A significant performance for people, planet and prosperity: Prospects for the G20’s Rome Summit
G20 Summit

A significant performance for people, planet and prosperity: Prospects for the G20’s Rome Summit

At their first face-to-face meeting since 2019, G20 leaders and their guests will drive progress on a full agenda, which seeks solutions to our shared challenges that will benefit people the world over

The 16th regular G20 summit, in Rome on 30–31 October 2021, will be a very significant event.

It will build on the results of the G20’s Riyadh Summit hosted by Saudi Arabia on 20–21 November 2020 and on the future-oriented foundation set by the highly successful G7 Cornwall Summit hosted by the United Kingdom on 11–13 June 2021. It takes place just before the long-awaited United Nations climate summit, which Italy will co-chair with the United Kingdom in Glasgow, Scotland, on 1–12 November.

It will be the first G20 summit hosted by Italy, a core member of the G7 and the European Union since their start. It brings G20 hosting back to a major democratic power whose large Mediterranean coastline puts it at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and the Middle East and connects them to the Atlantic world.

It will be hosted by Prime Minister Mario Draghi, participating in his first regular, comprehensive, in-person G20 summit as Italy’s leader, after hosting the virtual G20 Rome Health Summit on 21 May and the G20 summit on Afghanistan on 12 October. It will be infused with fresh energy from new leaders, led by US president Joe Biden at his first face-to-face G20 summit and Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida at his first one too.

Also at their first in-person G20 summit are Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico, Argentina’s Alberto Fernández, the European Union’s Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, and the UK’s Boris Johnson. G20 summit veterans will be Indonesia’s Joko Widodo, who will host in 2022, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, who hosted in 2020, China’s Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, India’s Narendra Modi, scheduled to host in 2023 and Turkey’s Recep Tayyıp Erdoğan. Other experienced leaders are France’s Emmanuel Macron, South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa and Australia’s Scott Morrison. The summit will probably benefit from the presence of the greatest G20 veteran, Germany’s Angela Merkel, who will represent her country while its political parties decide who her successor will be.

Guests of the G20

These leaders will be supported by Pedro Sánchez of Spain, a permanent guest of the G20, as well as Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore and Mark Rutte of the Netherlands. Félix-Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo of the Democratic Republic of the Congo will represent the African Union, Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei will represent the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and Paul Kagame of Rwanda will represent the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.

In addition, Randall Quarles of the Financial Stability Board, Qu Dongyu of the Food and Agriculture Organization, Guy Ryder of the International Labour Organization, Kristalina Georgieva of the International Monetary Fund, Matthias Cormann of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Nkozi Okonjo-Iweala of the World Trade Organization, David Malpass of the World Bank, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the World Health Organization and António Guterres of the United Nations will participate.

Together they will build on the results of a full slate of G20 ministerial meetings, involving 14 different portfolios, all held before the summit starts. Finance ministers and central bank governors met on 7 April, 9–10 July and 13 October and would meet again, with health ministers, on the eve of the summit. Tourism ministers met on 4 May, education ministers met on 22 June, labour ministers met on 23 June, foreign and development ministers met on 29 June, environment ministers met on 22 July followed by the energy and climate ministers on 23 July, culture ministers met on 29–30 July, digital ministers met on 5 August, research ministers met on 6 August, health ministers met on 5–6 September, agriculture ministers met on 17–18 September and trade ministers met on 12 October.

Under its priority pillars of ‘People, Planet, Prosperity’, the Rome Summit will confront the cascading crises from the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and the economic, financial, employment and social devastation it has brought, especially for the health, well-being, equality, education, and safety of women, girls and youth.

A broad, demanding agenda

It will simultaneously address the closely related, critical compounding challenges of climate change, to support the UN’s Glasgow Summit on 1–12 November, and biodiversity loss to build on the results of the UN’s conference in Kunming, China, on 11–15 October. This includes financing development and the Sustainable Development Goals, especially those on food and energy security to confront the crises emerging on these subjects now.

On the G20’s core finance and economic agenda, it will address fair international taxation, the need for more fiscal and monetary policy stimulus, trade and tourism amid rising protectionism and fragmented, domesticating supply chains, incentivising quality infrastructure, and governing the proliferating digital economy in an open, fair and trusted way.

With rising geopolitical tensions and strains on the established multilateral order, it will also seek to combat crime, corruption and terrorist finance, and cope with new flows of refugees, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the future of an Afghanistan now controlled by the Taliban.

On this very broad and demanding agenda, the Rome Summit will likely produce a significant performance. It will advance and approve a revolutionary new international tax regime to have the world’s richest digital and other multinational firms pay taxes to the countries where they earn their profits, and a minimum tax as well. It will decide how to channel some of the $650 billion worth of new special drawing rights just created by the International Monetary Fund from developed countries to the developing countries that need them most. It will advance the critical task of delivering COVID-19 vaccines into the arms of the poorest people throughout the world, and strengthening the World Health Organization and international health architecture to prevent and prepare for the similar pandemics sure to come. It will affirm the need to keep global heating under 1.5°C above preindustrial levels, protect more of the Earth’s disappearing nature on the land and the seas, and have developed countries promise to deliver developing countries more financial support to save a liveable climate and nature. However, it will struggle to end fossil fuel subsidies and domestic coal financing, production and use, and to accomplish other ecological goals. It will similarly struggle to make much progress on its security agenda, beyond the core issues of crime and terrorism.

The Rome Summit’s significant performance will be propelled by several powerful forces from without and within. The first force is the unprecedented shocks from COVID-19 and climate change and the UN’s need for G20 support to make its own organisations respond effectively. The leaders of the G20’s – and the world’s – most powerful countries realise that they must cooperate in several ways to succeed against these proliferating deadly shocks. They will be brought together by the skilled, experienced Mario Draghi as summit host, supported by Boris Johnson, Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron, as the hosts of the G7, UN and new special summits in 2021 that are working together as never before.