T20 must Rediscover before becoming Irrelevant

Photo: Centro Cultural Kirchner
Almost a year-long T20 process concluded last week, setting the stage for the Argentinean Presidency of G20 hosting the Summit. The process of T20 was led by the Argentinean Council for International Relations (CARI) and the Center for the Implementation of Public Policies Promoting Equity and Growth (CIPPEC). On the lines of the excellent precedence set up by the T20 during the German G20 Presidency in 2017, T20 Argentina also organised its work around 10 Task Forces with participation of more than 150 think-tanks. The process brought out 80 Policy Briefs. Unlike earlier, the T20 Co-Chairs could also present the final communiqué from T20 to the President of Argentina.

As may be expected, T20 could bring forward key-messages in the form of around 20 proposals which cover issues like, Future of Work; Need for Data Collection on Artificial Intelligence; Curriculum Redesigning; Sustainable Infrastructure; Ecological Based Urban Agenda; Use of Cleaner Energy; Transfer of Technology for Sustainable Food Future; Promoting Healthy Diets; Reform of Multilateral Trading System; Cooperation of Corporate taxation; Cooperation among Central Banks; Framework for Crypto Assets; Governance Through Bottoms-Up; Reporting on 2030 Agenda; Compact with Africa; and Monitoring on Migration. If one analyses and compares these recommendations with those made by the German T20 Chairs, the list would not be very different. In some cases, even the contours of such recommendations are not very different.

In my view, this is emerging as a major challenge before global platforms, where interactions are becoming richer and prospects for dialogue are dwindling away in the shine and glory of process and organization. This is all the more worrying when exchanges among the leaders are getting increasingly constrained, due to their own divergent worldviews, domestic compulsions and of course other political obligations. This is the opportunity when think-tanks should sharpen their research output and come out against pre-conceived perceptions, which have no empirical basis.

Plurality and vibrance of new thoughts and ideas with new and different set of people and experts would provide longevity to the T20 process. Ideas and their relevance would remain ambiguous till we couch them in the framework of realism and pragmatism. Pushing up frameworks that have been rejected at the other multilateral platforms to the G20 process would not add more meat to the G20 process; on the contrary it would constrain the decision making process further. It is true that with WTO and the UN System being under great stress, G20 with less number of actors gives greater scope for a meaningful dialogue. Therefore, collective efforts in this direction are extremely important. The Host Presidency would have much greater role to play in evolving not only the macro agenda, but also the sectoral specificities, couched again in realism and fitting the test of empirics. Here the effort is required to be made to have intense discussions across different countries and different viewpoints. The trend of dominance by few experts and few perspectives should be avoided. It is very true of sectors like agriculture, where plurality of measures are important, as countries are at different stages of development.

In December 2018, Japan would take over as the new Presidency of G20. At the T20 meeting in Buenos Aires, the Japanese delegation identified five major priorities which they would focus on viz. Debt Sustainability; Compact with Africa; Agricultural Development (focusing on rice coalition for better production and food value chains); Industrial Transformation (Kaizan Production System and Global Value Chains) and STI (Science, Technology, Innovation Policy Coordination). It is likely that Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) that will lead the process. Other Japanese institutes such as the JICA Research Institute (JICA-RI), Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI), the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA) and the Institute for International Monetary Affairs (IIMA) will also participate in the process.

As the world prepares for better management of financial and macro-economic variables through greater coordination of policies, it is only the dialogue among key actors that is going to save the world in the days to come. The G20 process is extremely crucial in this regard. Jobs, Growth, and Peace are the three over-arching priority areas for almost all the economies. As financial and global media projects rising global debts, which now touches $ 250 trillion, possibilities of next crisis in the offing are not far away. Dialogue among T20 is particularly important when battles among nationalism and trade wars are challenging the very premises of the global financial system. It is in this context, a sharply focused deliberative T20 with more time for discussions and dialogue rather than just statements is required more than ever. The T20 must reinvent itself to remain relevant.

Dr. Sachin Chaturvedi is Director General at the Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), a New Delhi-based autonomous Think-Tank. He works on issues related to development cooperation policies, South-South cooperation, trade and innovation linkages with special focus on the WTO.

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