I have been writing about the G20 for seven years. The G20 has evolved substantially over that time, with an ever-broadening agenda that now covers issues far beyond those envisioned in the first G20 summits in Washington and London over 2008 and 2009, when the G20 was at its peak as a globally influential governance body. As a result, and in order to stay on top of the expanded agenda, the trend has been towards greater reliance by G20 Ministers and Leaders upon lower-level officials and bureaucrats to both prepare and even draft the main G20 outcome documents – particularly the final communique.
Two weeks out from the Hamburg Summit, there are plenty of warning signs that this may be the most challenging G20 meeting since G20 leaders first met in Washington in 2008. Then, the global economy stood on the precipice of a dramatic collapse. Staring down the barrel of a long and protracted global economic recession on an unprecedented scale, G20 leaders opted for cooperation via a massive collective global economic stimulus program.
In a potentially ominous sign for this year’s G20 Summit, pieces from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung were played to a sold-out audience in the Elbphilarmonie (Hamburg’s new concert hall, which is also the venue for the G20 Summit starting July 7). Translated into English as ‘the Twilight of the Gods’, the opera is the final episode in the lengthy ring-cycle saga which looks at the rise and fall of rule by the supreme powers, and how infighting among the gods in Valhalla is the cause of their ultimate destruction. Were it not five hours in duration, Angela Merkel could do worse than reminding G20 leaders of the themes Wagner’s opera addresses ahead of their two days of meetings.
In her pursuit for stronger global health governance cooperation under the aegis of the G20, Angela Merkel is showing what can be achieved when leaders are both experienced and driven enough to steer the G20 towards achieving useful and effective outcomes. Although the challenge of finding meaningful consensus between leaders in global governance forums appears to have increased in recent times – the recent G7 leaders meeting at Taormina being a notable example – small wins can and should still be pursued.
In 40 days time, leaders at the 2017 G20 Summit in Hamburg will sign off on the twelfth G20 Leaders communique. Over the last two days of the 2017 Think20 Summit in Berlin, held under the moniker of ‘Global Solutions’, prominent experts and policy makers have taken the opportunity to consider ideas that might be addressed at the Leaders’ summit, to reflect on Germany’s presidential year, as well as cast their minds forward to Argentina’s upcoming G20 presidency and beyond.