INDONESIA’S G20 PRESIDENCY Between Hope and Reality


Saving the global economy 

The G20 Summit was held amid these doubts and shadows of failure. In his opening speech before 17 world leaders and guests, President Jokowi firmly urged that the war and geopolitical polarization that has reached a boiling point be subdued immediately. 

The President alluded to the impending global catastrophe if countries fail to take concrete steps in unison to forestall protracted and contagious crises. Jokowi also hopes that the G20 can continue to be a catalyst for inclusive economic recovery. In the midst of a gloomy situation, he said the G20 must continue to work together to produce concrete results. 

There are a number of concrete consensuses expected from this meeting: among others, the establishment of a pandemic fund, financial assistance for low-income countries through resilience and sustainability trusts, acceleration of Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) target achievement, wide-ranging collaborative commitments, and a greener and more sustainable global economic recovery, through the Bali Common Principles in Accelerating Clean Energy Transitions (COMPACT). 

Because the true spirit of the G20 meeting is to discuss economic and development issues, President Jokowi has emphasized several times that the summit, not attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, will not only focus on global political issues. But the facts show that even though it is designed as an economic forum, the G20 is often hampered by political interests. 

In his article “The good, the bad and the incongruous at the Rome G20,” Yves Tiberghien pointed out three main reasons why the G20 Summit in Rome, Italy, did not achieved its desired outcome. First, the absence of Xi Jinping. The Chinese president opted to deliver his speech via video call. China at that time was known to have a tense relationship with the U.S. due to the negative sentiment created by the Covid-19 pandemic. On the other hand, China plays a key role in tackling the global health crisis. 

Second, strong friction between developed countries, especially the U.S. as an economic hegemony, and other countries that expect U.S. generosity to help them overcome the pandemic. This, to a certain extent, revealed the limitations of the G20 as a whole, where deadlocks or clashes of interest between developed and developing countries often came to the fore. 

Third, the failure to achieve positive changes in the global economy, due to the fact that each member country has domestic political considerations, where they tend to prioritize their own economic interests, especially if the joint commitment to save the global economy could potentially impair their national interests. 

Galvanizing global peace 

Tiberghien’s thesis has a correlation with the neorealism theory devised by international political expert John Mearsheimer. He is of the view that a sovereign state has always been the main actor in the international system. 

International institutions, nongovernmental organizations, international forums, multinational corporations, individuals and other sub-state or trans-state actors are deemed to have very little political influence. In addition, states will tend to be aggressive and obsessed with their own national security, even in international forums. 

This renders meetings like the G20 invariably ineffective, because the consensus each country seeks is a zero-sum game, in which they will receive or give something only if they see there is something in it for them. Even if it will eventually benefit the diverse stakeholders involved, multilateral cooperation in international forums will still be difficult to achieve a consensus if geopolitical tensions loom large.