G20 Summit of November 2020: Great expectations despite boycott calls

19-11-2020

On 21-22 November, under Saudi Arabia's presidency, the G20 will hold its first regular summit in a virtual format. Unavoidably the focus will be on the current crisis, more specifically on protecting lives and livelihoods and restoring growth. Given the crucial role it played in tackling the 2008-2009 financial crisis, hopes are high regarding the G20's potential role in proposing a financial and economic solution to deal with the ongoing downturn. Several major G20 members have invested massive amounts of money to keep their economies afloat, in line with the decision of the extraordinary G20 summit held in the spring, but the depth of the current crisis requires additional action. Some critics have argued that the G20 is not up to its perceived role. The lack of US leadership in particular has been seen as an obstacle preventing the group from living up to its full potential. One of the crucial measures adopted by the G20 has been to freeze the official debt payments of developing countries, with the measure recently being extended. Many voices consider that this will not be enough to avoid state defaults however. Saudi Arabia, the first Arab country to hold the presidency, has been eager to use the opportunity provided by its G20 presidency to showcase its ambitious internal reform programme and its economic potential. The Saudis' leadership of the G20 in these times of turmoil has not escaped criticism, first of all because of the perceived inconsistency between stated objectives at G20 level and internal reality in the country, but also because of the role the country played in the oil price crash of 2020. Given the dire human rights situation in Saudi Arabia and in its fighting in Yemen, calls for a boycott of the summit have been multiplying. The European Parliament has suggested that the EU should downgrade its presence at the summit.

On 21-22 November, under Saudi Arabia's presidency, the G20 will hold its first regular summit in a virtual format. Unavoidably the focus will be on the current crisis, more specifically on protecting lives and livelihoods and restoring growth. Given the crucial role it played in tackling the 2008-2009 financial crisis, hopes are high regarding the G20's potential role in proposing a financial and economic solution to deal with the ongoing downturn. Several major G20 members have invested massive amounts of money to keep their economies afloat, in line with the decision of the extraordinary G20 summit held in the spring, but the depth of the current crisis requires additional action. Some critics have argued that the G20 is not up to its perceived role. The lack of US leadership in particular has been seen as an obstacle preventing the group from living up to its full potential. One of the crucial measures adopted by the G20 has been to freeze the official debt payments of developing countries, with the measure recently being extended. Many voices consider that this will not be enough to avoid state defaults however. Saudi Arabia, the first Arab country to hold the presidency, has been eager to use the opportunity provided by its G20 presidency to showcase its ambitious internal reform programme and its economic potential. The Saudis' leadership of the G20 in these times of turmoil has not escaped criticism, first of all because of the perceived inconsistency between stated objectives at G20 level and internal reality in the country, but also because of the role the country played in the oil price crash of 2020. Given the dire human rights situation in Saudi Arabia and in its fighting in Yemen, calls for a boycott of the summit have been multiplying. The European Parliament has suggested that the EU should downgrade its presence at the summit.