G20 Summit in Pittsburgh

Towards the end of the semester, we will have a discussion of global governance – and whether the current institutions and practices need to be updated for the times. Most agree that they should be reformed, arguing that they ought to better reflect the heightened influence of emergent economies in Asia and elsewhere such as Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and South Africa. Yet it is unclear how global governance should be restructured.

One change that appears to have happened simply out of necessity is the rise of the G20 group of developing and developed nations to become the main forum for addressing the impact of the global economic crisis. The G20 is far more representative than the G8 group of industrialized countries, though it is still not regarded as inclusive enough – Europe is over-represented and Africa is not adequately represented, critics say.

G20 leaders meet in the US city of Pittsburgh, PA, at the end of this week – the third summit since the global financial and economic crisis broke in the autumn last year. (Many heads of state and government will be in nearby New York for the UN General Assembly this week.) The UK, as chair, hosted the most recent G20 summit in April in London, at which a number of measures to address the impact of the crisis were taken.

Next year, the Republic of Korea takes over as the G20 chair so it will be interesting to watch whether Seoul channels the concerns of Asian nations and other developing economies as the G20 begins to tackle the aftermath of the crisis and more long-term issues relating to the restructuring of the global economy. Will we see further reform of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to reflect the ascendancy of Asian economies? Will monitoring institutions such as the Financial Stability Board (formerly the Financial Stability Forum) be given even wider membership and sharper teeth? And could the G20’s rise presage an expansion or restructuring of the UN Security Council. While most agree that the UNSC does not adequately reflect the balance of power in the world today, there is no agreement as to how it could be reshaped. It’s one thing to manage the global economy – another thing altogether to address geopolitical and security issues and emergencies.

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