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.
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But apart from permanent member South Africa, and invitees Malawi and Ethiopia, the responsibility to represent many of the world’s poorest at the G20 will lie on the shoulders of United Nations Security General Ban Ki-Moon and representatives of the IMF and World Bank. And there are signs that the G20 will continue its history of shrugging aside the agenda of less-developed nations.Skip to next paragraph
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A leaked draft (pdf) of the final declaration of the summit, dated June 11, renews the G20’s commitment to “refrain from raising new barriers to investment or trade” until 2013. But it fails to set a strict deadline for the conclusion of the World Trade Organization’s Doha Development Round of negotiations. This has been a sticking point between developed and developing countries, mostly over agricultural exports and subsidies. Last year, countries promised to reach an agreement on the protracted talks by the end of 2010. That deadline seems elusive and the G20 summit draft declaration says only to conclude the talks “as soon as possible.”
Some analysts and organizations point to bailouts and state subsidies as examples that protectionism continues. A report (pdf) measuring compliance with commitments from the last G20 summit found that compliance “dropped significantly” because, in part, of national demands in the face of the economic crisis.
Merely putting development on the agenda has also been a point of contention. The draft declaration acknowledges 2010 as an “important year for development issues” and recognizes poverty reduction as an “integral part” of a resilient global economy. But many still doubt the G20 summit will achieve anything meaningful for the poorest of the poor. Issues like debt relief are simply not on the agenda.
A 2007 study (pdf) by Leonardo Martinez-Diaz, then a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, found that in its first eight years of existence, the G20 served primarily as a vehicle to mobilize support for the policies of developed countries. “At the same time,” the study said, “positions favored by developing countries – especially those that would have imposed large costs on G7 firms and governments – have made little headway in the group.”