It is well established that a handful of countries rule the roost in the world of international summits and diplomacy. The G7, the G20, the OECD and the UN Security Council are dominated by the same group of countries. The Global South is almost entirely excluded, but mostly few notice.
Summits are often a waste of time – a chore for politicians, their staff and journalists who have to sift through the jargon of turgid press releases to find something worth writing about – but during crises they become one of the most critical vehicles for emergency policy making.
The exclusion from major global forums has undeniably left the countries of the South, particularly Africa, with whom the EU now wants to build a “strategic partnership”, with little influence on policy-making.
This has been most evident in the area of trade and tax policy. The G77 of developing countries has repeatedly and unsuccessfully called for decisions on international tax policy to be made by a UN body rather than by the thirty wealthy states, which make up the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) based in Paris.
Likewise, last year’s decision to issue more than $650 billion in special drawing rights from the International Monetary Fund – intended to give states recovering from the economic bruises inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic a little fiscal respite – was taken by wealthy states which, in turn, received the vast majority of SDRs.
That could now change.
African Union Chair Macky Sall, also President of Senegal, has formally requested that the AU be admitted as a permanent member of the G20, or possibly soon of the G21. South Africa is currently the only African member.
Meanwhile, the finance ministers of Egypt, Senegal and Ghana have sent a letter to the G20 formally requesting increased engagement from Africa and a revival of the debt suspension initiative introduced during the pandemic.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who is hosting the G20 summit in November, said he would urge other leaders to accept the AU’s request.
The AU is still a relatively weak institution that is not yet significantly stronger than the sum of its parts. Its architects see the European Commission as the model to be replicated both in the creation and implementation of policies.
AU officials point the finger at the EU, whose two main leaders, the presidents of the European Commission and the European Council, both attend G20 summits and say their equivalent leaders should also be permanent guests. It could be the making of AU.
The proposal also has the support of the EU.
In a speech to the AU this week, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, gave his endorsement, adding that “together, Africa and Europe can form an arc of peace, prosperity and cooperation for the 21st century”.
Besides being the right thing to say, EU support is sound diplomacy.
It is not a question of political symbolism. The effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on energy and food supplies and prices are expected to hurt African states more than most, and it makes sense to believe that sound policy is more likely when all parties have a say in how it is shaped.
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French lawmakers in the lower house passed an emergency bill tabled by the government providing for 20 billion euros to tackle inflation and the resulting social risks in the early hours of Friday.
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Belgium has reached a first agreement with the French group Engie to extend the use of nuclear energy by 10 years after the Russian invasion of Ukraine forced the government to rethink its plans to rely more on the natural gas.
To reduce gas consumption, the German government on Thursday announced an energy security package including mandatory gas-saving measures for businesses and stricter regulations for the level of gas storage tanks.
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Pay attention to…
- Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides attends the second First Ladies and Gentlemen Summit “Ukraine and the world: the future we (re)build together” on Saturday.
- Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders opens the ‘EU Global Challenges’ conference in San Sebastian, Spain on Monday.
The views are those of the author.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Alice Taylor]