Huge advertisements flaunting India’s presidency at G20 are adorning our cities everywhere. G20 is being projected as a big achievement of this government; and India is being projected as the ‘mother of democracy.’ On the other hand, we are also witnessing temporary beautification of cities by evicting people and entire colonies! Multiple cases of forced evictions and demolitions are being reported from different states, wherever these meetings are being held. Just to grasp the enormity of the propaganda, 51 crore was spent on outdoor advertising alone! Money that could have fed some more mouths during intense episodes of heatwaves and immediate flash floods. 

So what is G20, and how’s India’s presidency is playing out at the international level? On September 9-10, this year, India will host the final G20 leaders Summit, to be attended by the US president Joe Biden, among other heads of the states. Over 12300 delegates from about 110 nations are expected to participate in person in Delhi, the largest number ever hosted by a G20 country so far. The agenda of their discussions range from green development, climate Finance, Technological Transformation & Digital Public Infrastructure to Multilateral Institutions for the 21st century. 

But behind all this, G20 remains an informal elite club of traditional powers or the G7 countries and selected emerging powers such as China, India, Brazil, Indonesia etc. It is considered by observers to be a platform that provides legitimacy to the G7 agenda and policies. Despite being a small group of countries, the whole world is impacted by its policy decisions. Its membership is quite selective, excluding countries like Iran, Egypt and Venezuela. G20 is not a permanent institution with a headquarters, offices, or staff and its presidency is rotational on an annual basis among its members. The decisions at G20 are made with consensus, but they are non-binding, the implementation of which depends on the political will of individual states. 

Why is it important to question G20?

It’s important to question G20 as despite being an informal group, its policy decisions and recommendations impact the whole world. You might remember the Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance (FRDI) Bill, that was withdrawn in August 2018, after protests from several quarters. This bill uncritically accepted the recommendations of the Financial Stability Board’s report without considering the specificities of the Indian economy. This bill curtailed the RBI’s regulatory powers, proposed to form a Resolution Council to sell, merge, and liquidate financial institutions including Public Sector Banks, floated the idea of a “bail-in” provision to deprive the common depositors to compensate for losses emerging from corporate defaults. 

Similarly, in other sectors too, G20 decisions have led to increased private finance, unequal development, a rising inequality, debt distress, financialisation of climate crisis, and global power imbalance.

The G20 needs to be questioned because the decisions of this informal elite club impact the global financial architecture, national economies, ways to address the current polycrisis, geopolitical relations, functioning of democratic institutions, and most importantly people’s livelihoods, rights, and entitlements. The G20 presidencies often ignore the recommendations from the grassroots civil society organisations and activist groups.

This year too, the G20 bloc failed to reach an agreement on phasing down fossil fuels, following objections by some producer nations. Similarly, following its neoliberal agenda, the G20 expert group on MDBs suggested greater engagement with the private sector. In short, despite claiming to, G20 is failing to advance people’s issues on the ground. 

In light of all this, a host of people’s movements, trade unions, civil society organisations, and concerned citizens are coming together to raise the people’s demands and interests. At the We20 Summit scheduled to be held on August 18, 19 and 20 this month, in New Delhi, several people’s organisations will convene to discuss key issues pertinent to the G20 agenda such as agriculture and food security, climate crisis and just energy transition, rising inequalities, labour and employment, alternative ideas of development, democracy and dissent and more.

Join the people’s summit at Surjeet Bhawan in New delhi, and raise your voice for people’s issues and concerns for a more democratic, just and inclusive financial system and political order.

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