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G20 Compact with Africa is a Long Game

Image courtesy of South African Government/Flickr. (CC BY-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on 5 July 2019.

Africa’s ‘development partners’ still struggle to define and manage their relationship with the continent. This was apparent at the G20 summit in Osaka that ended on Saturday.

The G20 has been accused of treating Africa exclusively as a development problem, thereby excluding it as an equal participant from deliberations about climate change, the future of work, the global trading system and other mammoth issues the G20 presumes to be capable of addressing.

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G20 Summit: Leaving West to Deal With Crises, China Focuses on Positives

Rules

This article was originally published by YaleGlobal Online on 30 August 2016.

G20 agenda hints at China’s vision for global order with focus on long-term rather than immediate concerns

With the approach of the Group of 20 summit in Hangzhou, there is expectation that China might clarify its position on the contested South China Sea. Contrary to expectations, those Asian neighbors and Western leaders who want to seize the occasion to press China on immediate issues will be disappointed. There will be little space to question publicly China’s drive into the South China and East China Seas, to seek confirmed implementation by China of UN sanctions targeting North Korea, to ask for more direct involvement by China in resolving the most urgent issue of our time – the Middle East in tatters and resulting refugee flows – or even to challenge China’s record-breaking attack on human rights and legal activists at home.

Instead, the summit offers China’s leader Xi Jinping a unique occasion to shine and for China to extoll its complementary – or alternative – vision of the global order.

As host country, China has engineered impeccable rhetoric and goals that are hard to disagree with, if somewhat distant and abstract, for the G20 leaders to focus on. US President Barack Obama is now a lame-duck president with much uncertainty over what follows him. European leaders are weakened by the continent’s inward turn, so powerfully shown by the Brexit. Western leaders are on the defensive much more than their Chinese counterparts. There may be isolated supporters in favor of focusing on issues of the day – Australia, Japan and even Korea spring to mind. Others like Brazil or Indonesia may not fully support China’s professed goals for the G20. Few will take the risk of disowning them. Too much of their economy is now tied to China’s fortune.

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How to Prevent Economic Crises

G20 Summit, courtesy of The Prime Minister's Office/flickr (Crown Copyright)

G20 Summit, courtesy of The Prime Minister's Office/flickr (Crown Copyright)

The global economy is strongly integrated, and domestic economic policies are strongly… well, domestic.

A landmark report by Chatham House and the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) argues that the way in which nations design their economic policies is woefully inadequate to prevent financial and economic crises.

Entitled “Preventing Crises and Promoting Economic Growth: A Framework for International Policy Cooperation“, the report is the outcome of a nine-month international research project. Authors Paola Subacchi and Paul Jenkins consulted with finance and foreign affairs ministries, multilateral institutions and research institutes in Europe, Asia and North America.

They call for national policy-makers to recognize the spillover effects of their policies on other countries as well on the wider economic system. In practice, this would mean accompanying internationally relevant domestic policies by “international impact assessments”.

The report also proposes a new framework for G20 policy cooperation. Indeed, cooperation tends to be “only feasible when interdependencies are made clear by incidents of instability and volatility as happens during crises, i.e. when the costs of non-cooperation are painfully evident“. » More

UN, G20 and the Dollar

Dollars ! / Photo: pfala, Flickr

Dollars ! / Photo: pfala, Flickr

In the August 2009 ISN Special Issue entitled “Redesigning Global Finances- The End of Dollar Dominance?“, I asked whether the window of opportunity to redesign the global financial architecture has already passed with no real progress having been made. This week, the UN Trade and Development report was published, calling for a “new approach to multilateral exchange-rate management to complement stricter financial regulation.” Their critique of the dollar system contains the usual arguments: it is prone to fluctuations, creates current account disequilibria and requires poor countries to create huge reserves better used elsewhere. To mend this, they suggest nothing less than a new Bretton Woods system. Accordingly, it would be based on managed flexible exchange rates at sustainable levels, thus making great fluctuations and currency crisis a thing of the past and level the playing field for international trade. The report is interesting not because it contains revolutionary new ideas, but because a UN agency officially calls for alternatives to the dollar system.
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