Saturday, August 23, 2014

What Role for the G-20?

By MIKHAIL GORBACHEV–

The Group of 20 has held two summit meetings, including the recent one in London. It is now an established forum, a recognition, belated in my view, that the world has changed and that the old institutions have not kept pace with rapidly evolving needs.

Better late than never, of course. Yet already there are questions about the substance and functioning of this new body – questions that need to be answered without delay.

The first is whether the decisions adopted in London can resolve the global financial and economic crisis, setting the world economy on track to sustainable growth.

A definitive answer will emerge only with time, but my initial impression is that the London decisions may be a tentative first step. But clearer reference points are needed on structuring the system of global economic governance and on the group’s tasks. Crisis prevention should not be the G-20′s main task. What’s needed is a transition to a new model, integrating social, environmental and economic factors.

The second question concerns the G-20′s place within the system of global institutions. What is this group: a “global politburo,” a “club of the powerful,” a prototype for a world government? How will it interact with the United Nations?

I am convinced that no group of countries, even if they account for 90 percent of the world economy, could supersede or substitute for the United Nations. But clearly, the G-20 could claim collective leadership in world affairs if it acts with due respect for the opinions of non-members. The presence in the G-20 of countries representing different geographic regions, different levels of development and different cultures is a hopeful sign.

And yet this group is an improvised affair, put together under duress in the extreme conditions of an unexpected global upheaval. It does not include certain countries that are influential in regional and sometimes broader terms, like Egypt, Nigeria or Iran. And it has not been clear about its methods.

To avoid mistakes the G-20 must be transparent and work closely with the U.N. At least once a year, its summit meetings should be held at U.N. headquarters. It should submit a report for substantial discussion to the General Assembly.

Last but not least is the question of the scope of its work. Should the G-20 be confined to the global economy, or will it address political problems? The answer is not self-evident.

Those who object to a political role would obviously argue that the world community has entrusted the U.N. Security Council with primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. Therefore, our main concern should be to strengthen that body’s role. It is indeed true that all attempts to ignore or bypass the Security Council, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere, have always ended badly.

It is also true, however, that the Security Council’s main role is to respond promptly to immediate crisis. We know from experience that it is not as well-equipped to address long-term, conceptual issues. Furthermore, the long delay in reforming the Council has left it less representative than the G-20, which is particularly well-suited to consider the global challenges of security, poverty and the environment.

I believe that the G-20 could find a key place in the architecture of world politics. If it helps to reverse the economic crisis, it will earn the credibility to lead.

One of the problems ripe for debate is the militarization of world politics and economics. Militarization deflects resources from the real economy, stimulates conflicts and creates an illusion that military rather than political solutions are viable. By initiating a serious discussion within the G-20, world leaders can build momentum for the work of those U.N. organizations that are responsible for progress in this area – the Security Council and the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.

Following the London summit meeting, Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain called the gathering a step toward a “new progressive era of international cooperation.” Though there is still a way to go before that becomes a reality, it is the direction in which we must move.

Mikhail Gorbachev was the last leader of the Soviet Union and is president of the International Foundation for Socio-Economic and Political Studies in Moscow.

source: The New York Times