The world’s largest economies closed the G20 summit on Wednesday with strong condemnation of Russia and a pledge to deepen collaboration aimed at preventing another pandemic.
The summit hosted by Indonesia came with a surprising amount of consensus in a world roiled by geopolitical power struggles, and aligned closely with what the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau government had been seeking.
“I think most Canadians would say that this is what they want out of a G20,” said Andrew Cooper, a professor with the Balsillie School of International Affairs at the University of Waterloo.
“They want something that really points a finger at Russia, and says Russia has done criminal acts and a war of aggression.”
Canada had been among the most vocal of countries pushing their peers to further isolate Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Many developing nations have been trying to preserve relations with Russia and the West, abstaining from a handful of United Nations votes this year to condemn Moscow.
In the final communiqué, leaders took note of UN votes that called on Russia to withdraw from Ukraine. They noted that despite mixed views on the war and on imposing sanctions, everyone agrees that the conflict is hurting the global economy.
John Kirton, head of the G20 Research Group, said the statement clearly shows Russia is losing influence with the booming countries it used to collaborate with tightly, such as Brazil, India and China, but with phrasing that allows Moscow to save face.
That paved the way for other commitments on the environment and public health.
“It wasn’t clear that there was going to be a communiqué at all,” Kirton said.
His team, based out of the University of Toronto, was still tabulating what leaders had agreed to in the declaration on Wednesday, but within a few hours of its publication they had spotted more than 175 pledges.
“It’s quite lengthy and detailed,” Kirton said. “Many of the commitments are what we think are weak ones, rather than strongly binding ones, but that reflects the fact that this was a bottom-up process.”
Those include formalizing the plans to launch a global fund to prevent pandemics, even if countries have pledged just US$1.4 of the US$10 billion required to get it going.
G20 leaders agreed to centre the World Health Organization as the lead coordinator for global health programs, which might avoid a siloed approach to issues such as the monkeypox outbreak.
Leaders of the bloc also committed to aim for the UN target of containing global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which dovetails with a plan revealed Tuesday to help Indonesia wean itself off its massive dependence on coal.
Yet Kirton noticed relatively little in the communiqué on women’s rights, global tax reform and food security, despite a looming famine in Eastern Africa.
Trudeau said the G20 was a success because most of the countries agreed that Russia’s invasion has made energy and food crises worse.
“This was an opportunity for us to come together and address these challenges head on and face to face, and I think it was an extremely important thing,” he said.
“Global challenges need to have global solutions, and that’s exactly what we’re working on.”
Kirton said that the various working groups in the months that preceded the summit showed India making a push to have developing countries call out Russia for disrupting the global order without losing all ties.
“(Trudeau) wasn’t the one that brokered the deal, the best evidence shows. It was really (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi of India who did it,” Kirton said.
“India is clearly building alongside Canada in the Indo-Pacific what we want, with big democracies.”
Yet when asked what role India, the most populous democratic country in the world, had in reaching Wednesday’s consensus on Russia, Trudeau declined to specify which countries supported and opposed the phrasing, instead thanking the host country.
“All members of the G20 worked and came to something that we could agree on, and put out as a strong statement,” Trudeau said.
“That is a credit to everyone who worked at it around the table, particularly the Indonesian presidency.
—Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press