What's the G20, how did it start and what does it do?

This year is the 17th meeting of the G20. It takes place in Bali, Indonesia.
This year is the 17th meeting of the G20. It takes place in Bali, Indonesia. Copyright Leon Neal/WPA Rota
By Euronews
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The G20 was started as an intergovernmental forum to coordinate economic policies, but it's grown to encompass all issues linked to globalisation.


The G20 - or Group of Twenty - was created in 1999 as a way to discuss economic policies among the world’s largest economies.

How did the G20 start?

The intergovernmental forum had its first leaders’ summit, which has now become an annual occurrence, in November 2008 in Washington, DC.

The host was then-US president George W. Bush, who was at the end of his second term with recently-elected Barack Obama waiting in the wings.

It was pivotal timing - with the world plunging into the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression, reforming the global financial system to respond to the global economic crisis was crucial.

Which countries are G20 members?

The G20 was conceived as a common platform for world leaders.

It includes members of what used to be the G8: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and the US.

(Russia was kicked out of the G8 after its invasion of Crimea in 2014, giving way to what is now the G7.)

But it also opened up membership to emerging economies, like Brazil, India, China, South Africa and this year’s host Indonesia.

The European Union also sends one representative to the G20 forum every year.

What’s the goal of the G20 summits?

The goal at the outset was to avoid a chaotic expansion of global markets by providing a forum to discuss macroeconomic issues, political disputes and trade.

As individual economies became more intertwined, the G20 turned into a forum for dealing with globalisation and finding solutions for how to secure steady global economic growth.

That meant tackling pressing issues among its diverse members - including workers rights, environmental standards and respect for the rule of law.

The scope widened to include issues other than the economy, like health and the climate.

Do G20 members get along?

Obviously, a group of 20 leaders with their own national interests and ideologies are not going to agree on everything.

In recent years, G20 discussions have pinned democracies, led by the United States and Europe, against authoritarian states like China and Russia - with both sides looking after their own interests and often unable to compromise.

Various crises, including the debt crisis, Covid-19 pandemic and now the war in Ukraine have created huge rifts between members.

This year’s meeting also takes place as China enters a new era, with President Xi Jinping tightening his grip on power.

And as China hopes to overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy, the balance of power within the G20 could be about to shift.

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