Tomorrow the leaders of the world's biggest economies meet in Toronto for the Group of 20 (G20) summit. Their priority, as it should be, is to ensure global economic recovery. But the assembled statesmen can and must do more. They should begin transforming the G20 from a temporary crisis committee into an enduring global steering group.
To date, most analysts have focused on the G20's admirable response to the global economic crisis. But they have paid less attention to where the G20 is headed. This is unfortunate, since the G20 is the most important innovation in global governance since the end of the Cold War.
The G20's emergence underscores an ongoing shift of relative global economic and political power to the developing world - particularly to Asia. Collectively, its members represent two-thirds of the world's population and generate more than 85 percent of global domestic product. It is the only international forum in which major developed and developing nations meet in formal equality at the highest level of government. The G20 thus stands in contrast to the two-tiered UN Security Council, the weighted voting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), or the more restricted Group of Eight (G8).
The G20 has much to be proud of already. Thanks to its coordinated policy interventions, the world avoided a second Great Depression. Looking back, four G20 accomplishments stand out. The biggest was mobilizing $5 trillion at the London summit of April 2009, which helped reassure the markets. Another was reinvigorating the IMF, left for dead just months before the crisis. Still another was creating a Financial Stability Board to strengthen global regulatory standards. And the last was holding the line against protectionism, preventing a 1930s-style trade war.