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G20: 10 things you didn't know

Protesters are out in force ahead of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, but how much do you really know about this powerful global organisation?

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G20: 10 things you didn't know

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The clue is in the name, right?

  • 1. Actually it isn’t. There are 19 member states in the G20. The 20th member is the European Union, represented by he European Commission, the rotating Council presidency and the European Central Bank.

But they are at least the richest global nations?

  • 2. Wrong again. Although they represent 85 per cent of global GDP, the 19 members do not represent the largest 19 global economies in any one year. For example, Spain, a country consistently in the top 20, is famously not a member.

So who decides who's in, and who's out?

  • 3. The G20 has 20 members because they believe that is a number big enough to make them representative and powerful, but small enough to enable decisions to be taken. Inevitably someone always complains. Barack Obama once quipped:

everybody wants the smallest possible group that includes them. So, if they’re the 21st largest nation in the world, they want the G21, and think it’s highly unfair if they have been cut out.

Yes, it must be galling not to have the legal clout of the G20 behind you...

  • 4. Not really. As a forum, none of the G20’s decisions are legally binding. However, they can lay the ground for, and give a significant impetus to, legally-binding agreements made elsewhere.

With so much money, their HQ must be rather sumptuous

  • 5. The G20 is a forum rather than an organisation. Therefore it doesn’t have either an HQ or a permanent secretariat.

Who on earth does all the work then?

  • 6. The country which holds the chair in any given year appoints a temporary secretariat to organise the meeting and plan the topics of discussion.

That sounds like an uphill struggle...

  • 7. Literally. Before a summit takes place, high-ranking officials get together to work out what will be discussed and the best way to secure agreement. They are known as “sherpas” because they find the best way through the rough terrain in advance, before guiding their leader once the summit begins.

If the chair changes every year, so must the terrain

  • 8. In an attempt to achieve some consistency, the preceding, present and next chairs work together as part of what is known as a “troika”.

Face time

  • 9. The G20 summit in Hamburg will be the first time that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump have seen each other face-to-face.


The price of protest

  • 10. Angela Merkel has reassured the world that G20 protests are to be expected. So prepared is Germany, in fact, that it has issued official guidance on the cover offered by various insurance policies for different levels of damage caused by the protesters.