India has taken over G20 Presidency from Indonesia at a critical juncture where it has to address spill-over effects of COVID-19 and the on-going geo-political crisis. Indian G20 Presidency is making all-out efforts to go beyond short-term crisis management and focus on more longer-term issues of structural transformation in global governance towards inclusive, resilient and sustainable outcomes. Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi’s message of healing, harmony and hope for the G20 would shape activities and deliverables of the Indian G20 Presidency. The theme of the Indian G20 Presidency, “One Earth, One Family, One Future” and the emphasis on “Lifestyle for Environment” have set the mandate towards a coherent agenda of sustainable development, climate action and climate justice. This philosophy gives the Indian Presidency immense opportunities for building consensus in a fractured world.
The world is passing through turbulent times of multiple crises- food, fuel and pandemics. Post-COVID recovery has become uncertain and prolonged, and progress in SDGs has reversed and slowed down drastically across many countries of the world. Significant positive changes made in areas like poverty reduction, maternal and child health, access to electricity and gender equality in the pre-COVID years no longer serve as the basis on which we can build a plan of action for further progress on SDGs by 2030. Shrinking fiscal space coupled with growing debt service burden has widened SDG financing gaps across 3 countries, in particular LDCs and SIDS. Higher prices of food, energy and essential services have pushed millions of people in developing countries to poverty and caused distress migration. While short-term crisis financing has been the conventional solution to such types of crises in the past, a radical course correction in the form of a new value-based development paradigm is more desirable now than ever before. Breaking the decades of dominance of neo-classical growth models, the new development transformation must assign emphasis on social, environmental, cultural and ethical factors of wellbeing than per capita income alone.
The new paradigm should involve change in the way new enablers like infrastructure, environment, health, role of women, investing in children, traditional medicine, etc. are to be factored. For instance, many physical and social infrastructure investments have positive financial returns but involve long gestation periods which have implications for SDGs.
Achieving SDGs will require access to affordable, long-term and stable sources of financing infrastructure and other development projects. Innovative sources of funding, both at the domestic level and the global level involving National Development Banks, PPPs and private sector entities, need to be scaled up. Augmenting capital resources of MDBs, which is being deliberated at length in the recent years, can help to meet growing demands for development and SDG financing.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been used widely by the countries as a single indicator of development with a high degree of faith that higher economic growth would ultimately manifest in higher income, address social problems, reduce inequality, and so on. Contrary to that, poverty and inequality have persisted in many part of the world for decades especially in the developing countries, LDCs and SIDS, and most importantly traditional growth models have failed in addressing social vulnerability. At the societal level, countries continue to grapple with adverse climate change, biodiversity loss, lack of access to basic amenities, social inequality, and increased stress even in periods of high growth. There has been a growing recognition of the need to complement purely GDP-based progress with alternative measures of societal progress.
The environmental & ecological products like air, water, forests, wildlife may not be part of the market, but it is now evident that degradation of those would adversely affect environment and wellbeing. Education and health are greatly interwoven with the wellbeing of people. The COVID-19 pandemic and consequent health crisis, unequal burdens on LDCs, uneven growth across countries, supply-chain disruptions have further, etc. necessitated the need for comprehensive discussion on the multidimensional nature of development.
On the health front, in the last two decades traditional and complementary medicine has received much traction for global cooperation on formulation of national policies and regulations as part of national health systems. Emphasis has shifted to green pharmacy for greater health resilience through traditional herbal medicines. Environmental and other challenges, the spread of zoonotic diseases, etc. make it necessary to take a ‘One Health’ approach. Antimicrobial resistance continues to be a major problem. Using the One Health approach, regional and transnational cooperation in health surveillance can be encouraged. It will also strive to strengthen cooperation in the pharmaceutical sector to ensure the availability of essential medicines in every country. The use of technologies, particularly digital health in the realm of healthcare will ensure access to medical care at affordable cost.
While trade and investment are conventional instruments of bilateral and multilateral relations, the changing economic landscape with rapid spread and deepening of global value chains are attracting countries to offer and expect higher market access from each other. Women-led entrepreneurship and collective economic empowerment schemes in various parts of the world have generated hope for inclusive and resilient development strategies. While G20 embraces those issues as priority areas for deliberations, there are demands for change in the structure and process of G20 especially representation of Africa, greater focus on development issues, prioritising the agenda and so on.
With participation of around 400 participants including over 90 international speakers, more than 100 experts from different parts of India, and enthusiastic local participation, the T20 Special Event over the past two days marked a significant milestone for T20 India. The rich content and high quality deliberations would certainly become the basis of reference and acted upon by the T20 fraternity and the G20 in the upcoming Working Group deliberations and ministerial tracks.