G-20: Alternatives to the United Nations?

Just a week ago, the world witnessed the summit by The Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, also widely known as G-20. As its original name suggests, G-20 started as a gathering of finance ministers from 19 countries and the European Union. After their first meeting in 2008, it now confers heads of government from each state, replacing the G8 that used to be the main economic council of the wealthiest nations. G-20, which includes populous and newly emerging powers such as China, Brazil and India, is now often viewed as a major contender against the United Nations Security Council. The G-20 economies comprise of 85% of global gross national product, 80% of world trade and more than two-thirds of the world population.

What initially began as the councils for Financial Ministers of the rich and populated nations, national leaders’ participation in each of G-20 summits come as an alarm to many of U.N supporters. For this year’s Seoul Summit, a large number of countries brought their Foreign Ministers along with their financial ministers. While the foreign ministers talked to each other about how they can enjoy their leisure time in a banquet without any job for this trip, growing speculations are about how G-20 can easily turn into other form of summit that can discuss in a variety of issues. Opponents of G-20, largely composed of alienated nations, claim that G-20 threatens programs laid out by World Bank and United Nations. Norwegian Foreign Minister criticized G-20 as being ‘an arbitrary group based on 19th century system of Congress of Vienna.’ Proponents claim that G-20 will lead to a better understanding among those who can make real impacts in the World’s economy.

Despite of much speculations surrounding G-20, G-20 can also be a partner with UN to promote discussions of economic policy issues. Even though their sincerity was being questioned, G-20 discussed framework for strong sustainable and balanced global growth, well as how to help developing nations around the world. They also invited UN, WTO and IMF as observers for the summit. What G-20 now needs is how it can engage with other countries and even organizations to be accepted as a legitimate international organization. Of course, as much as Security Council has been in the past, G-20 will be most likely to not agree on most of issues. But it should be aware of that it claimed its institution can agree on a broader rule that is beneficial to most, not just a few. As G-20 countries such as Brazil, India and Japan still seek their seat in Security Council, G-20 is not likely to replace United Nations. Rather than gathering attentions around them, G-20 is likely to let UN to handle most of issues relating to international security. Yet, G-20 is mostly likely to enhance its role in international economic policy to make sure international trade policies would be something desirable for them. Now, the question is how both G-20 and UN will overcome difficult feelings among themselves and work for the better sustainable world economy. As 80% of world trades are being done by G-20 members, G-20 also should be considerate in their decision-making process.

Seo Ho Lee

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About unagbtufts

Quinn Connors is a senior at Tufts University majoring in International Relations and concentrating on the Middle East. Seoho Lee is a senior majoring in Political Science and International Relations concentrating on East and Southeast Asia. They are currently serving as Student Ambassadors for the United Nations Association of Greater Boston.
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One Response to G-20: Alternatives to the United Nations?

  1. Amy Connors says:

    I saw this site on Tuftslife. If you don’t know about it already, you should look into the forthcoming documentary on the UN, http://www.unmemovie.com/

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