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How Australia is strengthening the G20's accountability and effectiveness

By Ordan Andreevski - posted Thursday, 3 July 2014


Through its presidency of the G20 and in the lead up to the Leaders Summit in Brisbane in mid November 2014, Australia has been put in the driver's seat to influence the agenda for global economic growth, governance reform and performance management.

One of the key challenges and opportunities which Australia has identified for the G20 is the need to develop strategies for increasing the accountability and effectiveness of international financial and economic systems through collective impact and innovation.

Australia has taken the rotating presidency of the G20 very seriously as measured by the top priority, the significant resources and the preparations it has made for the Brisbane Summit. The event will be chaired by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and will involve Treasurer Joe Hockey and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. The previous Labor Government also recognised the significance of the G20 by allocating political capital and investing significant public funding to the Lowy Institute for International Policy to establish a G20 Studies Centre as a means for strengthening the analytical basis of the evolving global forum.

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The Lowy Institute has done an excellent job of providing rigorous research and organising high impact events such as the recent conference in Melbourne devoted to 'Strengthening the G20's Accountability and Effectiveness '. The Melbourne event brought together a wide range of key stakeholders or engagement groups from G20 governments, international organisations (OECD, IMF, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, UNDP), peak business bodies like the Business Council of Australia, trade unions, youth, civil society and not for profit organisations like World Vision and leading think tanks. Missing from the mix were the anti-globalisation protesters, state Premiers and federal MPs.

The G20 is self-select group made up of 19 countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, UK and the USA) and the European Union. The G20 does not have a secretariat and relies on working groups to commission research and to develop policies which need to be implemented through Country Implementation Plans.

Issues that have been on the G20 agenda include global economic governance, reform of international organisations like the IMF and the World Bank, domestic structural reform, ageing population, climate change and sustainable development. Some might say that these issues have been addressed earlier at the UN and at other forums such as the Global Economic Forums in Davos and in our region.

The theme for the Brisbane Summit is 'Global Growth and Resilience'. This is in keeping with the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors commitment to promoting new measures which will increase level of G20 output by at least 2 percent above the current benchmark for the next 5 years. This translates into a growth target of 2% which equates to $2 trillion to global GDP and the promise of millions of new jobs.

Australia is well placed to add value to the G20 growth agenda in a number of ways. First, by proposing strict performance benchmarks which will ensure growth policies and reforms are implemented at domestic, regional and global levels. Second, by acting a role model for structural reform. Third, by acting as a mentor to Turkey which will take over the rotating presidency from Australia.

Australia is well aware that strengthening of the G20's accountability and effectiveness is an ongoing process which will keep all the key stakeholders occupied for years to come. The G20 at this moment is not directly accountable to anyone. The G20 is a global forum that lacks institutional capacity to deliver policies.

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The G20's legitimacy and effectiveness is limited by many factors. First, domestic political agendas and realities can place their interests above global growth interests. Political parties and parliaments therefore need to be educated to place global economic growth above domestic politics which is no easy task. Second, the G20 is made up of diverse, competing and asymmetrical political economies which may not see eye to eye on common pathways to growth. The recent tensions in Ukraine and the South China Sea will test the coherence and sustainability of the G20.

Australia's presidency of the G20 will enable it to solidify its reach and influence in the global economy and allow it to showcase its achievements to the leading economies and institutions in the world. As Dr. Michael Fullilove noted at the conference, the G20 Leaders Summit will also have implications for Australian foreign policy by reinforcing Australia's place in the global economy as a creative middle power with a history of engagement with Asia and the Pacific. Australia is well placed to use its diaspora and its multicultural heritage to connect with the G20 members and beyond to improve the global economic status quo.

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About the Author

Ordan Andreevski is Director of Australian Outreach, United Macedonian Diaspora.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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