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Does the G20 Matter?

Author: Terra Lawson-Remer
February 24, 2012


G20 finance ministers are gathering in Mexico City this weekend to prepare for the fourth G20 Leaders' Summit since the Group of 20 declared itself the premier forum for international economic cooperation at its 2009 Pittsburgh summit. Birthed to coordinate a response to the global financial crisis, the informal body of the world's richest countries has seen its agendaballoon over the past four years to encompass everything from green growth (Mexico's pet initiative) to commodity price volatility (the agenda of the French, who hosted last year) to anti-corruption.

As workstreams proliferate, consuming an ever-increasing amount of communiqué paper and government staffers' time, the question must be asked: Does the G20 matter? Or, more precisely, what should the G20's role be on the global stage, and what reforms (if any) are required to allow the body to fulfill this role effectively?

The informal group was elevated from finance ministers to heads of state to quickly coordinate a decisive response in the face of the global economic crisis in 2008; and effective action required a forum that included China and other important emerging economies, as the former G7/8 club could no longer really call the shots. In its important initial mission the G20 mostly succeeded, forming the Financial Stability Board and taking other critical measures to stabilize the economy. Now the G20, at a leaders' level, is de facto the premier forum for international dialogue and cooperation on a whole range of critical global issues that have been unable to find resolution in other contexts.

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