It is a truism of today’s networked world that a variety of nongovernmental stakeholders serve as important adjuncts to official diplomacy. In the G-20, for instance, this has given rise to parallel consultations with an L-20 of labor leaders, a Y-20 of youth leaders and a B-20 of business leaders.
Most recently, advisers currently helping Mexican President Felipe Calderón prepare to host the next G-20 summit in June sought additional counsel from experts from think tanks around the world, inviting us to the first-ever “Think-20” last week. Converging at the Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores in Mexico City, participants from 15 countries discussed many of the topics on the G-20 docket, as well as the overall challenges of effectiveness and credibility facing the multilateral forum.
After nine years as a creature of finance ministers, the G-20 held its first summit of world leaders at the height of the financial crisis in November 2008. Its initial period as a summit forum was auspicious, with the leaders of the world’s major economies working in concert to ward of a global great depression. After the sense of emergency faded, though, so did the sense of solidarity. In contrast to their impressive united front on behalf of economic recovery in 2008 and 2009, dissension within the group at subsequent meetings has left the recovery in an extremely brittle condition. The source of the split was the debate between those who advocated for policies promoting recovery and growth and those arguing for austerity and deficit reduction. The issue came to a head at the June 2010 G-20 summit in Toronto, where U.S. President Barack Obama warned his colleagues against a hasty exit from fiscal stimulus but was rebuffed by deficit-hawk counterparts.