September 13, 2023
KUALA LUMPUR – The latest declaration by the G20 reflects a shift from the Western-dominated world order towards the interests of the Global South.
MOST people might not have noticed but the world took a major stride away from being unipolar towards becoming multipolar last week.
It was reflected in a joint declaration made by countries representing two-thirds of the world’s population and close to 80% of its GDP, at the end of a summit in New Delhi last Saturday.
The G20 – or more accurately, G21 as the group of 20 nations was joined by the 55-state African Union (AU) – marked a significant pivot from the long prevalent Western-dominated world order towards the interests of the Global South.
The grouping comprises Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United States, the European Union (EU) and the AU, the second regional bloc in G20.
The AU’s seat at the elite table is a game-changer as it is a major component of the Global South with a population of 1.4 billion – one-fifth of humanity – and a collective GDP of US$3 trillion (RM14 trillion).
The latest G20 declaration was hammered out with nimble diplomacy against a backdrop of major geopolitical tensions, with the United States and its allies pushing for the agenda to be focused on Russia’s war in Ukraine.
But the declaration clearly noted that “the G20 is not the platform to resolve geopolitical and security issues”.
However, the declaration did call for the revival of the Black Sea Grain Initiative that had allowed unimpeded grain exports from Ukraine; Russia withdrew from the initiative in July over the failure of the United States and the EU to keep their promise to enable exports of Russian food products and fertilisers.
The G20 explicitly urged for the “unimpeded deliveries of grain, foodstuffs, and fertilisers/inputs” from both Russia and Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov praised summit host India, which he said helped to consolidate the countries of the Global South to protect their legitimate interests and prevent the West from “‘Ukrainising’ the entire agenda of the summit and diverting attention from the urgent problems facing emerging economies”.
While Lavrov and the leaders of India and China highlighted the rise of a multipolar world, there was no direct mention of the term in the declaration.
Indirectly though, it called for long-overdue reforms of the United Nations (UN), stating that the world body must be “responsive to the entire membership, faithful to its founding purposes and principles of its Charter, and adapted to carrying out its mandate”.
As Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar put it, the current concentration of economic and political power “leaves too many nations at the mercy of too few” – words that have resonated across the developing world.
There is also much unhappiness over the outdated veto-holding power in the hands of only five nations – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – on the UN Security Council, which is based on a decision made at the end of World War II in 1945.
The G20 declaration called for a more inclusive and reinvigorated multilateralism to make global governance more representative.
It also wanted the reshaping of global financial institutions to promote growth, reduce inequalities and maintain macroeconomic and financial stability.
The declaration also wanted debts of some developing countries to be restructured and that they be given access to a “non-discriminatory, fair, open, inclusive, equitable, sustainable and transparent multilateral trading system”.
The grouping’s incoming chairman, Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, appealed strongly for unity among members, as divisions over the Russia-Ukraine war threatened to overshadow the event.
“We are not interested in a divided G20. Only through joint action can we meet the challenges of our times. We need peace and cooperation instead of conflicts,” he said.
He said the G20, which was set up after the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, is a forum to discuss economic issues and it was inappropriate to talk about the war between Russia and Ukraine at the summit, noting that the UN General Assembly, which is scheduled to meet on Sept 19, would be the correct forum for that.
“That’s the place for us to call (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and (Ukraine President Volodymyr) Zelenskyy to a negotiation table because no one wants war.
“Everybody is against war. We want peace. So it’s necessary for us to establish a conversation policy so that we can try to convince the two presidents that the war is not the solution for anything and that dialogue, diplomacy and a table of dialogue could help much more,” he told India’s Firstpost.com in an interview at the end of the G20 summit.
The emergence of a shift towards a multipolar world was already evident during last month’s BRICS meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa.
BRICS – which originally comprised Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – will include Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from January next year.
The addition of the six new members is set to thrust BRICS further ahead of the G7 in economic terms, with a combined GDP of about US$65 trillion (RM304 trillion). This would see BRICS’ share of global GDP rise to 37% from 31.5% today, against the G7’s 29.9%.
(The G7 is an informal grouping of seven of the world’s advanced economies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, plus the EU.)
Saudi Arabia, which produces almost 12 million barrels of oil per day, comprising nearly 12% of world output, is the largest economy among the new BRICS members with its GDP estimated at US$1.1 trillion (RM5.1 trillion).
The UAE is another impressive addition to BRICS because of its status as a major exporter.
Its exports in 2022, including oil, were valued at about US$600bil (RM2.8 trillion).
The expanded BRICS countries would cover 48.5 million square kilometres, representing 36% of the planet’s land area, more than double that of the G7, while its combined population would be 3.6 billion, 45% of the world’s people and quadruple that of the G7.
BRICS will soon account for almost half of the world’s food production. Two years ago, BRICS’ wheat harvest alone amounted to 49% of the world’s total compared with the G7’s 19.1%.
Media consultant M. Veera Pandiyan likes this observation by Noam Chomsky: International relations bear more than a slight resemblance to the mafia. The views expressed here are the writer’s own.