it is widely recognized that it can no longer credibly occupy the place it has enjoyed in global governance. It is obvious, even to several present and past G8 leaders, that the G8 as constituted no longer represents
    geopolitical realities. Raising the G20 to the leaders’ level is a recognition of this, but I believe it is still uncertain how regular or “permanent” this forum will be. The G20 did not save the world on 2 April, and the next meeting has been agreed, but so far nothing beyond that. I hope there will be enough momentum to carry it forward
    and to expand its agenda, even incrementally. The G8 is committed to meet this summer in Italy and next year in Canada. After that, the presidency rotates once again to France, and by then there may be
    enough leadership to make the big leap. But the dynamics are
    complicated: some G8 countries are not keen to admit new members to the club. As well, important new formations have appeared on the scene: the G5 of China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico, and the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China), as well as the Major Economies Meetings. These will inevitably interact with each other as well as with the G8. Then, of course, some people talk about the “G2″ of the US and China, if only as a concept.

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