Article of Nripendra Mishra , Former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister of India
New Delhi. The News. India assumed the G20 presidency in December 2022, at a time when the world stood on the precipice of a climate emergency, grappling with the pandemic’s impact, and torn amidst escalating polarization, geopolitical conflicts, and power dynamics. Compounded by the setback in the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), governments and policymakers faced an added burden. In this complex landscape, the role of multilateralism encountered challenges to its effectiveness, becoming an ongoing struggle to cultivate and strengthen international relations. The divergent paths of nations over time have prompted the formation of various plurilateral forums such as BRICS, QUAD, ASEAN, facilitating regional cooperation, and enhancing the intricacies of a fragmented multilateral order.
Within the backdrop of these cascading crises, the call for reforming and reinforcing multilateralism gains urgency. This endeavour involves not just the task of equipping multilateral institutions for their role but also the delicate navigation of global politics and power dynamics. The G20, as a premier platform for economic and multilateral collaboration, representing a broad spectrum of advanced, emerging, and developing economies, carries the responsibility of signalling its ambition to address the world’s most pressing challenges through robust multilateral engagement that benefits all member states.
During its presidency, India has championed this agenda as one of its foremost priorities, dedicating itself to steering global discussions towards a promising future for the avenue of multilateral diplomacy.
Throughout the year, tangible progress was achieved on various fronts of this agenda. While the annual G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting has been a customary event since its inception under the German presidency, India has taken the lead by being the first to deliver a fully negotiated and embraced G20 Foreign Ministers Outcome Document and Chair Summary (FMM ODCS). This comprehensive document highlighted critical themes relevant to member states, including the strengthening of multilateralism, countering terrorism, and addressing global health concerns, among others. This achievement underscores the commitment demonstrated by foreign ministers to collaboratively build a robust multilateral system that serves the interests of all nations.
Furthermore, India effectively revitalized discussions surrounding reforms within the United Nations (UN), particularly focusing on the restructuring of its principal organs, including the UN Security Council. These reform efforts were emphasized in the FMM ODCS, signifying India’s dedication to promoting a more representative and contemporary structure within the UN. The ongoing evolution of global realities and the current geopolitical landscape underscore the importance of aligning the UN Security Council with the needs of today. Additionally, the disruptive influence of ongoing conflicts has hindered the council’s operations, reinforcing the urgency of comprehensive reforms to ensure its efficacy.
The presidency diligently pursued endeavours to fortify multilateralism. Reforms within the realm of Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) gained momentum with the establishment of an Independent Expert Group (IEG) under the presidency’s guidance. The IEG’s mission was to provide recommendations for bolstering MDBs and outlining a roadmap to update the MDB ecosystem, ensuring its efficiency in confronting 21st-century challenges. The initial volume of the two-part report, titled ‘Strengthening Multilateral Development Banks: The Triple Agenda,’ has already been presented to the membership. The second volume is anticipated to be submitted in October 2023, coinciding with the 4th Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting (FMCBG). These reports will be evaluated in conjunction with each other and will be encouraged for discussion and implementation by MDBs in alignment with their governance frameworks. Moreover, the G20 Roadmap for Implementing the Recommendations of the G20 Independent Review of the MDBs Capital Adequacy Frameworks (CAFs) has garnered endorsement and support from Finance Ministers for its ambitious implementation. Additional efforts are underway to organize a high-level seminar on strengthening the financial capacity of MDBs on the side-lines of the 4th FMCBG meeting. This seminar is poised to infuse fresh momentum into global discussions aimed at fortifying MDBs and upholding their creditor status.
Under the visionary leadership of Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the presidency played host to the inaugural ‘Voice of the Global South Summit.’ With participation from 125 countries across ten sessions spanning two days, this landmark event provided a platform for participants to voice the concerns, ideas, challenges, and priorities of the developing world. The intention behind this gathering was to foster unity of purpose and collaboration among nations. Aligning with our theme of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,’ the presidency achieved a significant milestone by facilitating discussions regarding the expansion of the grouping. This fruitful deliberation resulted in the welcoming of the African Union (AU) as a permanent G20 member, signalling a new chapter of inclusivity and global cooperation.
It has been made clear that the contemporary challenges of today are not restricted by national boundaries. As Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated in his message at the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in March, “Multilateralism is in crisis today,” and that “the experience of the last few years – financial crisis, climate change, pandemic, terrorism, and wars – clearly shows that global governance has failed in both its mandates.”
Thus, collective, and decisive action, cooperation, and an inclusive human-centric approach to combating threats to multilateralism are essential now more than ever. In the words of our PM – “When the world has changed, our institutions too must change. Or risk getting replaced by a world of rivalries without rules.”
In the spirit of ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future,’ born from ancient Indian texts and PM Modi’s guiding vision of the world, shared challenges must be met with shared solutions – where the collective wellbeing of humanity prevails over divisions and uncertainties. To restore faith in institutions of the 21st century, we must harness the spirit of cooperation, inclusiveness, and adaptability that has defined our G20 Presidency.