India’s G20 Presidency And The Dawn Of A New Multilateralism – OpEd

Today marks 365 days since India assumed the G20 presidency. It is a moment to reflect, recommit and rejuvenate the spirit of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,” One Earth, One Family, One Future.

As we undertook this responsibility last year, the global landscape grappled with multifaceted challenges: recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, looming climate threats, financial instability and debt distress in developing nations, all amid declining multilateralism. In the midst of conflicts and competition, development cooperation suffered, impeding progress.

Assuming the G20 chair, India sought to offer the world an alternative to the status quo, a shift from gross domestic product-centric to human-centric progress. India aimed to remind the world of what unites us, rather than what divides us. Finally, the global conversation had to evolve — the interests of the few had to give way to the aspirations of the many. This required a fundamental reform of multilateralism as we knew it.

Inclusive, ambitious, action-oriented and decisive — these four words defined our approach as G20 president. And the New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration, unanimously adopted by all G20 members, is testimony to our commitment to deliver on these principles.

Inclusivity has been at the heart of our presidency. The inclusion of the African Union as a permanent member of the G20 integrated 55 African nations into the forum, expanding it to encompass 80 percent of the global population. This proactive stance has fostered a more comprehensive dialogue on global challenges and opportunities.

The first-of-its-kind “Voice of the Global South Summit,” convened by India in two editions, heralded a new dawn of multilateralism. India has mainstreamed the Global South’s concerns in international discourse and ushered in an era where developing countries take their rightful place in shaping the global narrative.

Inclusivity also infused India’s domestic approach to the G20, making it a people’s presidency that befitted that world’s largest democracy. Through “jan bhagidari” (people’s participation) events, the G20 reached 1.4 billion citizens, involving all states and union territories as partners. And on substantive elements, India ensured that international attention was directed to broader developmental aims, aligning with the G20’s mandate.

At the critical midpoint of the 2030 Agenda, India delivered the G20 2023 Action Plan to Accelerate Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, taking a cross-cutting, action-oriented approach to interconnected issues, including health, education, gender equality and environmental sustainability.

A key area driving this progress is robust digital public infrastructure. Here, India was decisive in its recommendations, having witnessed the revolutionary impact of digital innovations like Aadhaar, UPI and Digilocker first-hand. Through the G20, we successfully completed the Global Digital Public Infrastructure Repository, a significant stride in technological collaboration. This repository, featuring more than 50 digital public infrastructures from 16 countries, will help the Global South build, adopt and scale such infrastructures to unlock the power of inclusive growth. 

For our “One Earth,” we introduced ambitious and inclusive aims to create urgent, lasting and equitable change. The New Delhi declaration’s “Green Development Pact” addresses the challenges of choosing between combating hunger and protecting the planet by outlining a comprehensive roadmap, in which employment and ecosystems are complementary, consumption is climate-conscious and production is planet-friendly.

In tandem, the G20 declaration calls for an ambitious tripling of global renewable energy capacity by 2030. Coupled with the establishment of the Global Biofuels Alliance and a concerted push for green hydrogen, the G20’s ambitions to build a cleaner, greener world is undeniable. This has always been India’s ethos and, through Lifestyles for Sustainable Development, the world can benefit from our age-old sustainable traditions.

Further, the declaration underscores our commitment to climate justice and equity, urging substantial financial and technological support from the Global North. For the first time, there was a recognition of the quantum jump needed in the magnitude of development financing, moving from billions to trillions of dollars. The G20 acknowledged that developing countries require $5.9 trillion to fulfill their nationally determined contributions by 2030.

Given the monumental resources required, the G20 emphasized the importance of better, larger and more effective multilateral development banks. Concurrently, India is taking a leading role in UN reforms, especially in the restructuring of principal organs like the UN Security Council, which will ensure a more equitable global order.

Gender equality took center stage in the declaration, culminating in the announcement of a dedicated Working Group on the Empowerment of Women, which will be formed next year. India’s Women’s Reservation Bill 2023, reserving a third of India’s parliament and state legislative assembly seats for women, epitomizes our commitment to women-led development.

The New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration embodies a renewed spirit of collaboration across these key priorities, focusing on policy coherence, reliable trade and ambitious climate action. It is a matter of pride that, during our presidency, the G20 achieved 87 outcomes and 118 adopted documents, a marked rise from the past.

During our G20 presidency, India led the deliberations on geopolitical issues and their impact on economic growth and development. Terrorism and the senseless killing of civilians is unacceptable and we must address it with a policy of zero tolerance. We must embody humanitarianism over hostility and reiterate that this is not an era of war.

I am delighted that, during our presidency, India achieved the extraordinary: it revitalized multilateralism, amplified the voice of the Global South, championed development and fought for the empowerment of women everywhere.

As we hand over the G20 presidency to Brazil, we do so with the conviction that our collective steps for people, planet, peace and prosperity will resonate for years to come.