Despite Friction over Climate and Trade, G20 Leaders Find Points of Consensus (G20 Summit Recap Part 2/2)

Photo By: White House

While discussions on climate and trade dominated the summit – and headlines – G20 leaders addressed a wide range of other issues at this year’s summit. Beyond making declarations in the leaders’ communiqué, G20 leaders also make commitments that are noted elsewhere, often in annexes attached to the communiqué or in altogether separate documents. Below are some of the issues addressed at the summit for which G20 countries developed agreed documents outlining their proposed actions and commitments in greater detail.

Women’s economic empowerment: G20 leaders committed to establish a Business Women Leaders’ Taskforce, which will bring together business women from G20 countries to examine ways to increase women’s economic participation, as well as support women-owned and women-led enterprises in both the developed and developing world. The taskforce, working in close cooperation with the Business 20 and Women 20, will make recommendations at next year’s summit on the implementation of G20 commitments regarding women’s economic empowerment. Additionally, G20 leaders established the #eSkills4Girls initiative, which includes an online knowledge and exchange platform designed to “collect and disseminate information, good practices, and projects from G20 members,” and pledged to actively contribute to the platform and to ensure its sustainability.

Counterterrorism: G20 leaders unanimously agreed to implement international agreements and enhance cooperation toward countering terrorism, while working more closely within the framework of the United Nations. In a statement, they also outlined their commitment to combating terrorist financing and countering radicalization.

Global financial system: To ensure stability in the international financial system, G20 leaders endorsed the Hamburg Action Plan. More broadly, the plan sets out the G20 strategy for achieving strong, sustainable, balanced, and inclusive growth. The leaders’ communiqué stipulates that G20 countries “will promote greater inclusiveness, fairness and equality in our pursuit of economic growth and job creation. To these ends, we endorse the Hamburg Action Plan."

Partnering with Africa: Upon assuming the G20 presidency, Germany made it a G20 priority to encourage private investment, sustainable infrastructure, and employment in Africa. To this end, the G20 launched the G20 Africa Partnership, which will “support related political initiatives of the G20 and facilitate joint commitments (Investment Compacts) between African countries, G20 Partners, and International Financial Institutions.”

Youth Employment: The G20 launched the G20 Initiative for Rural Youth Employment to intensify their efforts to “promote decent work and income-generating opportunities for young rural people – especially women – in developing countries.” This initiative builds on a previously-agreed priority to “increase incomes and quality employment in food systems” (as outlined in the 2014 G20 Food Security and Nutrition Framework and 2015 G20 Action Plan on Food Security and Sustainable Food Systems). Furthermore, it is a key element of the G20 Africa Partnership, as well as an important contribution to the implementation of the G20 Action Plan on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development endorsed at the 2016 G20 Summit.

Anti-corruption: G20 leaders endorsed four sets of high level principles aimed at fostering integrity in the public and private sector. These included principles on increasing the resiliency of public administration to corruption, the liability of legal persons for corruptioncountering corruption in customs, and curbing illegal trade in wildlife.   

Resource efficiency and marine litter: The G20 launched two initiatives on these issues. The first, the G20 Resource Efficiency Dialogue, will exchange good practices and experiences on policy options to improve the efficiency and sustainability of natural resource use across the entire life cycle, as well as to promote sustainable consumption and production patterns. The second, the G20 Marine Litter Action Plan, outlines G20 countries’ commitment to take action to prevent and reduce marine litter.

What happens next?

While it is laudable that G20 leaders make commitments towards solving the world’s most pressing challenges, the reality is that these “commitments” are often no more than commonly-recited dictums. To be sure, each summit and accompanying leaders’ communiqué is filled with declarations committing G20 countries to a wide range of actions and goals. But, all too often, these commitments are made without any timeline put in place for their completion. Moreover, many commitments are made as simple statements, without any details provided for how G20 countries will actually fulfill them. To be fair, some commitments are outlined in action plans, though these also often lack clearly-defined timelines.

As an example, this year’s communiqué notes commitments from G20 leaders on all 19 issues addressed, but only 13 of these (about two-thirds of the total) have commitments that are supported by action plans offering greater details on how commitments will be fulfilled. Furthermore, even in cases where commitments are backed up by action plans, many of the action plans lack timelines.

Absent clear timelines and firm benchmarks, it is difficult for civil society groups to hold G20 countries accountable for the implementation of their commitments. The problem with not setting deadlines for implementation is that it gives G20 countries an undefined period of time in which to follow through, meaning they can approach their commitment at whatever pace suits them.

With no set dates for implementation, there is no real accountability. If G20 countries are serious about following through on their commitments, then they should hold themselves accountable to set dates for the implementation of those commitments.

Defining G20 Success

So how should we consider the relative success of the summit? While it’s difficult to define “success” in this context, any assessment should ultimately take into account the extent to which commitments made benefit the populations for whom they are made. It’s ultimately up to each G20 country to follow through on its commitments. In this sense, it’s more appropriate to look at actions and outcomes at a country level since the G20 summit is ultimately a venue for discussing issues, not the primary vehicle for following through on commitments. Yet, as discussed above, it’s difficult to hold G20 countries accountable for following through on their commitments when so many of those commitments lack any timelines or any firm benchmarks for their implementation.

Only time will tell whether the commitments made at the 2017 summit will result in positive global outcomes. However, we have developed a 2017 G20 Summit Scorecard that measures G20 commitments against the policy recommendations made by InterAction’s G7/G20 Advocacy Alliance.

This blog post is part 2 of our G20 Summit recap. Read part 1 here.

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