India’s G20 Presidency: What it Means for Global Governance
Dr Arpita Anant, Research Fellow, VIF

The grand finale of the year-long presidency of the G20 took place on 9-10 September 2023 at New Delhi. The leaders of the G20 met and adopted the G20 New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration.

The significance of the adoption of the Declaration has been deservedly spoken about with a sense of euphoria. In the early months of India’s presidency during the first Finance Ministers’ and Central Bank Governors’ meeting in February 2023 and the Foreign Ministers’ meeting in March 2023 itself differences emerged among the western nations and Russia and China over the as is inclusion of paragraph 3 and 4 of the Bali Declaration on Ukraine in the communiques of the two meetings. As a result, only Outcome Documents and Chairs Summary could be issued. The elusive consensus similarly affected some crucial Ministerials held in the run up to the Summit, the Finance Ministerial (because it had a reference to food and energy security in the context of the war), Agriculture Ministerial (because it referred to the Black Sea Grain initiative) as well as the Labour and Energy ministerial. Indeed, full marks to India’s diplomacy at large and India’s G20 Sherpa in particular[1] for bringing about the consensus in time for the Summit, and more importantly, ensuring that the view of the emerging countries which favoured the privileging of economic and ecological concerns which affect a large number of people in the world prevailed.

The second achievement that has received equal adulation is the inclusion of the African Union (AU) as a permanent member of the G20. This is seen a recognition of a prominent entity of the Global South. The credit for this again goes mainly to the Indian diplomacy, but also to Indian civil society. As explained by former Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia[2], President Cyril Ramaphosa of Africa had first mentioned the desire of the AU to be a member of the G20 at the Bali Summit in 2022. At the time, the proposal received a luke warm response. Over the year since then, India reached out to the other members for their support. Alongside, former Indian Ambassadors, academics and think tanks shored up the case for AU for becoming a member of G20.

A third set of developments that have garnered attention are alliances and projects launched on the sidelines of the G20 and the crucial bilateral meetings held. The significance of the Global Biofuel Alliance in the context of the looming energy and climate change crises can hardly be understated. Similarly, the immense importance, geostrategic and otherwise, of the India-Middle East-East Europe Corridor (IMEC) supported by the Partnership for Growth of Infrastructure and Investment (PGII), a G7 initiative.

As the curtains come down on the Summit, attention must now turn to the many more substantial outcomes that have resulted from the 200 plus meetings held across 60 cities of India beginning in December 2022. An 83 paragraph Declaration, 73 outcome documents and 39 annexed documents stand testimony to Prime Minister’s Narendra Modi’s vision of making India’s G20 Presidency inclusive, ambitious, decisive, and action-oriented.

A reading of the Declaration reveals that starting with the preamble, a concerted focus was kept on issues that affect the common people. Broadly, the Declaration focussed its attention on:

  • Challenges to strong, sustainable, balanced, and inclusive growth
  • Measures required to accelerate progress on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • Elements of a green development pact for a sustainable future
  • Requirements from multilateral institutions for the 21st century
  • Imperatives for technological transformation and Digital Public Infrastructure
  • Issues in International Taxation
  • Promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls
  • Addressing Financial Sector Issues
  • Necessity and means of countering terrorism and money laundering
  • Essentials of creating a more inclusive world
New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration: An Analysis
Holistic Approach

One of the greatest merit of the Declaration is the holistic manner in which issues have been dealt with. Consider for instance the section on the Green Development Pact for a Sustainable Future. This section dwells at length on macroeconomic risks stemming from climate change and transition pathways, mainstreaming lifestyles for sustainable development (LIFE), designing a circular economy world, implementing clean, sustainable, just, affordable and inclusive energy transitions delivering on climate and sustainable finance, conserving, protecting, sustainably using and restoring ecosystems, harnessing and preserving the ocean-based economy ending plastic pollution, financing cities of tomorrow, reducing disaster risk and building resilient infrastructure. The gamut of issues dealt with here cover the entire spectrum of essentials for green development. One need look no further.

A similar holistic treatment has been given to the actions to be taken on the sub-issues, even though they are voluntary in nature. Consider for instance, the subject of energy transitions. Thirteen measures that that can help with clean, sustainable, just, affordable and inclusive energy transitions have been elaborated. They range from supporting developing countries in their transitions to low carbon/emissions to supporting their transitions to low carbon/emissions; from pursuing and encouraging efforts to triple renewable energy capacity globally through existing targets and policies to supporting reliable, diversified, sustainable and responsible supply chains for energy transitions; from collaborating on voluntary and mutually agreed terms, in research, innovation, development and deployment of civil nuclear technologies including advanced and Small Modular Reactors to strengthening grid interconnections, resilient energy infrastructure and regional/cross-border power systems integration.

The New Initiatives for Effective Results

There is a variety of new initiatives that find mention in the Declaration. Some are action plans, some high level principles, some roadmaps, some initiatives etc. For instance:

  • Jaipur Call for Action for enhancing MSMEs’ access to information to promote the integration of MSMEs into international trade.
  • The G20 Generic Framework for Mapping Global Value Chains (GVC)
  • The G20 The High-Level Principles on Digitalization of Trade Documents
  • Voluntary and non-binding G20 Policy Recommendations for Advancing Financial Inclusion and Productivity Gains through Digital Public Infrastructure.
  • The G20 2023 Financial Inclusion Action Plan (FIAP)
  • The G20 2023 Action Plan to Accelerate Progress on the SDGs, including its High-Level Principles.
  • The Goa Roadmap for Tourism as one of the vehicles for achieving the SDGs.
  • The G20 Deccan High-Level Principles on Food Security and Nutrition 2023
  • The G20 High-Level Principles on Lifestyles for Sustainable Development
  • Launch of “Travel for LiFE”
  • Launch of Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy Industry Coalition (RECEIC)
  • G20 High Level Voluntary Principles on Hydrogen
  • The G20 ‘Voluntary Action Plan for Promoting Renewable Energy to Accelerate Universal Energy Access’
  • The G20 Voluntary Action Plan on Doubling the Rate of Energy Efficiency Improvement by 2030
  • The multi-year G20 Technical Assistance Action Plan (TAAP) and the voluntary recommendations made to overcome data-related barriers to climate investments
  • The G20 Principles for Financing Cities of Tomorrow
  • Institutionalization of the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Working Group
  • The G20 Framework for Systems of Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI), a voluntary and suggested framework for the development, deployment and governance of DPI
  • The G20 High-level Principles to Support Businesses in Building Safety, Security, Resilience, and Trust in the Digital Economy.
  • The G20 Toolkit on Cyber Education and Cyber Awareness of Children and Youth
  • The Chennai High-Level Principles for a Sustainable and Resilient Blue/Ocean-based Economy
  • The launch and continuation of the Startup 20 engagement group

In addition to these, India announced some unilateral initiatives such as maintaining a Global Digital Public Infrastructure Repository (GDPIR), a virtual repository of DPI, voluntarily shared by G20 members and others. India also proposed the setting up of the One Future Alliance (OFA), a voluntary initiative aimed to build capacity and provide technical assistance and adequate funding support for implementing DPI in Low and Middle Income Countries.

Reinforcing the Existing Systems

On multilateral institutions for the 21st century, international taxation, financial sector issues and countering terrorism and money laundering, the Declaration does not contain any new initiatives, rather it lends support to the many substantial ongoing initiatives. For instance, the G20 resolved in favour of:

  • Supporting the multilateral system centered on the WTO and attempt to revive the WTO dispute settlement mechanism
  • Extending the coverage of the ILO and OECD Skills for Jobs Databases to G20 countries
  • Implementing the UN Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions
  • Providing Corruption-support to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and operationalization of the GlobE Network
  • Accepting the Financial Stability Board and Standard Setting Bodies’ work plan for crypto assets. Enlarging participation to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention
  • Strengthening the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) and the Group on Earth Observations Global Agricultural Monitoring (GEOGLAM), for greater transparency to avoid food price volatility; supporting AMIS’s work on fertilizers, its expansion to include vegetable oils, and for enhancing collaboration with early warning systems
  • An ambitious replenishment of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) resources at the end of the year by IFAD members to support IFAD’s fight against food insecurity
  • Strengthening the global health architecture, with the World Health Organization (WHO) at its core; promoting the One Health-based approach driven by the Quadripartite’s One Health Joint Plan of Action (2022-2026); supporting the work of the WHO-led Alliance for Transformative Action on Climate and Health (ATACH)
  • Including culture as a standalone goal in future discussions on a possible post-2030 development agenda
  • An ambitious second replenishment process of the Green Climate Fund for its upcoming 2024-2027 programming period
  • Effective implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF)
  • Supporting the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), within the Antarctic Treaty system, to establish a representative system of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the CCAMLR Convention area based on the best available scientific evidence
  • Building on the G20 Marine Litter Action Plan as elucidated in the Osaka Blue Ocean Vision
  • Endorsing the revised G20/OECD Principles of Corporate Governance

In all likelihood, many of these assertions have been made earlier as well. In several instances, the national policies of the countries may or may not align with these goals. If nothing, they reinforce the combined commitment of the G20 to some existing systems and reflect a convergence on what are the likely best options for the world to stand by and take forward.

G20 and Global Governance

The G20 were lauded for the role they played in mitigating the effects of the financial crisis of 2008. However, their efforts in bringing about reform of multilateral financial institutions have not been seen as a success. As issues of development were brought on the agenda of the G20, critics lamented that Summits of the world’s most powerful economies have failed to come up with big policy changes to address any of the substantial issues that affect the world such as climate finance, debts of LDCs etc. Therefore, the G20 contributes precious little to global governance. This Summit and its outcomes may come in for similar criticisms.

Pending a historical and comparative analysis of the progress made by the G20 summit-wise and issue-wise, and based only on the outcomes of India’s presidency, the following can be said in the defence of the G20 forum:

Given the structural constraints, economic and political, this informal forum brings together countries of the North and the South and gets them to agree on some basics.

Given the complexities of interdependence and the domestic factors impinging on G20 leaders, compromises are not easy and so changes to existing systems can only be brought about incrementally. If the big 20 can come together to push these incremental changes, one step at a time, then over a period of time, substantial results will come about.

Finally, over the years, the G20 have urged the reform of some institutions in order to make them take cognizance of the concerns of countries of the Global South rather than completely junk them. Alongside they have come up with several innovative ways of plugging the holes and bridging the lacunae in existing systems.

The New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration is the most recent example of how to do this.


[1]India’s G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant explained in an interview with NDTV after the adoption of the Declaration that he had held 200 hours of meetings with the other Sherpas and had drafted and redrafted the contentious paragraphs several times over to facilitate a consensus. He also explained how the consensus was built chronologically starting with Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa and finally reaching out to Russia and China.
[2]Interview with NDTV, 9 September 2023.

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>

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