By Sachin Chaturvedi
The September 2023 New Delhi G20 Summit marked the beginning of the end of the Indian G20 presidency and Indonesia’s role in the troika, presenting an opportunity to evaluate their leadership in global governance. Indonesia assumed the G20 presidency in December 2021, followed by India in December 2022.
Both G20 presidencies had clear marks of their respective leaders. The pacifist demeanour of Indonesian President Joko Widodo was reflected in his handing of the Ukraine conflict and his role during G20 negotiations. At the 2022 Bali summit, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasised diplomacy and collective resolve to address the ongoing tensions in Ukraine and actively engaged Russia and Ukraine throughout the Indian presidency.
During what has been called the most difficult G20 ever, Indonesia held its ground on Russia, refusing to withdraw Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invitation but condemning Russia at the summit. Under Widodo’s leadership, Indonesia attempted to limit the G7 leaders’ criticism of Russia and focused on binding global leaders together to pacify opposition and produce a joint declaration. Indonesia held on to its view that the G20 is primarily an economic forum and cannot be held hostage by any one particular issue. Modi’s efforts supplemented this stance, with the US Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer declaring at an event in Washington that Modi was ‘instrumental’ in forging a consensus around a joint declaration.
Both leaders have prioritised engagement with students, civil society and businesses and engagement groups within each country. Modi’s G20 messages have reached millions of people through hundreds of publications issued across India. Cultural and culinary programs and tourism projects have all been part of the G20 spectacle. Modi issued clear instructions not to hold any G20 events — with the exception of the summit — in New Delhi. This meant approximately 280 events took place in 56 cities around the country.
This kind of connection and engagement allowed domestic priorities to enter the global stage. In the context of domestic debates on audits and accountability, Indonesia hosted the first meeting of official auditors at the engagement group level, known as Supreme Audit Institutions 20. With a focus on connecting with youth, India also introduced an engagement group on start-ups.
The Indonesian G20 presidency was marked by initiatives in energy transition and finance. Indonesia emphasised the need for a transition to clean energy at the global level and developed a framework for accelerating an equitable, affordable and inclusive energy transition based on the priorities of the G20 Energy Transition Working Group.
India has spearheaded the G20 Chief Scientific Advisers’ Roundtable, emphasising the importance of scientific expertise in addressing global challenges. Indian leadership has also pushed the Mission Lifestyle for Environment (Mission LiFE) to nudge individual behavioural changes.
With the devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic front of mind, the Indonesian G20 presidency established a new financial intermediary fund for pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. This fund aims to identify critical gaps in preparedness and response, coordinate approaches, increase financial resources and help build capacity at national, regional and global levels.
Indonesia promoted global benefits, not limited to G20 members, by pioneering 361 cooperation projects valued at around US$238 billion. Examples include constructing an agricultural training centre in Fiji and providing disaster management training at the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Continuing this work, India pioneered the Disaster Risk Reduction Working Group, focusing on managing disaster risks, building resilient economies and tackling the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.
Under the Indonesian G20 presidency, there was a focus on digital financial inclusion through the G20 Yogyakarta Financial Inclusion Framework. Indonesia also advocated for a stronger multilateral system and effective global partnerships.
Both Indonesia and India stressed the need for reform of the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) to support developing countries and regain momentum for the Sustainable Development Goals.
Issues including profit shifting, international tax regulation, illicit financial flows and the digital economy necessitate immediate tax reforms. The Indonesian G20 presidency emphasised the need to increase tax revenues and address illicit financial flows, calling for tax reforms, bilateral policy development, digital taxation and gender-inclusive taxation.
Fostering a more inclusive G20 was a key priority for both presidencies. With the spirit of ‘leave no one behind’ embedded in Indonesia’s G20 leadership, the presidency’s vision was to ensure that benefits extended beyond the group of G20 members. In pursuit of this vision Indonesia invited nine countries and intergovernmental organisations to participate in G20 events.
Like Indonesia, the Indian presidency took an inclusive and action-oriented approach. In his inaugural address on 1 December 2022, Modi proposed an inclusive presidency that included countries from the Global South and suggested making the African Union the 21st member of the G20. At the New Delhi summit, India hosted the largest-ever G20 contingent, with 43 delegations.
The G20 will continue to play a critical role in global governance. The forum must steer effective international cooperation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
About the author: Sachin Chaturvedi is Director General at Research and Innovation Systems for Developing Countries, New Delhi.