From G8 to G20: Towards Global Governance? Part I

From 2010, the G20 will take over as a forum for economic coordination between the world’s most powerful countries, and the G8 will slip into the shadows. Does this mean global governance and more democracy, or is the G20 an undemocratic and self-appointed club that will not be able to reach an agreement when it comes to? And what about the countries outside: Would a Nordic place in the G20 be possible?

  • What are G8 and G20?
  • How does the G20 work?
  • What issues is the G20 concerned with?
  • Why does the G20 seem to be taking over for the G8?

According to WEDDINGINFASHION, the G7 (Group of 7) was established in 1975 as a forum for contact and coordination between the world’s most powerful industrialized countries – primarily in the economic field. From 1998, Russia joined, and the G8 meetings gradually became annual media events with a large police force and demonstrations that sometimes degenerated into street fights.

From 2010 we will hear less about the G8, and the G20 will take over. At the G20 summit in Pittsburgh in September 2009, the heads of state decided that from now on, the G20 will be ” the primary forum for international economic cooperation” . While it is unclear whether there will be more G8 summits after 2010, the G20 will continue to have annual summits in addition to regular meetings at ministerial level .

The transition from the G8 to the G20 has been perceived by most as positive: With the growing importance of developing countries in the world economy, it became increasingly clear that a small group dominated by old industrialized countries was no longer the right forum to address key issues in the world economy. The change from G8 to G20 therefore ensures more legitimacy and credibility. But will the G20 also mean more action, or will it be even more difficult than before to reach an agreement?

And what about all the countries that are not allowed to join the club: Do they just have to wait for the powerful to decide? Is the G20 really that much more democratic than the G8 was? Could it be that in the end it will actually be G2 (USA and China) that will pull the strings anyway, as some have claimed? These are some of the questions we will discuss.

2: Background: From G7 to G8

The G7 was established at a summit in France in 1975 between the United States, Japan and four European countries (France, Italy, the United Kingdom and Germany), and Canada was included the following year. Since then, the G7, later the G8 after Russia’s accession, has held annual summits in addition to ministerial meetings. The most important focus has been on economic issues, but the agenda has been gradually expanded, and gradually both environmental and development issues have been central. Examples of G8 decisions in recent years are:

  • The G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland in 2005 focused on climate issues and the development of Africa, and decided, among other things, on increased aid to Africa. The summit was also marked by the terrorist explosions in London during the first day of the summit.
  • The G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany in 2007 initiated a process aimed at strengthening cooperation between the G8 and key developing countries, in particular the so-called “outreach group” of five powerful developing countries: Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa.
  • In 1999, discussions between the finance ministers of the G8 led to the establishment of the Financial Stability Forum (FSF). This is an illustration of the fact that the G8 has played an important role – partly behind the scenes – in the area of finance.

There has been regular discussion about how much the G7 / G8 actually accomplished, and there has been criticism, for example, that the aid promises from Gleneagles have not been fulfilled. With increasing media focus, there was an increasing need to give the impression of accomplishing something, and an ever broader agenda probably led to the percentage of “talk” increasing over time.

It is also important to remember that the G8 has never been a separate organization, but only a meeting secretariat that switches between countries once a year. In most areas, the G8 was dependent on bringing the issues further into established organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization (WTO) or other fora in which several countries participate. It is therefore not so easy to measure directly what the G8 actually accomplished, and we will not try to pass a final verdict here.

During the 1990s, the faster growth in Asia and the relative stagnation in some of the rich countries led to the G7 countries’ share of the world economy falling rapidly . Figure 1 shows the shares of world GDP for the G7 as well as the countries that recently joined the G20.

From G8 to G20 1

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