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G20 in 2023 Priorities for India’s Presidency

Attribution:

Renita D’Souza, et al., Eds, G20 in 2023: Priorities for India’s Presidency (New Delhi: ORF and Global Policy Journal, 2022).

India will assume the G20 presidency on 1 December 2022 at a critical juncture in global affairs. This presidency provides India with the opportunity to steer one of the more effective multilateral forums for global governance. India’s presidency is momentous for several reasons. The critical challenges confronting humanity today are global in character, not confined by national boundaries, and require collective action. Solving these challenges demands multilateral initiatives. Nevertheless, multilateralism is in a state of decline. The failure to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and the inability to avert the Russia-Ukraine war has further accentuated the fault lines in multilateralism. India’s presidency is an opportunity to revive multilateralism. India can steer the empowerment of alternative international institutions of global governance that respond to the realities of the twenty-first century and direct global governance in the ‘decade of action’ to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Global governance is skewed in favour of developed economies as they exert a disproportionate influence on setting international rules of cooperation, trade, and finance. This has adversely affected the ability of global governance in delivering substantive solutions to enable the Global South constituencies in tackling fundamental challenges to development, trade, and security. India can utilise its G20 presidency as an opportunity to rethink global governance processes and establish parity in international negotiations. The G20 troika in the next year will comprise three emerging economies—Indonesia (the past chair), India (the current chair), and Brazil (the incoming chair). The roadmap of India’s G20 agenda must leverage this troika to address the concerns of the developing world in a coherent and focussed manner and facilitate greater agency of those countries not represented by the G20 membership.

A fractured G20 posed a setback to the Indonesian presidency as geopolitical tensions between the West and Russia undermined cooperation within the grouping. This fissure in the G20 has cast doubts on its credibility. India’s neutral stance in relation to the Russia-Ukraine war provides hope that it might be able to bring both sides to participate in the G20 proceedings and make some headway beyond the current deadlock. India is faced with the task of identifying creative solutions to bridge these geopolitical differences and pave the way for conversations anchored in cooperation and collective prosperity. Indeed, India’s presidency might be expected to steer the articulation of an unambiguous G20 policy on the Russia-Ukraine war.

India has identified several priorities for its G20 presidency—inclusive, equitable and sustainable growth; LiFE (lifestyle for environment); women’s empowerment; digital public infrastructure and tech-enabled development in health, agriculture, education, commerce, skill-mapping, and culture and tourism; climate financing; circular economy; global food security; energy security; green hydrogen; disaster risk reduction and resilience; developmental cooperation; fight against economic crimes; and multilateral reforms[1].

As the new G20 chair, India inherits the responsibility of steering collective action for restoring global economic and financial stability in the aftermath of the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war. The food and fuel crises triggered by the conflict are only worsening. India’s presidency will have to prioritise the formulation of a robust strategy for a resilient recovery of economic growth and recalibrate the action plan for achieving the 2030 SDG Agenda.

It is imperative for the G20 to concentrate efforts on developing a robust policy, and a regulatory, institutional and market ecosystem for accelerating the transition from the existing ‘brown’ economy to a more sustainable and low-carbon one. Global talks on the challenges of climate change have been dominated by concerns of climate change mitigation, with climate adaptation not being given the necessary attention. Similarly, climate finance flows to developing nations fall significantly short of their financial needs to undertake adequate and immediate climate action. India’s G20 presidency will be expected to champion the cause of developing nations in coping with the climate crisis.

India will also need to prioritise the integration of sustainable lifestyles in global climate action. In October 2022, India and the United Nations launched Mission LiFE, characterised by a three-pronged strategy for collection climate action. The first step involves nudging individuals to make behavioural changes to change the composition of demand; the second step involves encouraging the industry and markets to respond promptly to the changing demand; and the third step involves the government and policymakers revisiting their strategy for accelerating sustainable consumption and production[2]. Among the G20 members, France, the UK, and Argentina have also extended support to Mission LiFE[3], and India can leverage its presidency to win the support of other grouping members.

The theme of India’s presidency is ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (One Earth, One Family, One Future), which underscores global interconnectedness and reflects India’s pro-planet approach[4]. It indicates that India will seek to strengthen global interconnectedness, build upon the merits of this connectedness, and find innovative solutions to cope with any resultant challenges.

The 10 chapters included in this compendium deal with some of the G20 working groups, taskforces, and engagement groups that are important for India’s presidency. The compendium aims to provide insights on some critical global issues based on the past and present priorities under G20’s Sherpa and Finance tracks.

The global financial and monetary system is still vulnerable to external shocks, especially for the emerging markets and developing economies. In 2022, the Framework Working Group discussed the economic risks and the best strategies to balance monetary and fiscal policies, especially in view of the limited fiscal space and high financial market volatility. India’s G20’s agenda for global macroeconomic stability remains crucial. Stormy-Annika Milder discusses how amidst the geopolitical frictions and diverging interests, India’s G20 presidency can focus on three priority areas—global health architecture, digital transformation, and sustainable energy transition.

In the post-pandemic and post-war era, one of the most critical global challenges is ensuring equitable economic recovery. This can be done through collective action towards guaranteeing open supply chains to facilitate essential commodities, collaboration to diversify investment and production, and cooperation to support the multilateral trading system. India’s G20 presidency will be essential in establishing an inclusive and sustainable multilateral trading system. Heribert Dieter underlines the challenges the grouping is likely to face under India’s presidency and how it can be a middle-ground for frank dialogues between the West and other countries.

At the G20, India has emphasised the need to cut absolute emissions rapidly while also considering the Paris Agreement, which stressed respective historical responsibilities, and the delivery of climate finance and technologies at a low cost taking into account per capita emissions and differences in per capita GDP. The war in Ukraine has added to global supply shocks, leading to more shortages in the agriculture and energy sectors. The Energy Transition Working Group will play a key role in highlighting the issues at stake for the global community, especially for emerging and developing economies. In his essay, Venkatachalam Anbumozhi highlights the role of India’s G20 presidency in ensuring that the Global South cooperation agenda is brought to the table for discussion.

Access to global finance at scale continues to remain a top priority for countries, particularly emerging economies, to make the necessary transition to a sustainable future. The Paris Agreement and the COP26 summit reaffirmed the need to mobilise sustainable finance at scale for developing countries to achieve net-zero targets. India and the other G20 members can play an influential role in catalysing sustainable finance at scale to meet the climate targets and the broader SDGs. In her essay, Suranjali Tandon discusses pertinent questions related to common taxonomies, carbon taxes, carbon pricing, and environmental, social, and governance disclosures.

‘Digital transformation’ was one of the three key priorities under the Indonesian presidency. In 2022, the Digital Economy Task Force was upgraded to a Digital Economy Working Group. It is crucial for India to carry the baton forward in prioritising digitalisation to achieve inclusive economic development and to further international cooperation on key digital issues. Addressing the digital transformation challenge will include creating digital solutions to accelerate achieving the SDGs. Rohinton Medhora and Paul Samson explore the role of the Digital Economy Working Group in the creation of an inclusive framework to harness the potential of new technologies.

Despite widespread acknowledgement of the importance of infrastructure building, a persistent infrastructure gap still exists across countries. Given the infrastructure development gap paradox, multilateral cooperation for facilitating investment in infrastructure is of key importance for India. Thus, recognising and furthering the work of the Infrastructure Working Group to fill the financing gap will be crucial for India’s G20 presidency in 2023. In his essay, Fahad Alturki discusses the role India could play in building an inclusive and representative approach towards creating sustainable solutions for the global common goods, including for infrastructure development.

The pandemic has shown the importance of designing a global health agenda and reinforced the need for placing multilateralism at the centre of crisis response and recovery. It is important to understand whether the G20 under India’s presidency can strengthen global governance, specifically institutions such as the World Health Organization, to address contemporary challenges related to global health mechanisms. Sridhar Venkatapuram explores the role India can play in highlighting and addressing the fundamental causes for global health inequities.

At the G20, India has noted that while there has been an emphasis on capital and finance in recent decades, it is now crucial to focus on multiskilling and reskilling to create a vast human talent pool. This will not only enhance the dignity of citizens but will also make them more resilient to face crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Under India’s G20 presidency, the Employment Working Group can play a key role in building human capital and addressing challenges arising from the future of work. Gala Díaz Langou underscores the G20’s role in framing a collaborative agenda to ensure that demographic transitions translate into sustainable futures.

The scope of the G20 International Finance agenda covers global financial stability, long-term fiscal sustainability, financing for development in low-income countries, reform of the international financial institutions, international taxation, strengthening financial safety, countering the financing of terrorism, and regulation of crypto assets. In the past, India has emphasised the importance of the global regulation of crypto assets and that no country can succeed by working in silos. In this regard, Ussal Sahbaz explores how India’s G20 presidency can create a global regulatory architecture for crypto assets, which provides a balance between financial stability and innovation.

The G20 presidency presents an opportune moment for India to engage its youth in exploring creative solutions towards overcoming ‘glocal’ challenges such as climate change mitigation, just energy transition, digital transformation, the future of work, and sustainable economic recovery. The Y20 is one such platform within the G20 mechanism, which provides an opportunity for the youth to amplify their voices and present their solutions to the G20 leaders. In her essay, Erin-Lynn Watson highlights how the Indian G20 presidency can leverage the global platform to discuss key youth issues, including—employment, technology, housing, and governance.


Endnotes

[1] India to assume G20 Presidency for one year from December 2022; host over 200 meetings and MEA lists priorities, Business Insider, September 14, 2022.

[2] Prime Minister’s Office, Government of India.

[3] NITI Aayog, Government of India.

[4] PM Modi unveils logo, theme and website of India’s G20 presidency, Hindustan Times, November 8, 2022.

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Editors

Renita Dsouza

Renita Dsouza

Renita DSouza is a PhD in Economics and a Fellow at Observer Research Foundation Mumbai under the Inclusive Growth and SDGs programme. Her research focus ...

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Shruti Jain

Shruti Jain

Shruti Jain was Coordinator for the Think20 India Secretariat and Associate Fellow Geoeconomics Programme at ORF. She holds a Masters degree in Public Policy and ...

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Preeti Lourdes John

Preeti Lourdes John

Preeti Lourdes John is Deputy Editor at ORF Mumbai. She oversees the centres longform publications. Preeti is an editor and editorial manager with extensive experience setting up ...

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