Climate change, youth unemployment, pervasive corruption, these are problems with multiple causes and no single solution. They are not caused by governments alone, and they cannot be solved by governments alone. The G20 process as it is currently structured is well intentioned but cannot be effective at addressing global issues because it does not formally take into account all the voices, all the stakeholders that need to be heard.
In the past, global institutions such as the United Nations were structured to solve issues that involved state-to-state relationships. Governments start wars and governments can end them. Our current institutions were built to enable inter-governmental negotiation and agreement. But twenty first century problems need the cooperation and input of all parts of society – business and civil society as well as government. We don’t need a “G20” we need an “M20”, a “multistakeholder 20”, or a “many 20”, to bring all the interested parties to the table, to enable cooperation and collaboration on issues that are of critical concern for all.
The G20 is an excellent grouping – bringing the world’s most significant economies together to discuss what needs to be done is a crucial step. Having said that, the G20 process is deeply flawed. The G20 has no permanent secretariat. With rotating responsibilities, there is no continuity and much of the group’s time is taken up on interdepartmental and intergovernmental negotiations.
A more effective process would focus on the key issues and build coalitions of cooperation between all stakeholders – government, civil society and business – and track progress rigorously over time.
The B20, a group of leading global businesses which recognise the significance of the issues in question, has been moving in that direction. It has issued a set of “actionables” to improve the impact of the G20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, that opens this weekend.
Importantly, these were not developed by business alone. Civil society organizations including Oxfam and Transparency International as well as international organisations such as the OECD were full members of the B20 taskforce, shifting the group much more towards the M20 model. They present a roadmap for working together to rebuild the global economy and restore public trust in governments, institutions and markets. The concrete proposals include actions to:
- increase agricultural production and productivity by 50% by 2030,
- create a “campaign against youth unemployment” including a major increase in skills-enhancing internerships and apprenticeships
- facilitate the implementation of effective national anti-corruption legislation across the globe.
This is only the start of the development of a broader M20 process that truly has the ability to align and coordinate all those who have the power to make change. Its success will be proportional to its inclusiveness across stakeholder groups, accountability and ability to implement its ideas and initiatives.
Author: Robert Greenhill is Managing Director and Chief Business Officer of the World Economic Forum