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Multilateral Reforms As a Priority in the G-20


India, as the G-20 president in December 2022, aims to prioritize inclusive, ambitious, action-oriented, and decisive global consensus on critical development and security issues. Multilateral reform is one of the top priorities, with the T20 Task Force on ‘Towards Reformed Multilateralism’ (TF7) developing a roadmap for ‘Multilateralism 2.0.’


GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Importance of Multilateralism in Today’s World
  2. Challenges in Reforming Multilateralism
  3. What can G-20 and India do?
  4. About G20

Importance of Multilateralism in Today’s World

  • Multilateral cooperation is currently facing multiple crises.
    • The first crisis is a lack of trust due to persistent deadlocks.
    • The second crisis is a utility crisis, where powerful member-states think it is no longer useful for them.
  • Great-power tensions, de-globalisation, populist nationalism, the pandemic, and climate emergencies have further added to the hardships.
  • This impasse has led to states seeking other arenas, including bilateral, plurilateral, and minilateral groupings, which have contributed to further polarisation of global politics.
  • However, cooperation and multilateral reform are essential in today’s world.
  • Most challenges that nations face today are global in nature and require global solutions.
  • Pressing global issues such as conflicts, climate change, migration, macroeconomic instability, and cybersecurity can only be solved collectively.
  • Disruptions such as the COVID-19 pandemic have reversed the social and economic progress that the global society made in the past couple of decades.

Challenges in Reforming Multilateralism

  • Reforming multilateralism is challenging due to its entrenched position in global power politics.
  • Any action to reform multilateral institutions and frameworks can be perceived as seeking changes in the current distribution of power, which may have adverse implications if not done cautiously.
  • Status quo powers may see multilateral reforms as a zero-sum game, making decisions about reform difficult.
  • In the context of the Bretton Woods system, the U.S. and Europe believed reform would reduce their influence and dominance.
  • Multilateralism appears at odds with the realities of the emerging multiplex global order, which is more multipolar and multi-centred.
  • The emerging order facilitates the formation of new clubs, concerts, and coalitions of like-minded countries, making reform of older institutions and frameworks more challenging.

What can G-20 and India do?

Setting the Narrative for Multilateral Reform
  • G-20 needs to focus on setting the narrative of multilateral reform by constituting an engagement group that can bring the issue to the forefront of global discourse.
  • India should urge the upcoming chairs of the G-20 grouping, Brazil and South Africa, to place multilateral reforms as their presidential priorities.
  • G-20 should continue encouraging minilateral groupings and transform them into multi-stakeholder partnerships, particularly in areas related to the governance of the global commons.
Making G-20 More Inclusive and Efficient
  • To overcome the trust, legitimacy, and utility crises of multilateralism, G-20 needs to be more inclusive without sacrificing efficiency.
  • Including the African Union as a permanent member and the UN Secretary-General and General Assembly President as permanent invitees would enhance its legitimacy.
Solving Pressing Global Issues
  • G-20 should put all its efforts into solving one or two pressing global issues and showcase it as the model of new multilateralism.
  • Food, fuel, and fertilizer security can be one such issue that falls under the ‘low politics’ of world politics, making cooperation more achievable and a global cause of concern that can trigger stagflation and recession across the globe.
  • This issue also aligns with the overall priorities of India within and beyond the G-20.

About G20

  • The G20 is an informal group of 19 countries and the European Union, with representatives of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
  • The G20 membership comprises a mix of the world’s largest advanced and emerging economies, representing about two-thirds of the world’s population, 85% of global gross domestic product, 80% of global investment, over 75% of global trade and roughly half the world’s land area.
  • The members of the G20 are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union.
  • Spain as a permanent, non-member invitee, also attends leader summits.

Structure and functioning of G20

  • The G20 Presidency rotates annually according to a system that ensures a regional balance over time.
  • For the selection of presidency, the 19 countries are divided into 5 groups, each having no more than 4 countries. The presidency rotates between each group.
  • Every year the G20 selects a country from another group to be president.
  • India is in Group 2 which also has Russia, South Africa and Turkey.
  • The G20 does not have a permanent secretariat or Headquarters.
  • The work of G20 is divided into two tracks:
    • The Finance track comprises all meetings with G20 finance ministers and central bank governors and their deputies. Meeting several times throughout the year they focus on monetary and fiscal issues, financial regulations, etc.
    • The Sherpa track focuses on broader issues such as political engagement, anti-corruption, development, energy, etc.
  • Since 2008, the group convenes at least once a year, with the summits involving each member’s head of government.

-Source: The Hindu

November 2023