India elevated G20 as ‘premier forum’ for economic coop

Lakshmi Puri

India that is Bharat’s one in 20 years presidency under PM Modi’s stewardship will be considered historic and leave an indelible mark that even the cynics within Bharat and abroad would find difficult to contest. India’s physical, cultural, civilisational grandeur, its economic, scientific and technological progress and dynamism was in full display.

Its diplomatic and consensus building skills, its most populous and youth-rich country and oldest, largest and most diverse democracy status, gave its presidency a special gravitas in this ‘people’s G20’. A never before commitment by the government of PM Modi put Bharat on world stage as both Vishwaguru and Vishvamitra, was witnessed in the highest level participation and a meaningful Delhi Declaration.

It represented the coming of age of Bharat from the periphery to the centre of global economic decision-making. India signaled it would play a key role to promote and interlocute North-South cooperation. Its mammoth social justice projects sbenchmarks for replication and scaling up in the global south. PM Modi’s inclusive and human-centric approach to the tasks of driving this most powerful grouping of developed and developing countries for delivering the global public goods of rapid economic growth, sustainable development, climate action and humanitarian response for all became the hallmark of Bharat’s G20 presidency success.

The G20 – an elitist plurilateral forum – was born in the midst of a global crisis of 2008 and helped to ameliorate it considerably while facing criticism of hijacking global economic and financial governance agenda away from truly universal multilateral forum. Over the years, the G20 has proven its utility but now it has to address the gravest polycrisis ever – simultaneous, overlapping and interlinked, from climate change and environmental degradation, cascading socioeconomic ravages of Covid-19, Russia-Ukraine war, rising geopolitical tensions, food, fertiliser, fuel and financial crisis, supply chain insecurity – severely affecting the global south. This at a time when the multilaterals institutions – the UN, the World Bank, IMF and the WTO, among others – are, as UN secretary general Gutierrez admitted, “gridlocked in colossal dysfunction”.

The 18th G20 has lived up to PM Modi’s promise to the global south – “Your voice is India’s voice, your priorities are India’s priorities” – in impactful and substantive ways. India marked a milestone in inclusivity and democratisation of global governance by admitting into the G20, the 54-country African Union – second largest, resource-rich continent, with 1.466 billion people struggling to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

On all of Bharat’s seven thematic priorities for its G20 presidency, it has indeed delivered “inclusive, ambitious, action oriented and decisive” outcomes for the global south. They include accelerating progress in SDG achievement and implementing G20 Action Plan and High level Principles; mobilising affordable, adequate and accessible financing from all sources to close the financing gap and supporting UNSG’s SDG stimulus; scaling up sustainable finance in line with G20 roadmap; enhancing global food security according to the Deccan High Level principles on Food Security and Nutrition, addressing food and fertiliser price volatility and enhancing IFAD resources. Taking a ‘one health’ approach, the G20 adopted a comprehensive package of cooperation, including to enhance WHO-led pandemic preparedness and surveillance systems and finance health collaboration.

Most significant was the robust Green Development Pact with strengthened resolve to implement the Paris commitments. PM Modi’s LIFE mission has been turned into G20 High Level Principles on Lifestyles for Sustainable Development.

It called for an ambitious second replenishment of Green Climate Fund and along with private finance and strong commitment on developing, sharing, deployment and financing of climate friendly technologies and the Multiyear Technical Assistance Plan (TAAP) implementation; need for USD 5.9 trillion for Global South before 2030 to implement their NDCs, USD 4 trillion for clean energy technologies alone, call on parties to implement 100 billion Paris commitment and set an ambitious, traceable, transparent New Collective Quantifiable Goal – NCQG. On just energy transitions, the Green Hydrogen Innovation Centre steered by the International Solar Alliance (ISA) High-Level Principles for Collaboration on Critical Minerals for Energy Transitions” was launched. The G20 also provided the setting for the launch a Global Biofuels Alliance.

On technology and digital public infrastructure, it endorsed the G20 2023 Financial Inclusion Action Plan, G20 Framework for Systems of Digital Public Infrastructure and India’s plan to build and maintain a Global Digital Public Infrastructure Repository. India’s proposal of One Future Alliance (OFA) to build capacity, provide technical assistance and funding support for DPI in low income countries was welcomed. A shared FSB and SSBs work plan for crypto assets and a roadmap for a comprehensive and coordinated policies and regulatory framework was set.

G20 vowed to reinvigorate and reform the UN and International Financial Institutions, to deliver bigger, better and more effective multilateral development banks, to make a quantum jump from billions to trillions in development finance including an ambitious IDA 21 replenishment and IMF governance quota reform were affirmed to be concluded by December 2023. Addressing the unprecedented $9 trillion developing country debt the G20 called for more effective implementation of the debt suspension initiative of G20 and agreed to go beyond it. Progress was made on international taxation system – globally fair, sustainable and modern for the 21st century – and on international terrorism and money laundering.

That the G20 summit represented a consensus on the Ukraine-Russia conflict , and stressed that this must not be an era of war, was a triumph in building trust. It enabled India to reinstate G20 as a ‘premier forum’ for much-needed global economic cooperation in the best and worst of times.

(The author is Lakshmi Puri, former ambassador of India and assistant secretary general of the UN)