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G20 summit: less-developed nations still struggle to shape agenda

As competing agendas descend upon Toronto for this weekend’s G20 summit, the so-called BRIC countries expect to get an equal voice, but less-developed countries remain concerned about being heard.

By Heba AlyCorrespondent / June 25, 2010

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper welcomes Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to the G8 and G20 Summit at Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville, Ontario, Canada, Friday.

Charles Dharapak/AP



As Brazil’s ambassador to the European Union once put it, “there are new kids on the block” in world politics and trade. That's evident at the G20, where Brazil and other “new kids” Russia, India, and China, collectively known as the BRICs, expect to have an equal voice at the table during this weekend’s summit.

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“No one asks anymore: ‘What are you doing here?’ Because it’s obvious what Brazil is doing there. It has the weight,” says Ernesto Araujo, deputy head of mission at the Brazilian embassy in the Canadian capital, Ottawa.

But as their stars have risen, other less-developed countries in the G20 and worldwide have been left wayside. G20 members South Africa, Mexico, Argentina, and Indonesia – along with the world's least developed countries, which aren't even at the table in Toronto – remain overshadowed.

With developed countries focusing on – and arguing about – stimulus spending vs. austerity measures and whether to impose a global bank tax, the summit is unlikely to meaningfully address the priorities of least-developed countries: reforming the governance of international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund to give them more of a say; loosening requirements for IMF loans; ensuring predictable aid flows; and open trade access to developed markets.

Still, the meeting gives leaders of developing countries the rare opportunity to rub shoulders and develop personal relationships with those of more developed states. The G20 has become a fixture on the global scene in which “major developed and developing players meet in formal equality at the highest level of government,” as Stewart Patrick of the Council on Foreign Relations think tank puts it.

Poorest countries struggle for influence

Mr. Araujo says the growing clout of BRIC countries is simply a sign that they are now serious actors. “The influence comes naturally – not only to Brazil, but to China, India and others," he says. "It’s not a question of radically redesigning world governance. It’s a question of finding concrete answers to the real crisis we face in a more participatory way.”