The G20 must demonstrate leadership and build consensus
G20 Summit

The G20 must demonstrate leadership and build consensus

This is a significant and historic year for South Africa. Our country is celebrating the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela, our iconic leader, a global humanist and the founding president of our country.

At the international level, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the global financial crisis that brought together the leaders of the G20 members at the summit level. This is also the 10th anniversary of the BRICS group of countries, which South Africa is currently privileged to chair.

The outcomes of the BRICS summit held in Johannesburg in July 2018 provided an important contribution to efforts to address several of the issues that will be on the agenda of the G20 summit. The overlap in the BRICS and G20 agendas should come as no surprise, as both formations seek to address the global challenges facing the international community.

In the same way that the G20 of 2008 enjoined leaders to collectively defeat one of the most severe financial crises in our recent history, 2018 demands that we direct our collective efforts to warding off the looming crisis in trade and unilateralism.

Safeguarding multilateralism

BRICS leaders are unanimous in their commitment to safeguard and strengthen multilateralism. This commitment extends to our support for the centrality of the United Nations as the universal multilateral organisation entrusted with maintaining international peace and security, advancing global development and promoting and protecting human rights. This commitment was endorsed by the core BRICS members as well as the leaders from the 22 other states who participated in the BRICS Outreach Programme.

In the face of unilateralism and the advent of trade tensions, the BRICS leaders further committed to the strengthening of multilateral institutions of global governance and reaffirmed their commitment to the World Trade Organization. We can only advance our individual and shared prospects for a better future and a better world economy by participating constructively in a rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trading system.

Such an unequivocal commitment on the part of the G20 will be essential to instil confidence and demonstrate unity. It will demonstrate the ability of the G20 to maintain its leadership role and status as the premier forum to deliberate on issues of global economic and financial concern.

The BRICS commitment to multilateralism also found expression in the call by leaders for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which are able to give effect to equitable, inclusive, innovation-driven and sustainable development.

The BRICS summit emphasised that the three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental – should be addressed in a balanced and integrated manner. Leaders reiterated the importance of strengthening cooperation to deal with the challenges brought about by climate change and of adherence to the Paris Agreement.

BRICS-G20 overlap

The overlap in the agenda of BRICS and the G20 under Argentina’s presidency is mutually reinforcing. This overlap finds expression in the ongoing discussion in both forums on health, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and peace and security.

Aware of the potential benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, but alive to the potential negative impact of this development on employment and dislocation within society, the BRICS summit endorsed the establishment of the BRICS Working Group on the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

On health, a significant achievement was the establishment of a BRICS Vaccine Research Centre in South Africa, recognising the need for innovation in the health sector and the need to effectively combat critical health challenges.

The Argentinian G20 presidency directed specific focus on infrastructure development. I am therefore pleased that the BRICS Development Bank will open its second regional office, in Brazil, at the end of this year.

The mutually reinforcing agendas of BRICS and the G20 are a welcome and encouraging illustration of our shared interests and shared desire – across geography and different levels of development – to address the vexing global challenges that face us collectively.

As with the 2008 crisis, we need collective action and unity of purpose in 2018 that will change the course of history by improving the lives of the more than four billion people who live in the countries we represent, and the lives of the three billion more with whom we all share this planet.

This is the essence of the fairness and sustainable development on which the Buenos Aires Summit has been conceptualised, and that we, as South Africa, wholeheartedly embrace.