Posted by James Lamond
Since 2009 and the rise of the G20 as the “premier forum for their international economic cooperation” the roles of the G8 and eth G20 have made for some very interesting debates on the future of economic and political global governance issues. On his new blog, the Internationalist, Stewart Patrick offers a great breakdown of dynamics in the various G-Summitries and the return of the G8. Stewart says the G8’s back for reasons of: members’ want of exclusivity and influence; practicality of working in a smaller group; and common “western” values and goals. But the most appropriate and efficient roles for the two organizations remains unclear.
Democracy Arsenal itself is divided on this issue. Shadi tweeted this week: “Just got back from pre-G8 summit in Paris. Came out a bigger believer in sticking w- #G8 over #G20 for political/security issues.” Meanwhile David outlines in a recent report the “maximalist argument” for the G20 to become a multilateral hub, expanding to political and security affairs. In addition to more natural issues like climate financing, he outlines “The protection of core labor standards/minimum wage laws; The shift away from fossil fuel energy; Prevention of, and response to, mass atrocities; Regulation and internationalization of the nuclear fuel cycle; Standards for the detention/prosecution of terror suspects; Cybersecurity; A more secure Middle East,” as potential issues.
I am very sympathetic to the practicality argument outlined by Stewart. It’s simply easier to function in a smaller setting and there’s an inverse relation between inclusion and efficiency for a summit. There is also the issue of more divergent interest in the larger group. For example a summit with Saudi Arabia will certainly have different outcomes on issues like the Arab Spring and Climate Change than a Euro-Atlantic plus Japan forum.
But if we are making an efficiency argument, then who is included does make a difference. Russia is included, but India is not. Yet India is both significantly more democratic and outranks Russia in GDP. Meanwhile Italy, which is already represented by the EU at the summit, is included though it ranks behind South Korea in exports and behind Brazil in GDP. Yet the G8, as Stewart points out, is meant to embody "the identity and aspirations of the world’s most advanced market democracies.”
The issues on the agenda for this Deauville summit – Arab Spring, Japan’s nuclear crisis, internet freedoms, the global economy and climate change – are a mix of political and security issues that would be more effectively addressed in a smaller forum and issues (for example climate change) that cannot possible be addressed without countries like China and India. I think I have raised more questions than answers in this post. But the make-up of the GX summits and their portfolios over the next years will be interesting to watch.