The T20 outlines a vision for an inclusive and cohesive G20 agenda

Photo: First day of the kick-off conference

First day of the kick-off conference

What is the best way forward for the G20 to promote a sustainable and inclusive vision for the world? At the beginning of Germany’s G20 Presidency, the T20 addressed this challenge at its own launch event in Berlin over December 1-2. In a difficult global political and economic setting, discussions focused on how to make the G20 more relevant and responsive to the lives and needs of people.

An urgent need to deliver added value

Speaking at yesterday’s T20 launch event, Germany’s G20 Sherpa Lars-Hendrik Röller challenged the T20 community to provide the G20 with concrete ideas that were economically feasible, doable, politically aware, and capable of winning consensus approval from the G20 members. These are the right criteria for the T20 to keep in mind over the next few months. While the T20 has always had a role as an ideas bank’ for the G20 process to draw upon, the quality and practicality of the T20’s contributions have not always been consistent since the first T20 meeting under Mexico’s G20 Presidency in 2012. Encouragingly, yesterday’s discussion among the 250 conference participants, during both the plenaries and the parallel working sessions, indicated that this year’s T20 process is well-aware of the urgent need to deliver added value to the outcomes of the G20 Hamburg Summit, and most importantly, the lives of those affected by Germany’s G20 agenda.

The stability of the global infrastructure is in question

Nevertheless, and as outlined in the welcoming addresses by Dirk Messner and Dennis Snower, Director of the German Development Institute / Deutsches Intitut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) and President of the Kiel Institute for World Economy (IfW) respectively, the global political and economic environment appears to be in the midst of a particularly precarious moment. Although winning consensus in a forum with a membership as diverse as the G20 has never been easy, an apparent worldwide resurgence of populist and economically inward-looking politics means the new German G20 presidency must counter a burgeoning mood of anti-globalisation sentiment that seems even stronger than that witnessed at the height of the 2008 global financial crisis in which the G20 leaders’ process was born. As Dirk Messner observed, and notwithstanding the useful steps taken under the Chinese G20 presidency in 2016, based on recent developments, the very stability of the global political and economic infrastructure is now in question.

A vision of a globally more cohesive society

Despite the difficult context in which the new German G20 Presidency finds itself, there is little time for hand-wringing. A holistic and comprehensive G20 agenda is needed, and both Sherpa Röller and the T20 Chairs endorsed this cause at the launch event. In contrasting it with the relatively more narrowly defined and classical-growth-driven agenda of Australia’s 2014 G20 presidency, Dirk Messner contended that although the proposed 2017 agenda was conceptually more complicated, the German G20 presidency and the T20 could not risk been seen to be pursuing economic growth for its own sake. Several discussants outlined how although global trade intensity and GDP per capita have all increased in the last few decades, the unequal distribution of these gains, and very often the failure of these proceeds to actually ‘trickle down’ to the most socially and economically vulnerable suggests that a new and more expansive approach to global economic cooperation is required if the vision of a globally more cohesive society is to be achieved – and endorsed by the public at large.

As the new German G20 presidency has centred its agenda around the three pillars of ‘ensuring stability’, ‘improving viability for the future’, and ‘accepting responsibility’, much of the discussion among T20 participants correspondingly centred on how best to cohere the G20 agenda and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into mutually beneficial and complementary projects.



Tying together the necessary policy threads

While both the G20 and the 2030 Agenda now have fairly broad remits, the T20 process in 2017 has committed to provide a similarly comprehensive approach, with T20 researchers participating in Task Forces on ‘financial resilience’, ‘trade and investment’, ‘sustainable agriculture’, ‘global tax cooperation’, ‘forced migration’, ‘global inequality and social cohesion’, ‘climate policy and finance’, ‘Africa and the G20’, ‘the digital economy’, and on the 2030 Agenda. Preliminary discussions have already begun in each of these Task Forces, with some initial thoughts presented at the T20 launch event by the respective Task Force chairs. Updates from the Task Forces will be made on their respective web pages in the coming months, alongside occasional insights here on the T20 blog.

As the T20 brings together a wide variety of perspectives and researchers from different backgrounds, tying together the necessary policy threads by early 2017 will be a challenge. Yet as Dennis Snower argued, the T20’s diversity is also a core strength, for although it is one of the official engagement groups of the G20, it does not represent a specific interest group in the manner of the Business20 (B20) or Civil Society 20 (C20). This potentially gives the T20 an important role to play both as a convenor and amalgamator of good policy ideas, as well as a bridge-builder between the research, business, labor, and civil society communities.


The need for the T20 to deliver has never been higher

Towards the latter half of Germany’s G20 presidency, discussants also explored how the T20 is also well-placed to monitor and evaluate the progress of the G20 agenda, and should work to establish greater continuity in the T20 process in the lead-up to the future Argentinean presidency.

As the 2017 G20 summit is set to take place in July, the window of opportunity for the T20 Task Forces to submit ideas for serious consideration by the G20 process is short. Specifically, Sherpa Röller informed the T20 that it should submit its policy briefs no later than April 2017 – and that the earlier they are ready for delivery, the better. That is not a lot of time, but if done well, the T20’s contribution can be substantive and meaningful. Amid the substantial criticism that has been levelled at policy experts and the reputation of prominent mainstream think tanks in recent times, the need for the T20 to deliver in 2017 has arguably never been higher, yet based on the enthusiasm of participants at the launch event, there are many reasons to be optimistic at the commencement of Germany’s G20 presidency.

The German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) and the Kiel Institute for World Economy are responsible for coordinating the T20 process during Germany’s G20 presidency.

Image: Hugh Jorgensen

Hugh Jorgensen works as a Policy Advisor in International Relations, G20 / T20


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