Top presidents and prime ministers from around the world gather for the annual G20 Leaders Summit in the Indian capital, Delhi, from September 9-10.
The main topic of this year’s summit will be sustainable development, but the conflict in Ukraine is also expected to be discussed.
What is the G20 summit?
The G20 is a forum for economic and financial cooperation between countries and international organizations that play a pivotal role in the economy and trade in the world. It meets annually in one of the member states to discuss plans for the global economy.
The G20 countries represent 85 percent of the world’s economic output and 75 percent of world trade, and the total population of these countries represents two-thirds of the world’s population.
The member states are the European Union and the 19 countries are – Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom and The United States, in addition to Spain as a permanent guest.
A smaller group of member countries meets in the G20 under the name G7.
The finance ministers and heads of central banks in the member states of the Group of Seven had decided at the summit of the group in 1999 to expand the group and include their counterparts in the countries of the Group of Twenty.
The decision came when turmoil prevailed in global financial markets due to the Asian crisis (which began with the collapse of the Thai currency) in that world. However, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis in 2008, the level of participation in the G20 summit meetings was raised to the level of presidents.
Some of the G20 member countries, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, have formed a separate group called BRICS.
The BRICS group is set to expand, as six more countries were invited to join its latest summit: Argentina, Egypt, Iran, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
What is the group discussing?
The range of issues discussed by G20 leaders has broadened in recent years beyond economics, to include issues such as climate change, sustainable energy, international debt relief, and taxation of multinational corporations.
Each year, a different G20 member country holds the presidency and sets the agenda for the meetings.
Indonesia assumed the presidency in 2022, and a leaders’ summit was held in Bali.
As chair of the 2023 summit, India wants to focus on sustainable development, as well as measures to spread economic growth more evenly between developed and developing countries.
The Summit also provides an opportunity for individual discussions on the sidelines of the group sessions.
The White House has said that US President Joe Biden will talk to some leaders individually about tackling climate change and the Russian war in Ukraine, and will urge global organizations such as the World Bank to do more to combat poverty.
For its part, the Kremlin says that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the summit, and it has been widely reported that Chinese President Xi Jinping will not attend the summit either.
Are there any controversial issues for the G20?
Russia’s war in Ukraine is likely to spark a row at the Delhi summit.
In March 2022, the G20 foreign ministers were unable to reach agreements at their meeting due to violent disagreements over the war between the delegations of the United States and Russia.
At the Bali leaders’ summit in November 2022, discussions were dominated by a crisis over the fall of missiles on the Polish side of the border with Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attended on Putin’s behalf at the recent BRICS summit in South Africa, though the Russian president also addressed the meeting via videoconference.
In May, China and Saudi Arabia boycotted a G-20 meeting on tourism in Indian-administered Kashmir because the Kashmir region includes disputed territory between Pakistan and India.
India and China also broke out over a long-running border dispute, after Beijing released a map claiming Arunachal Pradesh and the Aksai Chin Plateau as Chinese territory.
Why take a “family photo”?
At the end of major summits, heads of government often take a group photo known as a “family photo”.
This image often shows diplomatic disputes, and the image itself becomes a headline in the news.
The closest example of this is the photo taken in 2018, when it was clear that many leaders ignored Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was forced to stand on the far right of the photo.
This was the first time that bin Salman appeared on the international scene since the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in his country’s consulate in Istanbul.
What has the G20 achieved?
At the 2008 and 2009 summits, during the financial crisis, leaders agreed on a set of measures to save the global economic system.
But some critics say subsequent summits have been less successful, often a result of tensions between rival global powers.
Despite this, bilateral meetings at the summit often proved constructive.
For example, in 2019, then US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed in Osaka to resume talks to settle a major trade dispute.
Do G20 summits attract protests?
Demonstrations often take place during the G20 summit.
The 2010 summit in Toronto, Canada, and the 2017 summit in Hamburg, Germany, witnessed anti-capitalist demonstrations.
Thousands of demonstrators marched during the 2018 summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to protest the economic policies of the G20.
In 2009, newsboy Ian Tomlinson died after getting caught in the middle of a protest during the G20 summit in London.