The Global Economic Governance (GEG) Africa programme is a policy research and stakeholder engagement programme to strengthen the influence of pro-poor African coalitions at global economic governance fora.


The SAIIA G-20 and Africa Monitor resources below assess how well G-20 decision-makers have served African interests. Use the filtering options to the right to select the topics or the summits which are of interest to you. Update: in advance of the 2014 Brisbane Summit, inputs from the 2013 St Petersburg summit have been added.

Explaining the G20


In 1999, in the wake of the Asian financial crisis in 1997-1998, the leading members in the G7 invited the ministers of finance from a select group of countries, including the G7 countries, and the European Union, to meet. This resulted in the formation of the G20 Ministers of Finance in September 1999 [1].

In 2008, as part of the response to that year's global financial crisis, the G20 was elevated to the level of a summit of heads of government. The next year, at the Pittsburgh G20 summit, the participating states declared that the G20 was the "premier forum" for global economic governance [2]. This announcement, while its practical implications are not yet clear, amounted to a public acknowledgment that the G7 was no longer capable of managing the global economy on its own and needed to share this responsibility with a broader group of countries. However, it is important to note that the G7 still continues to meet and to play a role in the governance of the global economy.

The Two Tracks

The G20 refers to more than a grouping of countries. It is also a short-hand reference to a complex cluster of governance activities. The apex of this cluster is the annual summit of the leaders of the G20, which is the culminating event of an annual work programme consisting of two work streams.

The first, which is guided by ministers of finance and central bank governors, deals with a range of financial and economic issues [3]. These officials meet regularly to discuss global economic conditions and to coordinate their responses to these conditions. They are supported by seven working groups, each consisting of and co-chaired by officials from G20 states. The seven working groups deal with developing the framework for strong sustainable and balanced growth, financial regulation, financial inclusion, the international financial architecture, energy and commodities markets, energy and growth, disaster management and climate finance. The working groups, in addition to their specific mandates, follow up on the decisions and requests of the G20 leaders, promote cooperation between the participants in the G20 process on particular issues, and help shape the summit discussions and communiqué.

The second track is the Sherpa track [4]. This track, in which each leader is represented by an official, known as the leader's "sherpa", is responsible for the political aspects of the G20's work. Its workload is undertaken by working groups and it is supplemented, in some cases, by meetings of ministers other than ministers of finance. Currently, there are working groups for such issues as employment, agriculture and food security, energy, corruption, and development.

The Roles of the G20

These activities suggest that the G20 plays three critical global economic governance roles.

First, it is a crisis manager. In this capacity it has forged agreement on the actions that the participants, individually and collectively, must take in order to try and resolve the current financial crisis.

Second, the G20 is the orchestrator of global economic governance. It is the setting in which the major economies meet with the leading international institutions—the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO, the UN—to discuss the key economic challenges facing the international community and coordinate their responses to these challenges. The G20, therefore, enables the relevant policy makers and technical experts from the participating countries and international organizations to meet and seek common understandings and approaches on particular issues of global importance.

Third, the G20 is a communicator. It helps to promote international global awareness of the challenges facing the global community and the approach that the most powerful countries are considering for dealing with these challenges.

G20 Structure

There are four aspects of the G20 structure that should be noted.

First, the number of G20 participants, in fact, exceeds 20. They usually include a number of additional states that are invited by the G20 chair, who is the host state for that year's summit. Some of these states, such as Spain, are regularly invited in their own right and some are invited because of their position as chair of an important regional body, such as the African Union or the Association of South East Asian Nations. Africa’s representatives therefore comprise South Africa as G20 member, and two guests, the country which is Chairing the African Union in that year and a country representing the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). In addition, the regular participants include international organisations like the IMF, the World Bank, the regional development banks, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the Financial Stability Board (the FSB), the International Labor Organization (ILO),the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Developemtn (UNCTAD), the United Nations Development Program UNDP) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). These organisations can participate in both the summits and in those other G20 meetings that are most relevant to their work. Since the G20 does not have a permanent secretariat, the participating international organisations usually assume responsibility for preparing the background studies and policy proposals requested by the leaders of the G20. For example, the FSB and the IMF coordinate studies on financial regulatory issues. In addition, these organisations can be expected to work with their non-G20 member states to implement applicable recommendations of the G20. It is not clear what role, if any, they may play in informing the G20 about the views of their non-G20 member states.

Second, the G20 has begun a process of outreach to other stakeholders in the global economy. This process, which is managed by the chair of the G20, comprises engagement with groups representing business, labour, think tanks, civil society, and youth from the G20 countries, referred to by relevant acronyms e.g. B20 stands for Business 20. These meetings, which usually lead to reports that feed into the G20 processes, are an opportunity for the G20 to engage stakeholders. The involvement of these groups has grown. For example in the year leading up to the 2014 Summit, a series of meetings and forums were held, culminating in respective B20, C20, L20, and Y20 Summits and a T20 Conference [5].

Third, the G20 has initiated a peer review process, called the Mutual Assessment Process that is designed to ensure that the economic and financial policies of the G20 are coordinated and compatible. In this process, each of the states are expected to report on their macro-economic policies and to have them reviewed by their peers in the G20. The process is managed by the IMF.

Fourth, the G20 realises that reducing poverty is integral to the G20’s objectives of achieving strong, sustainable and balanced growth and ensuring a more robust and resilient global economy. It is an issue directly relevant to the group, as two thirds of the world’s poor live in G20 countries. A Working Group on Development, commonly referred to as the Development Working Group (DWG), was established at the June 2010 Seoul Summit, along with a 2010 Seoul Multi-Year Action Plan on Development. The DWG emphasises the role of economic growth in reducing poverty and opening up opportunities for the poor.  The G20 is trying to complement international efforts towards further progress on internationally agreed development goals and ensure that any future G20 development agenda is flexible enough to respond to the Post-2015 Development Agenda.  The most recent Summit, in late 2013 in St Petersburg, Russia, produced a Development Outlook as a successor to the Seoul Multi-Year Action Plan and took action on the 2012 Los Cabos Summit’s call to put in place an accountability process to monitor implementation of ongoing and future G20 development actions, by producing the St Petersburg Accountability Report on G20 Development Commitments.  The DWG will now produce a comprehensive accountability report every three years [6].

Informality and impermanency

Given its important role in global economic governance, it is striking that the G20 remains an informal grouping of states and international organisations. It is not based on a treaty and has no formal international legal personality. In addition, it has no permanent headquarters or secretariat.

As a result, the reports, communiqués, and documents that it issues have no formal international legal status. Thus, when G20 states make firm commitments in the communiqués and other G20 documents, they do not constitute obligations for which states can be held legally responsible if they fail to comply.

This does not however mean that non-compliance has no consequences for either the G20 states or for other stakeholders. First, in some cases, a G20 country's failure to comply with the G20's decisions can adversely affect its credibility, its relations with other G20 states, and its access to financing. In addition, G20 decisions can have, and in some cases are intended to have, an impact beyond the participants in the G20. For example, non-G20 states that fail to comply with G20 financial regulatory and transparency requirements can suffer adverse consequences in terms of their borrowing costs, the attractiveness of the country to foreign investors, and their relations with the states and international organisations that participate in the G20 [7]. Non-state actors in these countries, for example financial institutions, can suffer analogous adverse consequences. Thus, for these states, and the non-state actors in these states, the decisions and actions of global economic governance de facto have a compliance pull that is stronger than for the richer and more powerful states.

This differential impact on the various stakeholders in the global economy is exacerbated by the legal status of the current arrangements. It makes it difficult for adversely affected stakeholders to hold a key actor like the G20 accountable for its decisions and actions.

This situation of power without accountability is troubling and requires a response. One possible response is a framework for assessing the outputs of global economic governance decision making, as is outlined in this G20 Monitor.


  1. Finance ministers and central bank governors started to hold annual meetings after the inaugural meeting on December 15-16, 1999, in Berlin. See:
  2. G20, G20 Leaders Statement: Pittsburgh Summit (Sept. 24-25, 2009) (stating “we designated the G20 as the premier forum for our international economic cooperation.”) available at
  3. The Finance Track, G2012 Mexico,
  4. Sherpas’ Track, G2012 Mexico,
  5. G20 2014 Event Schedule,
  6. St Petersburg Development Outlook, and St Petersburg Accountability Report on G20 Development Commitments,
  7. See generally, Chris Brummer, Soft Law and the Global Financial System (2012).


Washington, 2008 - What is the Goal

The primary goal of this summit was crisis management. Nevertheless, the G20 leaders, in their statement, did pay some attention to longer term considerations. They expressed their interest in laying the foundation for a fair and sustainable global economy. They also proposed that families should be at the heart of recovery plans in all states, regardless of their level of wealth. They also expressed an intention to deal with the problems of poverty, disease, rule of law, and climate change.

These statements suggest that at least at a rhetorical level the G20 leaders were paying attention to the issues of concern to Africa. However, it is also important to note that the G20 leader's statements do not contain any explicit references to Africa.

Washington, 2008 - Respect for International Law

In the Washington DC summit communique, the leaders indicated their respect for national sovereignty. They stressed the importance of country ownership of national economic policy and of promoting cooperation between countries within a framework of agreed rules and regulations.

The leaders' expression of respect for national sovereignty in the midst of an economic crisis that had spilled over national borders and was impacting the whole world in part through global financial markets was significant. It suggested that the leaders were interested in protecting the policy space for all countries, including African countries.

Washington, 2008 - Good Administrative Practise

The G20 made a clear effort to promote participation in the international financial institutions like the IMF at this summit. The participating states committed themselves to supporting quota and voice reforms at the IMF. The expectation at the time was that this would lead to higher quotas for the leading emerging markets, and an additional African seat on the Board of Executive Directors of the IMF. The G20 also sought to increase participation by promoting greater involvement of the Board of Governors in providing strategic guidance to the IMF. There was also some expectation that these reforms would promote greater accountability of the IMF staff and management to its member states. Finally, in regard to participation, the G20 sought to expand the membership in the Financial Stability Forum.

The only other aspect of good administrative practice addressed at this summit was transparency. The G20 sought to promote transparency at the World Bank and the IMF by committing to more open, transparent, and merit-based processes for the selection of the heads and senior management of these organisations.

Washington, 2008 - Comprehensive Coverage

The G20 leaders discussed inclusion in their summit documents. First, they acknowledged that the financial crisis would have a disproportionate impact on the vulnerable in the poorest countries and that they had a responsibility to mitigate the social impact of the crisis. They promised to take specific actions to mitigate these impacts, including providing US$50 billion to social protection and to safeguard development in low income countries, and taking actions to restore developing country access to credit. Second, they acknowledged that while most of the attention of global financial regulatory bodies would be on matters of interest to rich countries, they must try and avoid regulatory reforms that have adverse impacts on other countries.

It is noteworthy that while the G20 acknowledged that they need to take account of the impact of the financial crisis on low income countries and poor and vulnerable communities, they make no formal effort to communicate with these stakeholders about their efforts to deal with their needs for managing the crisis.

Washington, 2008 - Co-ordinated Specialisation

At this summit, the G20 made a number of statements regarding institutional coordination. First, they called for strengthened collaboration between the World Bank and the IMF. In this regard, they promised to support the World Bank's efforts to support low income countries and to provide additional resources to the World Bank and the other multilateral development banks. They also stated that they would increase, through gold sales, the resources that the IMF has for low income countries. Second, they called on the UN and other relevant international organisations to monitor the impact of the financial crisis on the poor and most vulnerable. Third, they called on international organisations to help developing countries to develop regulations that are consistent with international standards. The G20 also asked the Financial Action Task Force to continue fighting money laundering and terrorist financing, and the Financial Stability Forum (FSF) and the IMF to collaborate on providing early warning on macro-economic and financial risk. Finally, the G20 promised to provide support to the Stolen Assets Recovery (StAR) programme of the World Bank. This programme is of particular relevance to Africa.

London, 2009 - What is the Goal

While the primary focus of this summit was also on crisis management, the participants intimated that their longer term objective is a more inclusive economic system. For example, the leaders stated that they agreed on the desirability of a new global consensus on values and principles to promote sustainable economic recovery and to restore world economic growth on a fair, green, and sustainable basis. They also acknowledged that they had a responsibility to mitigate the social impact of the crisis and to this end pledged US$50 billion for crisis support for low income countries. The pledged funds would be used for social protection, and to boost trade and restore development, including food security. The communique also indicated that the G20 would protect their development assistance budgets and efforts to reach the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs).

The statement from the leaders in London indicates that they were not unaware of the concerns and interests of low income countries in general and were interested in mitigating the impact of the crisis on these countries. This suggests that the G20 at this time had an implicit goal of promoting a more inclusive global economic system.

London, 2009 - Respect for International Law

The London summit documents contain only two references to applicable international legal principles. The first is that the communique seeks to convey respect for the principle of good faith. The communique's references to the leaders' determination to meet their development assistance commitments, including those made to Africa at the Gleneagles G7 summit, are noteworthy demonstrations of respect for the principle of good faith. The same is true of their statement that the G20 states would continue their efforts to ensure that the international community achieved the MDGs. These references were particularly pertinent at the time because there was a concern, particularly in Africa, that the G7 countries would use the crisis as an excuse to avoid their international development cooperation commitments. Nevertheless, a certain degree of caution about the extent of the G20's determination was warranted because the leaders' statements were not linked to any timetables or to any concrete actions.

The second is that the communique shows some attention to the principle of non-discrimination by recognising that the G20 states have some responsibility to mitigate the social impacts of the crisis. This addresses the principle of non-discrimination, which requires paying particular attention to the differential impact that the crisis can have on differently situated international actors, including poor states and poor people.

London, 2009 - Good Administrative Practise

The G20 re-iterated their interest in promoting participation in global economic governance. They called for greater voice and representation for low income and emerging economies in the IMF and the World Bank. They promised that they would implement these reforms at the World Bank by Spring 2010. They also repeated their calls for expanding membership in the Financial Stability Board, the successor to the Financial Stability Forum. The leaders also confirmed their support for selecting the heads and senior management of the IFIs through open, transparent, and merit-based processes. Finally, they repeated their intention to enhance the role of the Board of Governors of the IMF in providing strategic guidance the IMF.

The G20 also expressed general support for improved administrative practices in global economic governance. They called for reform of the mandates, the scope and the governance of the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) so that they would be more reflective of changes in the global economy and more responsive to challenges that may arise in connection with globalisation.


London, 2009 - Comprehensive Coverage

The focus of the London summit was on macro-economic policy and financial regulatory reforms that were clearly of most direct relevance to the rich countries. For example, the focus of the financial regulatory discussions was on such topics as regulation of credit rating agencies, shadow banking and globally systemically important financial institutions. While these issues are all important and indirectly affect all stakeholders in the global economic system, they are of less direct relevance to the financial and developmental challenges facing Africa.

One important issue that the leaders addressed that is of relevance to Africa is international standards on tax transparency. Action on this issue could mitigate the adverse impact on African countries of such issues as transfer pricing, and capital flight.

It should also be noted that the G20 leaders also made an effort to communicate directly with African stakeholders about the crisis. Thus, the chair of NEPAD was invited to attend the summit, together with other non-African regional organisations and international organisations.

London, 2009 - Co-ordinated Specialisation

At this summit, the G20 again called for greater cooperation and coordination between the IFIs in order to increase their effectiveness and for more financing for the IMF and the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs). The leaders also reiterated their request to the UN and other international organisations to monitor the impact of the crisis on the poor and most vulnerable.

Pittsburgh, 2009 - What is the Goal

Although the primary focus of this summit was on crisis management, the G20 leaders stated that their goal was to launch a framework for 'strong, sustainable and balanced growth' and to reform the global architecture and regulatory arrangements to support this framework. While the leaders did not, define the elements of this framework, they expressed an intention to take steps to increase access to food, fuel, and finance among the world's poorest. This suggests that the G20 continued to have an implicit goal of promoting a more inclusive global economic system.

Pittsburgh, 2009 - Respect for International Law

The Pittsburgh summit documents contain two indications of respect for applicable international law. First, they demonstrate respect for national sovereignty by stipulating that the responsibility for implementing global financial regulatory standards rests with national regulatory authorities. Second, they show respect for the principle of good faith in their discussion of international trade. In this regard, the G20 leaders commit themselves and their countries to reject protectionism in their trade relations, thereby indicating their intention to live up to the commitments that they have made in the agreements negotiated under the auspices of the World Trade Organization.

Pittsburgh, 2009 - Good Administrative Practise

The G20 leaders again expressed their interest in promoting participation in the key institutions of global economic governance. They committed themselves to supporting a shift in the IMF votes and quotas to achieve more appropriate representation of the dynamic emerging markets and developing countries. They acknowledged that this shift would entail some loss of votes and quotas by over-represented countries. Similarly, the G20 leaders called for a more equitable distribution of voting power in the World Bank. They also promised to protect the representation of the poorest countries in the IMF through a change in the basic votes, that is the standard allocation of 250 votes that all members of the IMF get regardless of their IMF quota.

The G20 members also showed some general concern with improving the administrative performance of the institutions of global economic governance. They committed themselves to pursuing governance and operational reforms that enhance the effectiveness, relevance, and legitimacy of the World Bank.

Pittsburgh, 2009 - Comprehensive Coverage

The Pittsburgh summit addressed a number of dimensions of the inclusion issue. First, the leaders committed to work together to ensure that their fiscal, monetary, trade and structural policies are collectively consistent with sustainable and balanced growth. Second, they pledged to improve access to food, financing, and fuel for the poor and to promote deployment of clean affordable energy to the developing world. Third, they reaffirmed their commitment to the MDGs and their pledges on official development assistance, including those made to Africa at Gleneagles.

The G20's efforts to communicate with Africa were enhanced during this summit by inviting both the chair of NEPAD and the African Union to attend the summit.

Pittsburgh, 2009 - Co-ordinated Specialisation

The G20 began to pay closer attention at this summit to the need to promote coordination between the various actors in global economic governance.

First, they designated the G20 as the premier forum for international economic cooperation. Second the leaders tasked their finance ministers to work with the IMF and the FSB, the successor to the FSF, to develop cooperative and coordinated exit strategies from the global financial crisis. Third, they asked the IMF to assist their Ministers of Finance and Central Bank governors in the mutual assessment programme, the G20 peer review programme developed at this summit. Fourth, they asked the World Bank to advise them on progress in promoting development and poverty reduction as part of global rebalancing and to work with donors and organisations to develop a multilateral trust fund to scale up agricultural assistance to developing countries. They also requested the World Bank to play a leading role in dealing with problems that require globally coordinated actions such as climate change and food security. Fifth, they asked the IMF to advise them and the International Monetary and Financial Committee on global economic developments and the risks to growth. Sixth, they asked the International Energy Agency, OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) and IOSCO (International Organization of Securities Commissions) to take various actions to improve the transparency of energy markets. Seventh, they urged the WB, AfDB, FAO and WFP to work with their relevant stakeholders to coordinate efforts to deal with food insecurity. Eighth, they requested the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) and IFC to launch, together with other interested international organisations and stakeholders, a G20 financial inclusion expert group. Finally, they repeated their intention to make sure the IMF and the World Bank and the MDBs had adequate resources to meet their expanding activities.

Toronto, 2010 - What is the Goal

While the official documents issued at the Toronto summit do not make any new statements relating to the goal of the G20, they do demonstrate support for inclusion. For example, the leaders confirm that they are committed to narrowing the development gap and that this involves taking the impact of their policy actions on low-income countries into account. In this regard, the leaders acknowledge the importance of working with the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to make them active participants in and beneficiaries of the global economic system.

Toronto, 2010 - Respect for International Law

The Toronto summit contains only two references to international legal principles. First, it indicated respect for the principle of good faith when it calls on the G20 states to sign and ratify and comply with the applicable anti-corruption treaties. Second, the G20 leaders paid attention to the principle of environmental responsibility by calling on members to participate in and bring to a successful conclusion the climate change negotiations and in doing so to respect the principle of special and differential responsibilities. Both of these references have obvious relevance to African countries.

Toronto, 2010 - Good Administrative Practise

The G20 paid less attention to administrative practices at this summit compared to previous summits. Nevertheless, they repeated their interest in quota reform in the IMF and called for this reform to be completed by the Seoul 2011 summit. They also repeated their commitment to open, transparent, and merit-based selection processes for the leadership of the IFIs.

Toronto, 2010 - Comprehensive Coverage

The Toronto summit declarations contain a number of statements relevant to the issue of inclusion. First, the leaders acknowledged that they need to consider the impact of their policies on low income countries and that it is important for the G20 to help these countries become active participants in and beneficiaries of the global economic system. In this regard, they specifically mention, the importance of the MDGs and aid-for-trade. Second, for the first time at the G20 summit level, the leaders called for full implementation of the L'Aquila initiative on global food security.

The G20's efforts to communicate with Africa continued at this summit to which both the chair of NEPAD and the African Union were invited.

Toronto, 2010 - Co-ordinated Specialisation

At this summit, the G20 leaders continued their practice of assigning specific tasks to specific international institutional actors in global economic governance. They tasked the FSB, in consultation with the IMF, to report to their Ministers of Finance and Central Bank Governors on improving supervision and regulation in the financial sector. They promised to strengthen their commitment to the IMF's and World Bank's Financial Sector Assessment Programmes and pledged to provide robust support to the proposed FSB peer review process. They also committed themselves to strengthen the credibility, legitimacy and effectiveness of the IFIs so that they could be stronger partners of the G20. In this regard, they again promised to provide adequate resources to the MDBs, including International Development Association (IDA) and the African Development Fund (ADF). In addition to re-committing themselves to completing the Doha Round, the G20 leaders asked the World Bank and the other MDBs to step up their support for trade facilitation. The G20 leaders also agreed to establish a G20 development working group to develop a development agenda and multi-year action plan for the G20.

Seoul, 2010 - What is the Goal

This summit is the first in which the G20 paid significant explicit attention to the issue of development, which necessitated them also paying more attention to the implications for the overall goal of inclusion. For example, in their communique, the leaders expressed an intention to make sure that the perspectives of the emerging markets were better reflected in the financial regulatory reform efforts that were then underway. In addition, both in their communique and in the leaders' declaration, they recognized the importance of addressing the concerns of the most vulnerable by providing social protection and by placing the creation of jobs and decent work at the heart of the recovery. This summit also gave birth to the Seoul Development Consensus for Shared Growth, in which the leaders stated that they would work in partnership with developing countries and low income countries to help them build their capacities to maximize their growth and development potential and to make significant differences in people's lives.

The statements in their communique suggest that the G20 leaders are concerned about the issue of inclusion both at a global governance level and at a national level.

Seoul, 2010 - Respect for International Law

At the Seoul summit, the leaders paid attention to two applicable international legal principles. First, they showed their concern for national sovereignty when they stressed that development cooperation must be a partnership that allows for national ownership of development related policies, particularly in the recipient countries. Second, they showed their respect for the principle of non-discrimination when they suggested they would pay particular attention to the needs of the weak and vulnerable. In this connection, they specifically acknowledged an obligation to mitigate the social impact of the crisis and to ensure that the global economy offered social protection of the weak and vulnerable. They also suggested that there was an obligation to provide decent work.

Seoul, 2010 - Good Administrative Practise

This summit paid limited attention to administrative practices. The communique merely mentions the leaders intention to pursue all outstanding governance reforms efforts at the World Bank and the IMF.

Seoul, 2010 - Comprehensive Coverage

At this summit, the leaders adopted a multi-year action plan on development that incorporated a number of issues relevant to inclusion. First, the leaders promise to strengthen global financial safety nets so that they can help countries cope with financial volatility. Second, the leaders commit to develop regulations and undertake initiatives to address such issues as commodity derivative markets, fossil fuel subsidies, safeguard the marine environment, and deal with climate change. They also promise to foster job creation, increase the potential for growth. In this regard, they also promise to adopt policies that will improve the prospects for inclusive, sustainable and resilient growth. Fourth, the G20 leaders state that they will engage with developing countries, particularly low income countries as equal partners, in regard to development cooperation. They stress that in doing so they will respect national ownership of development policies, noting that the most important determinant of successful development is a country's own development policy. In order to support this insight they promise to ensure that their actions foster strong, responsible, accountable and transparent development partnerships between G20 and low income countries. Fifth, the leaders commit to encouraging ways to stimulate and leverage private capital flows to developing countries and to overcoming obstacles to investment in infrastructure in developing countries. Sixth, they discuss the importance of transparent procurement policies in regard to development and anti-corruption efforts. Seventh, they promise to assess how best to integrate environmental safeguards into infrastructure development in an effective and cost-efficient way. Eighth, they stress the importance of social protection and remittances and access to financial services in providing income security to poor communities in developing countries. Ninth, they promise to help developing countries tax MNEs (multinational enterprises) through effective transfer pricing as part of their resource mobilisation efforts. Finally, the commit to helping developing countries mitigate the risks to development, including volatility in food markets and exclusion from financial services.

It should be noted that none of these actions are explicitly intended to benefit African countries. Nevertheless, they are all relevant to Africa, and, if implemented would improve African countries' ability to participate in and benefit from the global economy.

The G20's efforts to communicate with Africa continued at this summit to which both the chair of NEPAD and the African Union were invited.

Seoul, 2010 - Co-ordinated Specialisation

The G20, at this summit, expressed their support for a number of collaborative efforts at either the global or regional level. First, they encouraged the work being done by the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion and the SME Finance Framework to improve access to financing for small and medium size businesses and poor people. These initiatives will be coordinated with the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) initiative on this issue. Second, the G20 committed themselves to full and timely implementation of the aid effectiveness agenda being negotiated at Busan and to working with international organisations like the World Bank to tackle global and regional systemic issues where the G20 can play a useful catalytic role. In this regard, the G20 leaders anticipated that there would be space for collective and coordinated actions through South-South and triangular cooperation. Third, the G20 also encouraged international organisations like the UN, the World Bank, OECD, and the regional development banks to cooperate on knowledge sharing relating to growth and development. Fourth, the G20 proposed working with regional organizations and developing countries to support initiatives like the Infrastructure Project Preparation Facility, NEPAD, and the African Water Facility. Fifth, the G20 delegated to the ILO, UNDP, MDBs and relevant international organisation the task of identifying lessons that can be learned about implementation of social protection mechanisms in developing countries and low income countries. Sixth, they proposed that agricultural development be supported in conjunction with the Global Agricultural and Food Security Programme and other bilateral and multilateral channels. In this regard they also endorsed the Rome Principles dealing with sustainable agriculture. Seventh, the ILO, World Bank, OECD and UNESCO were assigned responsibility for developing comparable and practical indicators of skills for employment and productivity in developing countries and for skills development initiatives.

Cannes, 2011 - What is the Goal

In their communique, the G20 leaders specifically committed themselves to inclusive and resilient growth, although they did not provide a clear definition for this concept. Nevertheless, the report of the G20 development working group states that the participants would facilitate and work together to eradicate poverty in their development cooperation work. They also expressed a strong commitment to promote African regional integration. Finally, in their Action Plan on Growth and Jobs, the leaders stated that their ultimate goal is to provide more and better jobs for their citizens, to promote social inclusion in all countries and to foster development and poverty reduction in less developed countries.

This summit was the first to specifically address some of the issues that arise from the G20's implicit goal of inclusion, albeit in the G20's Development Working Group report rather than in the leaders' communique. The statements addressing these issues remain relatively general and are not linked to any specific actions. Nevertheless, they are helpful to African countries in giving some guidance on the ultimate goals of the G20 and thus some basis on which to assess future G20 statements and actions.

Cannes, 2011 - Respect for International Law

The Cannes summit, while only dealing with two applicable international legal principles, is the first to contain specific references to international legal documents. The G20 leaders, again, showed their concern with national sovereignty by stating that the responsibilities of the various G20 countries in designing and implementing international economic rebalancing policies must take into account national circumstances. The leaders also demonstrated a concern for the principle of non-discrimination and its requirement to treat differently situated actors differently. In particular, they re-iterated their commitment to providing social protection and decent work, thereby recognizing the need to give special attention to the weak and the vulnerable. However, this time they added that they would encourage the ILO to promote the ratification and implementation of the 8 ILO Conventions that together seek to ensure compliance with the fundamental principles applicable to workers and the right to work.

Cannes, 2011 - Good Administrative Practise

This summit was the first to deal explicitly in the summit communique with the management of the G20 itself. The leaders agreed to formalize the troika process, pursuant to which the past, current, and future chairs of the G20 would constitute a group to provide leadership for the work of the G20 each year. They also agreed that after 2015, the annual presidencies of the G20 will be chosen from a rotation of regional groupings. The first chair would be chosen from a G20 Asian group consisting of China, Indonesia, Japan, and Republic of Korea.

Cannes, 2011 - Comprehensive Coverage

The G20 made a number of statements relevant to inclusion at this summit. First, they noted that the financial transactions tax initiative could be used for a variety of purposes including development financing. Second, they agreed to a number of measures relating to food security, an issue of great relevance to Africa. These measures include acting within the framework of the Action Plan on Food Price Volatility and Agriculture; launching the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS); developing risk management and humanitarian emergency tools that can improve food security; facilitating food purchasing by the World Food Programme; and enhancing monitoring of the implementation of commitments made in the L'Aquila Food Security Initiative. Third, they proposed mainstreaming development experiences through knowledge sharing platforms and networks. Fourth, they expressed an intention to increase efforts to develop the capacity of different stakeholders in the value chain to attract investments that will enhance sustainable development and job creation. Fifth, they planned to recommend actions to overcome the obstacles to infrastructure financing and construction in low income countries, with a particular emphasis on Sub-saharan African countries. In this regard, they note the importance of an enabling environment for both public and private investment in infrastructure including regional infrastructure in low income countries, including Sub-saharan African countries. Sixth, the leaders recommend technical assistance to strengthen capacities in African countries and regional economic communities to foster trade—including trade facilitation, the African Union's Minimum Integration Plan and the Aid for Trade for Africa Programme of the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs).

The G20's efforts to communicate with Africa continued at this summit to which both the chair of NEPAD and the African Union were invited.

Cannes, 2011 - Co-ordinated Specialisation

At this summit, the G20 leaders, once again, encouraged a number of collaborative efforts. First, they called for the IMF and regional financial arrangements to collaborate in promoting financial integration, seeing this as a useful means of promoting crisis prevention. Second, the FSB was assigned responsibility for improving the capacity to coordinate and monitor the financial regulatory agenda. In this regard the G20 supported the efforts to reform the FSB so as to clarify its legal status, mandate and governance. Third, the G20 urged the WTO to work with the OECD and UNCTAD to address the challenges of protectionism. Fourth, they welcomed the creation of a Rapid Response Forum to improve the international community's capacity to coordinate policies and responses in times of market crises relating to food. In dealing with food security, the G20 expressed support for the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) as a vehicle to link small scale farmers to markets. The G20 also confirmed their support for the World Food Programme and urged reform of the FAO. Fifth, the G20 called on the UN, WTO, ILO, World Bank, IMF and OECD to promote dialogue on the social impact of economic policies and to intensify coordination in this regard. Sixth, the G20 welcomed the initiative of the African Union and the African Development Bank to jointly review progress at their annual meetings relating to their efforts to promote sustainable development and engagements with the private sector and civil society. Seventh, the G20, as part of its interest in promoting domestic resource mobilisation, urged the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes to offer a platform to international organisations to coordinate technical assistance in this area. Eighth, the G20 welcomed the MDB Infrastructure Action Plan.

Los Cabos, 2012 - What is the Goal

While the G20 leaders did not make any statements about their goals for the G20 in their communique, they did discuss issues related to the implicit goal of inclusion in the G20 Labour and Employment Ministers Conclusions and in the report of the G20 Development Working Group. The first of these two documents expresses the G20's concern about employment, social protection, social dialogue and full respect for the fundamental principles and rights at work. The report of the Development Working Group explicitly acknowledges the need to promote inclusive green growth that takes into account the results of the Rio+20 meeting and of other relevant forums.

This summit suggests two things. First it suggests that the G20 is beginning to articulate a vision of what its implicit goal of inclusion means. The outputs of the summit indicate that, at least for the participants in this summit, "inclusion" incorporates decent work and attention to environmental sustainability. It is also important to note in this regard that the goal is being articulated at a general and rather abstract level. Second, however, it also suggests that the leaders are delegating responsibility for articulating this vision to their ministers and representatives in the sub-committees of the G20. This suggests that the G20 leaders may not endorse the views of inclusion expressed in other parts of the G20 process. This, in turn, has uncertain implications in regard to whether African countries can rely on the goal being articulated by the G20. These two considerations pose substantial challenges in regard to holding the G20 states to account for the way in which they seek to implement this vision.

Los Cabos, 2012 - Respect for International Law

The Los Cabos summit contains the most references to international law. It demonstrates the G20 leaders commitment to the principle of non-discrimination by emphasising the relevance of fighting discrimination and of respecting labour rights to economic development and the global economy. In this regard, they called on all states to show full respect for the fundamental principles and rights at work spelled out in the ILO declaration of 1998 and in the core labour conventions. The leaders showed their commitment to environmental responsibility by recognizing the importance of environmental safeguards to sustainable infrastructure projects. They also stressed the importance of promoting inclusive green growth that is based on the principles of the Rio+ 20 meeting.

Los Cabos, 2012 - Good Administrative Practise

The summit documents do not contain any explicit references to the administrative practices and procedures of the G20 or the other institutional arrangements in global economic governance. The only exception is a reference to formalising the legal status of the Financial Stability Board.

Los Cabos, 2012 - Comprehensive Coverage

The agenda of the Los Cabos summit was broad and covered a range of issues that have implications for Africa. However, only certain of the items on the agenda directly relate to the challenge of inclusion. First, the G20 committed to minimising the spillovers onto other countries of policies implemented for domestic purposes. Second, they acknowledged that they should explore the potential for green growth as a means to foster inclusive growth, job creation and sustainable use of natural resources. The G20 noted that green growth should contribute to poverty eradication and sustainable development. Third, the G20 agreed to promote policies that integrate gender perspectives in policies and programmes relating to employment and to fight discrimination. Fifth, the G20 suggest that more attention should be paid to helping workers transition from the informal to the formal sector, to promoting job creation and work experience through apprenticeships, internships, on-the-job training schemes and to such issues as labour mobility in regard to job training, and to addressing issues such as rural-urban transition. The G20 labour ministers also noted the need to promote basic and secondary education. They also pointed out that conditional cash transfers can be effective poverty alleviation instruments. Sixth, the G20 called for efforts to promote technology transfers and national policies dealing with food security that, inter alia, benefit small scale farmers. In this regard, they note the relevance of structural poverty, scarce resources, nutritional status, gender inequality, and access to food. Seventh, the G20 also agreed to support platforms for knowledge sharing dealing with food security, growth with resilience, human resource development, innovative financing, and creating an enabling environment for inclusive green growth. Eighth, the G20 noted that there is work being done in the international standard setting bodies relating to financial inclusion and the funding of small and medium enterprises. In this regard, they noted the relevance of the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion and the G20 Financial Inclusion Action Plan and the work being done to create a G20 Basic Set of Financial Inclusion Indicators. Ninth, the G20 will engage with the private sector to better understand the constraints it faces in financing infrastructure. Tenth, there is an acknowledgement that transfer pricing remains a challenge for developing countries. Eleventh, the development working group proposes to explore the linkages between its different work streams with the goal of identifying synergies between them and of developing a more holistic approach to development cooperation with particular emphasis on food security, infrastructure and inclusive green growth. Twelfth, the development working group reiterated the importance of incorporating social and environmental costs and benefits into economic decision-making, noting that this is particularly relevant to inclusive green growth. Thirteenth, the development working group noted the importance of improving international cooperation so that countries can pursue inclusive green growth in a non-prescriptive, non-conditional way and in terms of accessing financing on a voluntary basis. The group also listed factors that it thought were central to inclusive green growth, including sustainable consumption and production patterns, developing sustainable infrastructure including mass transit, linkages between energy, food security and water, and incorporating the social dimensions of health, education, human resource development, social protection, decent jobs, and sustainability perspectives into business decision making. The development working group stressed that these issues should be addressed with attention to country needs and circumstances.

Los Cabos, 2012 - Co-ordinated Specialisation

The G20 encouraged a number of collaborative efforts at this summit. First, the G20 welcomed the FSB's work with the IMF and World Bank to identify the unintended impacts of regulatory reform on emerging market and developing countries. Second, the G20 agricultural ministers expressed their support of such risk management initiatives as the Platform for Agricultural Risk Management, Global Index Insurance Facility, Weather Risk Management Facility, R4 Rural Resilience Initiative and the Weather Information for All. They also called for continued collaboration with the UN Committee on World Food Security and other relevant international organisational initiatives like the Global Agricultural and Food Security Programme and the African Agricultural Fund. They encouraged the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to establish a pilot project for Emergency Humanitarian Food Reserves for the Sahel crisis. They also expressed support for a number of other initiatives including the Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment and called for pilot projects to field test these principles; the Voluntary Guidelines on Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries, and Forests in the Context of National Food Security; and the 6th World Water Forum's work on water and food security. Third, the G20 reiterated its support for consulting with international organisations with an employment and social mandate about assessing the social impact of economic policies, as advocated by these international organisations. They requested the ILO, OECD and other relevant international organisations to work with national organisations to better understand the situation of young people in G20 countries. Fourth, in order to promote more effective management of R&D activities they urged information sharing efforts between FAO, CGIAR, Biodiversity International, the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and Equitable Sharing Benefits Arising for Utilisation of Convention on Biodiversity, Global Rice Science Partnership and the Coalition for African Rice Development. Fifth, the G20 welcomed the coordination platform launched by the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes that, at the request of the G20, facilitates technical assistance to developing countries and the pilot projects in Ghana and Kenya that are being supported by the World Bank and the UK. Sixth, the G20 welcomed the initiative of the AfDB, OECD, UN and World Bank to develop a tool-kit on inclusive green growth. Seventh, the G20 reiterated their determination to continue to serve as the coordination forum for international economic cooperation in the development area and, in this regard, reaffirmed their commitment to the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation established in Busan. Eight, the development working group stated that multilateral cooperation in regard to infrastructure and inclusive green growth was a priority for the G20. Ninth, they welcomed the work of the ILO, World Bank and UNCP on social protection, particularly as it relates to low income countries. Tenth, the G20 requested the OECD and the WTO to continue monitoring aid for trade flows and took note of their work on the implications of global value chains for trade. Eleventh, the G20 reaffirmed their commitment to working with a range of international organisations. They stated that they would work with the MDBs on joint action plans on water, food and agriculture; with humanitarian agencies on a risk hedging strategy for humanitarian disasters; with NEPAD and other international organizations on a fertilizer initiative; and with the MDBS on the action plan on infrastructure and with the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa endorsed by the African Union. In regard to the later, the G20 stated that they looked forward to learning the results of the review of various infrastructure related initiatives relevant to Africa, namely, the Project Preparation Facility, the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa, the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative and the Sokoni Africa Infrastructure Initiative. They also expressed interest in the global infrastructure benchmark initiative. Twelfth, they encouraged the African Development Bank's efforts to enhance trade finance availability in Africa and its work to develop a trade finance facility. Finally, they welcome the efforts of the African Union and NEPAD on risk management in regard to the CAADP national and regional investment plans.

Overview, 2008-2013 - What is the Goal

As the acute phase of the financial crisis passed, the G20 leaders were able to begin paying attention to the reforms needed to avoid future crisis and to what the goals of building a post-recovery economic system should be. In this regard, the G20 leaders have begun, at least implicitly, to articulate a goal for global economic governance. This goal, based on the official outputs of the seven summits, is to build a more inclusive and sustainable global economy. While they have not provided much detail on their understanding of this goal, they have provided some detail. Namely, they have said that it incorporates decent work, social protection, social dialogue, environmental concerns and efforts to eradicate poverty. While it would be desirable to have more details on this vision, the goal being developed for the G20, at this stage, seems compatible with the concerns and interests of African countries. The goal, although still quite general as a basis for assessing the efforts of the G20 to attain this goal and for holding the G20 leaders to account, is becoming more specific. The 2013 St Petersburg Development Outlook and a growing focus on employment are evidence that inclusivity is gaining ground in the agenda. The members appear aware that government revenues must be bolstered to allow for spending on growth and development. The emphasis on taxation reform is testimony to this. The need for concrete measures and commitments so as to make measureable progress is also an emerging focus, both in terms of development and growth related agenda items.

Overview, 2008-2013 - Respect for International Law

It is clear that the few applicable international legal principles have only played a limited, and largely implicit, role in the work of the G20. The most prominent principle has been respect for national sovereignty. This is important for Africa because it helps African countries preserve some policy space that can be used to promote policies that are suitable for specific country conditions.

The principle of non-discrimination has also played a role in G20 thinking, particularly as it relates to treating differently situated parties differently. This has manifested itself in part through the G20's statements on financial inclusion, food security and on the importance of providing protection for poor and vulnerable states and people. Once again, this is relevant for the many African countries which are part of the group of low income countries and to the poor citizens of all African countries. It is also a salutary reminder to all governments, including African governments, of the importance of taking the social impacts of their policies into account in their national and international policy making.

The principle has secondly manifested itself in regard to the call to G20 states to promote decent work and to show full respect for the rights at work as set out in the 1998 ILO Declaration and in the core ILO worker rights conventions. This issue is of relevance to South Africa, which has adopted some of the ILO conventions[1] and in which there is a lively debate about the meaning of decent work. It also has relevance to African countries which, like South Africa, are dealing with the challenge of unemployment. The emphasis on employment has increased whilst remaining within this paradigm.

Third, the G20 have paid some attention to the principle of good faith. The G20's attention to good faith has also been applied to the question of compliance with international treaty obligations relating to corruption, protectionism in international trade, other trade agreements, labour rights, and environmental protection. It should be noted that while the empirical record might suggest less than full respect for this principle, the leaders' statements appear to have two salutary effects. They do appear to constrain their ability to evade their freely assumed obligations. For example, while many if not all of the G20 countries adopted protectionist measures in the wake of the financial crisis, to a substantial degree they made an effort to adopt measures that were consistent with the provisions of the various WTO agreements to which they are all signatories. In addition, the leaders' statements provide a basis on which other stakeholders can seek to hold them to account should they fail to comply with their statements.

Finally, the G20 has paid some attention to the environmental principle of impact assessments. This is manifested in the Los Cabos summit's focus on environmental safeguards in the context of infrastructure development. The Summits have also agreed to continue efforts to fight climate change. This is particularly relevant to African countries, including South Africa, both because of their urgent need for infrastructure and their vulnerability to climate change and other environmental challenges.


1. South Africa has ratified 27 ILO conventions, of which 23 are currently in force. Eleven of these conventions have been ratified since the advent of democracy in 1994. For a full list of the ILO conventions ratified by South Africa, click here.


Overview, 2008-2013 - Good Administrative Practise

The issue of good administrative practices and procedures of the key international organisations in global economic governance, particularly the IMF and the World Bank, appears to have been of interest to the G20 in the early summits. However, as the political challenges in implementing the proposed reforms became clearer and the prospects for significant and meaningful reform receded, the G20 seems to have paid less attention to these issues. This issue is not going to go away though, with some G20 members amongst the loudest proponents of such reforms. The rise of alternative vehicles for finance, supported be developing countries, may ironically spur reform efforts to retain the relevance of these bodies. There are two important exceptions to this statement. The first is the governance and legal reform of the Financial Stability Board, which continued through the 2013 Summit. The second is the organisational practices of the G20 itself, with the formalisation of the troika and the regional rotation system for the chair.

Based on this record, it is clear that the G20 has demonstrated inconsistent concern with the application of the principles of good administrative practice to the key institutional actors in global economic governance. The administrative principle that has received the most attention is participation. The focus of the participation reform effort has tended to be on expanding the role of dynamic emerging markets in global economic governance. This means that the major African beneficiary has been South Africa. It is the only African state that is a full member of the G20, and it was the first holder of the new African chair on the Executive Board of the World Bank. Besides these changes, the administrative reforms have not resulted, and, in fact, were not intended to result, in greater African participation in global economic governance. The expansion and formalising of the group’s outreach activities may indirectly increase such participation.

This suggests that from an African perspective it would have been useful for the G20 to pay attention to other elements of good administrative practice. In this regard, it should be noted that the institutions of global economic governance comply reasonably well with all the other elements of good administrative practice except accountability. They are reasonably transparent, at least for state actors, and usually provide reasoned decisions for their actions, However, most global economic governance institutions have no formal mechanisms through which states that are not direct participants in a particular global economic governance decision making institution or arrangement, which includes most African states, can hold the decision makers in that institution or arrangement accountable. The situation is even less favourable for non-state actors. In this regard it is important to acknowledge the not insubstantial challenges involved in holding an informal group of countries, like the G20, accountable for their decisions and actions. Change may be occurring (although it is too early to be certain), with the 2013 Summit introducing additional accountability. This accountability, although internal, will still provide information and assessments which will increase transparency and advocacy possibilities for non-members and non-state actors. 

Overview, 2008-2013 - Comprehensive Coverage

It is clear that over the course of the eight G20 summits, the amount of attention the issue of inclusion has received has increased. Usually the increased attention has been focused on the poor and vulnerable in general. Nevertheless, there are specific issues and initiatives that explicitly address African concerns. Although the 2013 declaration made no specific mention of Africa, and includes limited mention of African organisations, there was direct reference to the African Development Bank and a broad reference to regional trade agreements. Despite this, the summit covered a wide range of issues, many of which are of vital importance to African concerns. While this attention to inclusion is to be welcomed, it is necessary to recognise that it is unclear that the increased attention will translate into meaningful action, although there are encouraging signs. This caution follows from the fact that the statements relating to inclusion usually are not linked to specific actions or time-bound commitments. Consequently, the expressions of concern and the commitments being made are difficult to monitor and they have to date formed a weak basis on which to hold G20 states accountable.

Here too, change is evident though. The most recent Summit, in late 2013 in St Petersburg, Russia, produced a Development Outlook as a successor to the Seoul Multi-Year Action Plan and took action on the 2012 Los Cabos Summit’s call to put in place an accountability process to monitor implementation of ongoing and future G20 development actions, by producing the St Petersburg Accountability Report on G20 Development Commitments. The DWG will now produce a comprehensive accountability report every three years.

The evolution in the G20's consideration of the issue of inclusion raises two possible avenues for future action. First, the African representatives in the G20 process can seek to make the G20 promises and commitments on inclusion more precise and time-bound. Second, there is a need for more research on why the G20's consideration of this issue has grown. It is not self-evident that the issue's direct relevance to the G20 participating states has increased or that particular participating states or their invited international organisational and state guests have been advocating for more attention to be paid to the issue of inclusion. Understanding why the G20 is paying more attention to this issue, therefore, may provide some insights on how South Africa, as a G20 participant, and African countries in general can advocate more effectively within the G20 and other global economic governance actors for more attention to this issue.  In addition, within Africa, analysts are suggesting a role for the African Union Commission as a way to formalise African G20 consultation processes and deepen continuity and institutional memory between Summits.

Overview, 2008-2013 - Co-ordinated Specialisation

Over the course of the five year history of G20 leaders, they and the process associated with their summits have assumed a much more active role in coordinating a range of international activities. They are now assigning responsibility for specific activities to particular international organisations or actors and are encouraging more of them to collaborate with each other. The scope of their interests and actions has also expanded. Whereas initially they only addressed the international organisations and entities involved in international financial and monetary affairs, they are now dealing with organisations involved in agriculture and food security, energy, labour, social protection, education and job training, environment, and infrastructure project planning and financing. Outreach processes have expanded. For example in the year leading up to the 2014 Summit, a series of meetings and forums were held, culminating in respective B20, C20, L20, and Y20 Summits and a T20 Conference (the groups representing business, labour, think tanks, civil society, and youth from the G20 countries are referred to by relevant acronyms e.g. B20 stands for Business 20).

A natural consequence of this expansion in the work of the G20 is that it has become more directly relevant to African state- and non-state actors. In addition, given the coordinating role that the G20 plays in regard to the issues in which it has taken an interest, the impact of the G20 on the policies, procedures and programmes of the international organisations and entities with which it interacts should be of interest to African state- and non-state actors. The 2013 declaration made extensive reference to international organisations and their work. This in turn suggests that one indirect way in which African actors can seek to ensure that the G20 adequately responds to their concerns and interests is through these international organisations and entities. In this regard, it is useful to note that African countries are members of many of these organisations and so can attempt to influence their interactions with the G20. Africa needs to consistently work to raise and maintain its profile, in some respects more so than any other region, to ensure that Africa’s needs are heard and understood and beyond that, to ensure that Africa’s potential contribution to global growth is recognised and nurtured.

St Petersburg, 2013 - What is the Goal?

The summit declaration encompassed a broad range of goals that reflects the continuing evolution of the G20, from a crisis management body to a forum for cooperation to promote economic growth and development. While the declaration emphasized the need to build a durable recovery from the crisis, the core stated aim of the declaration was the broader mandate of achieving strong, sustainable, and balanced growth. The creation of jobs was given particular emphasis within this broad aim, as countries struggle to address rising unemployment, particularly amongst the youth.

These aims are set to be met by a number of more specific goals aimed at a broad range of issues. These include, but are not limited to: insuring long term finance for development and investment, promoting multilateral (and, to a lesser extent, plurilateral) trade, promoting tax transparency and fighting tax avoidance, strengthening the resilience of the international financial system, promoting environmentally sustainable growth, combatting corruption, and pursuing a collection of development goals collectively known as the St Petersburg Development Outlook. The Development Outlook includes areas of particular importance to developing countries, such as food security, infrastructure development, financial inclusion and human resource development.

The goals reinforce the commitment of the G20 to their stated aim of growth and development for all. While some aims, such as financial regulatory reform, are less pertinent to less developed African states, many of the goals fit those of the continent. The focus on unemployment is particularly important, since this is an issue of primary concern on the African continent. It is, however, uncertain to what extent this stated concern is driven by global, including African considerations, or by the weak employment figures in the G20 countries themselves, particularly Europe. The focus on unemployment may be driven more by incidental shared concerns, which makes it less likely that G20 efforts would place global, including African, interests above sovereign concerns. However, the St Petersburg Development Outlook is a strong Africa-focused addition to the summit goals, and focuses on important issues for the continent.

St Petersburg, 2013 - Respect for International Law

As with other accords, the declaration carefully and consistently notes that all actions are to be undertaken on the basis of willful cooperation and national action, thus demonstrating their respect for the principle of sovereignty. The declaration acknowledges that plans to promote employment must be tailored to each country’s specific constitutional and material circumstances, reinforcing the principle of non-discrimination. Finally, the declaration makes consistent note of the need for growth to be sustainable, and dedicates sections to green growth and investment, thus indicating an acknowledgement of the principle of Environmental Responsibility.

St Petersburg, 2013 - Good Administrative Practise

Few major administrative actions were taken during the St Petersburg Summit. Some of the existing institutional arrangements, such as the G20 Task Force on Employment, had their mandate renewed for a further year, while others were modified slightly, for example with adjustments made to the operational practices of the Development Working Group, which is set to move to a more limited but focused agenda on a few key areas, and will seek to improve coordination, accountability and engagement in work between countries and international organisations. Finally, a joint meeting of Labour and Employment and Finance Ministers was held for the first time, as part of the employment creation agenda.

The declaration also made note of administrative changes in key partner organisations. The declaration welcomed the establishment of the Financial Stability Board as an independent legal entity, while urging continued reviews of the structure of its representation. The summit also called for continued efforts to reform the governance of the International Monetary Fund, particularly the ratification of the 2010 IMF Quota and Governance Reform, which should be addressed during the 2014 General Quota Review.

St Petersburg, 2013 - Comprehensive Coverage

The declaration makes no specific mention of Africa, and includes limited mention of African organisations, with the exception of the African Development Bank and a broad reference to regional trade agreements. Despite this, the summit covered a wide range of issues, many of which are of vital importance to African concerns.

The St Petersburg Development Outlook perhaps best demonstrates this focus, and concerns itself with six areas of relevance to African countries:

  1. Food Security: Deepening activities focused on facilitating knowledge sharing and improving research on agricultural issues.
  2. Infrastructure: Assessing ongoing projects and providing new resources for practitioners, such as a public-private partnership sourcebook and a toolkit on urban mass transportation infrastructure.
  3. Financial Inclusion: Continued support for the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion.
  4. Human Resource Development: Launch of a knowledge sharing platform.
  5. Inclusive Green Growth: Launch of a toolkit on green growth, and initiation of a G20 Dialogue Platform on Inclusive Green Investments.
  6. Domestic Resource Mobilisation: Continuing work through partner organizations on improving tax administration.


While the Development Outlook covers many issues of vital importance to Africa and developing countries in general, it should be noted that the Outlook is primarily a refining of pre-existing programmes, with new initiatives mainly taking the form of knowledge sharing. Few concrete, material commitments are contained within the Development Outlook, although such commitments may be possible in the ensuing work of related bodies.

More broadly, the Summit Declaration touches on many areas of importance to African states. Given the reliance on Africa on the state of the global economy, all issues discussed within the declaration are indirectly relevant to the continent, but six should be noted:

  1. Unemployment and underemployment, particularly amongst the youth.
  2. The risks associated with capital flows in response to the tapering of monetary stimulus in advanced economies.
  3. Addressing current account imbalances, and high trade deficits in many countries.
  4. Improving local climate for long-term investments, with an aim set for the Brisbane summit.
  5. Assisting least developed countries in applying the OECD tax information standard.
  6. Improving financial inclusion


Point 2 is perhaps worth special mention. The summit took place against the back-drop of currency instability in large emerging markets, such as South Africa and India, driven by concerns that a weakening of monetary stimulus in advanced economies, particularly the United States, could slow credit-driven growth in emerging markets. These concerns were acknowledged by the communiqué, and it was emphasised that monetary policy will continue to be focused on the domestic price stability and growth. However there was little practical effort made to address these concerns, barring a call to carefully communicate and calibrate monetary policy actions. While the tapering has since been delayed, a more comprehensive response to this issue was perhaps needed to alleviate developing country, and African, concerns.

St Petersburg, 2013 - Co-ordinated Specialisation

The summit released a range of action plans that aim to coordinate the action of the G20 countries and partner organizations:

  1. The St Petersburg Action Plan
  2. The Workplan on Long-Term Investment Promotion
  3. The St Petersburg Development Outlook
  4. The G20 approach to Advancing Transparency in Regional Trade Agreements


Beyond the coordination of G20 activities, the declaration made extensive reference to international organisations and their work. These partner organisations include the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the International Labor Organization (ILO), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and numerous others. Indeed, large parts of the declaration seem to build directly on the work by these organisations. This highlights the G20’s commitment to acting as coordinating body for the pre-existing array of International Organisations. However, it also points to the G20s weak institutional capacity to act independently, and raises questions as to whether the G20 guides or follows these international bodies – whether it is dog or tail.  

A list of selected G20 areas of cooperation and coordination are as follows:

  1. Working with the ILO, OECD and World Bank on unemployment best practices, with coordination undertaken by the G20 Task Force on Employment.
  2. Continuing and developing work completed by the World Bank Group and Regional Development Banks, on how best to optimise current supplies of development financing.
  3. Assisting the WTO in making progress at the Bali Ministerial Conference (MC9), while acknowledging the important monitoring of trade and investment data undertaken by the WTO, OECD, and UNCTAD.
  4. Supporting the Transparency in Trade Initiative (TNT) undertaken by the World Bank and the UNCTAD.
  5. Supporting the work of the OECD, WTO and UNCTAD on global value chains and calls to deliver a final report on the subject in the first half of 2014
  6. A joint project by the G20 and OECD on tax Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS), and endorsing the related Action Plan. This builds onissues also tackled under the auspices of the G8.
  7. Endorsing the OECD’s work on creating a global standard for the exchange of tax information between G20 countries, while urging all countries to sign the OECD’s Convention on Mutual Administration Assistance in Tax Matters.
  8. Highlighting recent work undertaken by the IMF and G20 on Regional Financial Arrangements (RFAs).
  9. Expressing support for the IMF and World Bank’s work on reviewing and updating Guidelines for Public Debt Management.
  10. Supporting the implementation of the IMF-World Bank Debt Sustainability Framework for Low-Income Countries
  11. Expressing support for the IMF and Bank for International Settlement’s continued work in developing indicators that reflect global liquidity conditions.
  12. Noting the work undertaken by various international organizations – including the IMF, World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development – to implement the G20 Action Plan on the Development of Local Currency Bond Markets (LCBMs)
  13. Commiting to contribute to a successful replenishment of the International Development Association and the African Development Fund.
  14. Expressing support on a range of financial reforms undertaken by bodies such as the Financial Stability Board, Board for International Settlements, Basel Committee on Banking supervision, IMF, International Organisation of Securities Commissions, International Accounting Standards Board, and the World Bank Group.
  15. Supporting work on financial inclusion undertaken by the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion, and its related organisations.
  16. Expressing support for the UN’s work on the creation of a post-2015 development agenda.
  17. Committing to strengthen the Joint Organisations Data Initiative (JODI), and related work on transparency in energy markets undertaken by the International Energy Agency, International Energy Forum, and the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.
  18. Continuing efforts to fight climate change under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Chance.
  19. Supporting the OECD’s work on corruption, including the launch of the Issues Paper on Anti-Corruption and Economic Growth, and urging ratification by all members of the UN Convention Against Corruption
Group of 20 (G-20) Summits are a magnet for expectations. Ever since the grouping was formed in the turbulent early days of the 2008 global financial crisis major stakeholders have pinned many hopes on the ability of the group to steer the globe back to growth.

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