TORONTO (IDN) - What will the G20 London Summit be remembered for? Are we at a major turning point in global politics and international governance? Did this Summit signal a new international consensus or will new and old divergences rule the day? Are we seeing a new "coming together" of North and South, or will lack of follow through from London give rise to a new Global South, led by a new bloc of rising power?

In his wrap up speech at the G20 London, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that the Washington Consensus was over, and that the world was seeing the emergence of a new world economic order. Yet amid the afterglow of London some frustrations have emerged. One is the accounting sleight in the $1.1 trillion commitment that was agreed to by the "20". At first this looked like a big result, and a demonstration that the G20 had not forgotten the mass of the world’s people. But closer examination reveals that a good deal of the monies may be double counted. Such practices would only breed cynicism.

Another frustration remains the grip of the Anglo-American axis on the G20 Summit process. The old trans-Atlantic leadership is, in some ways, positive. However, its continuation comes at the price of genuine recognition of a shifting global order, the new balance of power. The Atlantic condominium, symbolic of the Old Order, is no longer enough, even to set a base for serious discussions for a broader group. Continued emphasis on trans Atlantic views, and contestation with Continental concerns is crowding out ideas and proposals from key emerging actors in the global system.

While the London Summit saw some advances on the details of new regulation and stimulus measures, much less progress was made on adjusting representation in the institutional mix. Major issues of institutional architectural reform remain outstanding, as issues for further review and reflection, despite how much such changes are needed in order to allow for more effective and legitimate global macro-coordination. There is still much to the done to rebuild the institutional framework of global governance. The G20 can be an important start for this process. The very notion of a G20 means that the world is no longer that of 1945 or 1975 – when a narrow band of countries could produce all of the ideas, rules and architecture that mattered.

The world in 2009 is heading toward an increasingly varied and multilayered organizational framework. The traditional powers can no longer dictate to the rest. And yet the emerging economies and developing country groups are not a unified or coherent coalition. Even within the G20, some countries were originally included in the "20" not because of their ability to contribute constructively to the system but because of their potential to destabilize. There are obvious differences in national power capacities in the developing country mix inside the G20, just as inequities have always existed among the old G7.

Another key outcome of the current global crisis, and the G20 London is that it has given rise to a collective voice among the major emerging economies, the so-called "BRICs". In the lead up to the London Summit, the finance ministers of the BRIC group issued, for the first time ever, a Joint Statement, which called on the world’s leading economies to rebuild confidence, maintain and support credit flow to help restore growth.

They followed up in London by pressing, first, for the joint commitment to increase the flow of financial resources to the developing world; second, a joint commitment to rebalance the macroeconomic surveillance function of the IMF, especially placing new emphasis on monitoring the advanced economies with major international financial centers and large cross-border capital flows; and third, a new commitment to review the issue of representation inside the IFIs, with the intention of advancing reform proposals to better reflect "real economic weights", and more equitable representation of the membership.

It is also clear that among the BRICs, China stands out. Although Brazil and India along with South Africa possess a measure of moral authority, it is only China that has a sufficient amount of material capability to shape G20 outcomes through major financial resource contributions. Indeed many observers have come away from London talking not only about the weight of the G20 but of a new informal "G2" – a new condominium between the U.S. and China.

It would be unwise to jump to conclusions too soon. The G20 remains a work in progress, and the jury is still out on whether this larger grouping can deliver on its promises. If it can, then it would certainly provide the new organizational basis for the emerging global economic order.

However, if it fails to deliver on some major promises, it could fuel cynicism and fragmentation. Nor is a "stand alone" G2 inevitable. The EU would not be in favour of such a scenario. Nor is it certain that China wants such an organizational framework. Standing outside of the global South has disadvantages for Beijing, especially considering the substantial clout that it has accumulated within the South through massive new capital allocations and trading relations. For all involved, the best outcome may in fact be a more inclusive and democratized global governance, with a new architecture that provides for a greater measure of equality between the North and South, and between the emerging and traditional powers. - 09.06.2009

Note: Andrew F. Cooper is Associate Director and Distinguished Fellow at The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), and Professor of Political Science at the University of Waterloo in Canada. Gregory Chin is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and Faculty of Graduate Studies at York University in Canada, where he teaches global politics, comparative politics and East Asian political economy. Dr. Chin is also a Senior Fellow at CIGI.

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