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A Historic G20 Summit in New Delhi: Uniting Nations for Sustainable Progress

by Huma Siddiqui - 14 October, 2023, 12:00 592 Views 0 Comment

The G20 Summit of 2023 just wrapped up in New Delhi, India, making it the first time India has hosted this prestigious gathering of global leaders. The summit’s theme, “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,” which translates to “One Earth, One Family, One Future” in English, draws from ancient Sanskrit texts and centres on the aim of achieving sustainable development.

One of the standout achievements of the summit was India’s success in securing unanimous support for the New Delhi Declaration early in the proceedings. This consensus-building effort was particularly noteworthy because it involved reconciling differing stances, notably those of the United States and the European Union, on Russia. The summit also placed a strong emphasis on critical issues such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, climate action, green development initiatives, multilateral financing, digital public infrastructure, artificial intelligence (AI), and international taxation.

Key Outcomes of the G20 Summit 2023

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Diplomatic Triumph: For Prime Minister Modi, this summit represented a significant diplomatic milestone. As India held the G20 presidency, it provided a platform to amplify the concerns of the Global South. Additionally, on a personal level, these outcomes held importance for Modi as he faced upcoming general elections.

During the summit, India leveraged its economic clout to garner support from all G20 member nations for a Leaders’ Declaration that acknowledged the conflict in Ukraine without singling out any aggressor. Modi, who chaired the Summit, also championed the need to reform global institutions such as the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to better align with the evolving dynamics of the world—a proposition that received backing from the United States.

The timing of the G20 Summit was also opportune, following India’s successful moon landing as part of the Chandrayaan-3 program.

G20 New Delhi Declaration

The 2023 G20 New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration, comprising 83 paragraphs, achieved a remarkable 100 percent consensus, even with the agreement of China and Russia. Notably, this declaration stood out because it contained no footnotes or Chair’s Summary, marking a historic moment.

Within these 83 paragraphs, multiple agreements related to the Finance Track were embedded. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman highlighted the achievements of India’s G-20 Presidency, emphasizing a concrete strategy to strengthen multilateral development banks, establish clear regulations for cryptocurrencies, and deploy digital public infrastructure to enhance financial inclusion. She also stressed the importance of expediting debt relief for vulnerable nations.

Concerning climate change, the declaration underlined the urgency of mobilizing substantial funding: “US$5.8-5.9 trillion in the pre-2030 period for developing countries” and “US$4 trillion per year for clean energy technologies by 2030.” These efforts aimed to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, necessitating a significant increase in climate funding from billions to trillions of dollars.

African Union Welcomed into the G20

Until now, the only African member of the G20 was South Africa. However, at the Delhi Summit, the African Union, representing 55 countries on the African continent, was granted full membership, akin to the European Union’s representation.

India has successfully positioned itself as a champion for developing and underdeveloped nations, aligning this ambition with its pursuit of a permanent seat on the UNSC. New Delhi actively seeks support from the African continent, which holds 55 crucial votes, to further this goal. Furthermore, India extended invitations to Nigeria, Egypt, and Mauritius as part of the ‘Guest Countries’ at the G20 summit.

Global Leadership at the Delhi Summit of the G20

The G20 Summit in Delhi saw the participation of leaders from across the globe, including Azali Assoumani, the President of the Union of Comoros and Chairperson of the African Union. Notable attendees included South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin were conspicuously absent from the summit. China was represented by Premier Li Qiang, while Russia sent its Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

India – Middle East – Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC):

During the G20 Summit in New Delhi, governments including India, the U.S., Saudi Arabia, the European Union, the UAE, France, Germany, and Italy signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish the India – Middle East – Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC). IMEC envisions a network of transportation routes encompassing railways and sea lanes with the primary goal of promoting economic development by fostering integration between Asia, the Arabian Gulf, and Europe.

While specific details are still forthcoming, this project falls under the umbrella of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure Investment (PGII), an initiative led by Western nations to support infrastructure projects worldwide. The PGII aims to secure funding for critical infrastructure development, including roads, ports, bridges, and communication systems, with the overarching goal of enhancing global trade and cooperation.

Implicitly, the IMEC corridor aims to offer a credible alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has steadily established global connectivity linkages with the Chinese market over the past decade through extensive shipping, rail, and road networks.

Climate Action

Despite a United Nations report categorizing the phase-out of fossil fuels as “indispensable” for achieving net-zero emissions, the leaders at the G20 Summit did not reach a consensus on this issue. This is significant, as the G20 nations collectively contribute to approximately 80 percent of global emissions. The inability to agree on this crucial matter casts a shadow over upcoming climate discussions scheduled to begin in November in the oil-rich UAE.

Nevertheless, the G20 did endorse a goal to triple global renewable energy capacity and emphasized the need for emissions to peak before 2025. Additionally, the Declaration recognized that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) requires a 43 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030 compared to 2019 levels.

The G20 New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration also featured commitments to mainstream Lifestyle for Environment (LiFE), implement sustainable energy transitions, provide sustainable finance, reaffirm the pursuit of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), address plastic pollution, preserve the ocean-based economy, and more. Additionally, the summit witnessed the launch of the Global Biofuel Alliance (GBA), a new organization aimed at promoting the development and adoption of sustainable biofuels, along with the establishment of relevant standards and certification.

Russia lauded the G20 Summit under India’s presidency as a “breakthrough,” highlighting its outcomes as a roadmap for addressing global challenges and showcasing the strength and importance of the Global South. PM Modi also engaged in discussions with Turkish President Erdogan regarding the enhancement of trade and infrastructure relations.

Numerous world leaders at the G20 Summit commended PM Modi on the success of Chandrayaan-3. Japanese PM Kishida praised PM Modi for the “Mission LiFE” concept, while European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen advocated for the creation of a new global framework to address artificial intelligence risks, emphasizing the importance of safeguarding society and encouraging responsible AI investments.

What is the G20 and How Does It Work?

The G20, born in 1999 in response to the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, initially served as an informal platform for finance ministers and central bank governors from both developed and developing economies. However, following the global financial crisis of 2008, the G20 expanded its scope to include the heads of state of member countries. The G20 Presidency rotates annually under a troika system, involving the current, previous, and next host countries. In 2022, India assumed the G20 Presidency from Indonesia, the preceding member of the troika. Brazil has now taken over the presidency as the next troika country.

Huma Siddiqui
Author is a Senior Correspondent for The Financial Express in New Delhi
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