What landmark decisions were made on Day 1 of the G20 summit?

on Sep 10, 2023
  • G20 members unanimously accepted the Delhi Declaration despite earlier frictions over wording around Ukraine.
  • The Summit saw the inclusion of the AU as a new permanent member of the group.
  • The newly-launched IMEC presents an alternative to China's BRI.

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The much-awaited G20 Summit in India’s capital, New Delhi, saw several globally significant developments on the opening day, in relation to driving economic and social progress around the world.

With India holding the presidency of the group for this year, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi is chairing the G20 Summit.

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Significant groundwork has been carried out in the months leading up to the 2-day event, which included an incredible 220+ G-20 meetings comprising 17 minister-level discussions across portfolios such as trade, foreign affairs, and finance, encompassing views from over 60 countries.

The summit is currently playing host to 43 world leaders and is being attended by 25,000+ delegates from 115 countries.

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In terms of policy and research, India’s G20 presidency has released 112 outcome documents, reportedly two to five times the output of previous presidencies.

Dr. Muqtedar Khan, Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Delaware, added,

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… (In my view), already you can say that India’s G20 summit has been a success…this will go down in history as a successful G summit.

Given the wide-ranging efforts of organizers, the summit has been unprecedented in its diversity, consultation, and delivery.

Consensus on the Delhi Declaration

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One of the major concerns heading into the G20 was the fear that the summit may not yield a collective consensus statement supported by all participating countries.

Anxieties of a potential deadlock were heightened by the fact that none of the earlier G20 summits have failed to produce a unanimously supported declaration.

As expected, the key point of discord was the issue of Ukraine with the EU resisting the proposed language as being too soft on Russia.

On the other hand, any attempt to strengthen the language, would likely not have been acceptable to the Kremlin and perhaps the Chinese government as well.

However, intensive negotiations by ‘sherpas’, the personal representatives of the heads of state, finally bore fruit.

All parties were able to achieve a consensus on Day 1 of the summit and issued a joint 34-page declaration – G20 New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration (‘the Delhi Declaration’).

The Delhi Declaration made no mention of Russian aggression, as was the case in last year’s Bali Summit, but instead noted,

In line with the UN Charter, all states must refrain from the threat or use of force to seek territorial acquisition against the territorial integrity and sovereignty or political independence of any state. The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible… We highlighted the human suffering and negative added impacts of the war in Ukraine with regard to global food and energy security, supply chains, macro-financial stability, inflation, and growth … welcome all relevant and constructive initiatives that support a comprehensive, just, and durable peace in Ukraine that will uphold all the Purposes and Principles of the UN Charter…

Point 14 of the Delhi Declaration echoed Prime Minister Modi’s earlier call,

Today’s era must not be of war.

In response to the change in stance from the more aggressively worded Bali Declaration, S. Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister of India, a career diplomat who previously served as High Commissioner to Singapore, and Ambassador to Czechia, China, and the United States, noted,

The situation was different. Many things have happened since then, and if you see in the geopolitical segment of the leaders’ declaration, there are in totality 8 paragraphs. 7 of which focus on the Ukraine issue, and many of them highlight problems which are of great contemporary significance.

The Declaration acknowledged the significant consequences of these geopolitical events on the global economy, while also highlighting the crucial role of Turkey in the Istanbul and UN-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative.

Besides the question of Ukraine, the Declaration was built on a foundation of five key pillars – Strong and sustainable growth; Creating progress on SDGs; Green development; Building and strengthening multilateral institutions for the 21st century; and reviving global cooperation.

Other key points included extending support to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an intergovernmental organisation with the mandate to combat money laundering and terrorist financing; and calling for greater policy and regulation on crypto-assets.

Nirmala Sitharaman, Finance Minister of India noted,

…building blocks for a globally coordinated and comprehensive policy and regulatory framework for crypto assets….a global consensus is emerging on the same….for a globally coordinated approach to crypto assets…The Presidency with the support the IMF and the FSB is setting these contours…

In regard to climate change, the Declaration urged countries to act in line with the Paris Agreement and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

In addition, the Delhi Declaration supported,

…efforts to triple renewable energy capacity globally…by 2030…to phase-out and rationalise, over the medium term, inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption…(and) to rapidly and substantially scale up investment and climate finance from billions to trillions of dollars globally from all sources.

African Union granted permanent membership

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Before starting proceedings, PM Modi announced the invitation to the African Union, the 55-member bloc, to join as a full member of the G20, with a view to elevate the concerns of the Global South.

The African Union, by becoming a permanent member of the multi-lateral organization, now holds the same status as the 27-member European Union, marking the first expansion in membership since its founding in 1999.

The AU’s chairperson, Comoros President Azali Assoumani proceeded to be seated at the table for permanent members of the G20.

The proposal for permanent membership of the AU was initially floated by PM Modi in June 2023, which received support from the EU, Russia, China, and Japan.

‘New spice route’

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The G20 Summit saw the unveiling of a new global infrastructure and investment platform – the India – Middle East – Europe (IMEC) Economic Corridor, which as the White House explained in its press release,

…is expected to stimulate economic development through enhanced connectivity and economic integration across two continents, thus unlocking sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

The corridor shall see far-reaching and strategic linkages through ports and rail and will connect Saudi Arabia, UAE, Israel, Jordan, Europe, and India.

Although the US will not be directly linked within this corridor, it has played an important role in negotiations and promotes the development of commercial hubs along the corridor, export of clean energy, laying undersea cables to improve internet connectivity and telecommunications, and expanding reliable access to electric grids.

PM Modi added that this project shall improve compliance with international norms, laws, and regulations, as well as promote respect for the territorial sovereignty of countries.

Khan argued,

It is clear that this is the Indian and American response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative…

The development comes at a time when China’s BRI is receiving increased criticism for lacking transparency and rising concerns over its image as a ‘debt trap’ for member countries.

In addition, Italy recently pulled out of the BRI, dealing a major blow to China’s ambitions as an alternative economic model.

Bilateral and multilateral developments

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Day 1 saw three bilateral meetings between PM Modi, as chair of the G20, with Fumio Kishida, PM of Japan; Rishi Sunak, PM of the UK, and Giorgia Meloni, PM of Italy.

In addition to the multilateral agreement on IMEC, PM Modi launched the Global Biofuels Alliance with 19 countries and 12 international organizations agreeing to become members of the body.

The US, Brazil, and India, as founding members of the group, account for over 80% of the production and consumption of ethanol.

Primarily, the alliance seeks to increase the proportion of ethanol blending in petrol up to 20% by 2025-26 in a bid to reduce fossil fuel consumption.

In addition, the alliance will aim to enhance technological cooperation in the biofuels space and reduce dependence on OPEC+ countries.

Although China, Russia and Saudi Arabia elected not to join the alliance, there was significant interest even from countries outside the G20 including Iceland, Kenya, Guyana, Paraguay, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, and Uganda and Finland.

Note: Kindly note that Professor Khan’s remarks were made partly in Hindi and partly in English. Any translations are my own.

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