The G20 ( G-20 or Group of Twenty) is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies. Currently, these are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, and the European Union. Founded in 1999, the G20 aims to discuss policy issues pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability. It seeks to address issues that go beyond the responsibilities of any one organization. The G20 heads of government or heads of state have periodically conferred at summits since their initial meeting in 2008, and the group also hosts separate meetings of finance ministers and foreign ministers due to the expansion of its agenda in recent years.
Membership of the G20 consists of 19 individual countries plus the European Union (EU). The EU is represented by the European Commission and by the European Central Bank. Collectively, the G20 economies account for around 85% of the gross world product (GWP), 80% of world trade, two-thirds of the world population, and approximately half of the world land area.
With the G20 growing in stature after its inaugural leaders’ summit in 2008, its leaders announced on 25 September 2009 that the group would replace the G8 as the main economic council of wealthy nations. Since its inception, the G20’s membership policies have been criticized by numerous intellectuals, and its summits have been a focus for major protests by left-wing groups and anarchists.
The heads of the G20 nations met semi-annually at G20 summits between 2009 and 2010. Since the November 2011 Cannes summit, all G20 summits have been held annually.
The G20’s primary focus has been governance of the global economy. Summit themes have varied from year to year. The theme of the 2006 G20 ministerial meeting was “Building and Sustaining Prosperity”. The issues discussed included domestic reforms to achieve “sustained growth”, global energy and resource commodity markets, reform of the World Bank and IMF, and the impact of demographic changes due to an aging world population.
In 2007, South Africa hosted the secretariat with Trevor A. Manuel, South African Minister of Finance as chairperson of the G20.
In 2008, Guido Mantega, Brazil’s Minister of Finance, was the G20 chairperson and proposed dialogue on competition in financial markets, clean energy, economic development and fiscal elements of growth and development.
On 11 October 2008 after a meeting of G7 finance ministers, US President George W. Bush stated that the next meeting of the G20 would be important in finding solutions to the burgeoning economic crisis of 2008.
The G20 operates without a permanent secretariat or staff. The group’s chair rotates annually among the members and is selected from a different regional grouping of countries. The chair is part of a revolving three-member management group of past, present and future chairs, referred to as the “Troika”. The incumbent chair establishes a temporary secretariat for the duration of its term, which coordinates the group’s work and organizes its meetings. The role of the Troika is to ensure continuity in the G20’s work and management across host years. The current chair of the G20 is Germany, which is hosting the 2017 Summit in Hamburg.
Proposed permanent secretariat
In 2010, President of France Nicolas Sarkozy proposed the establishment of a permanent G20 secretariat, similar to the United Nations. Seoul and Paris were suggested as possible locations for its headquarters. Brazil and China supported the establishment of a secretariat, while Italy and Japan expressed opposition to the proposal. South Korea proposed a “cyber secretariat” as an alternative. It has been argued that the G20 has been using the OECD as a secretariat
G20 Agenda Financial focus
The initial G20 agenda, as conceived by US, Canadian and German policy makers, was very much focused on the sustainability of sovereign debt and global financial stability, in an inclusive format that would bring in the largest developing economies as equal partners. During a summit in November 2008, the leaders of the group pledged to contribute trillion to international finance organizations, including the World Bank and IMF, mainly for reestablishing the global financial system. Since inception, the recurring themes covered by G20 summit participants have related in priority to global economic growth, international trade and financial market regulation.
Inclusive growth After the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, more “issues of global significance” were added to the G20 agenda: migration, digitisation, employment, healthcare, the economic empowerment of women and development aid.
Wolfgang Schäuble, German Federal Minister of Finance, has insisted on the interconnected nature of the issues facing G20 nations, be they purely financial or developmental, and the need to reach effective, cross-cutting policy measures: “Globalization has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, but there is also a growing rise in frustration in some quarters […] development, [national] security and migration are all interlinked”