This year’s G20 Summit, held in Bali on November 15-16, successfully produced a joint declaration. This was somewhat surprising, yet welcome, considering that the high-level conference was held amid the unstable geopolitical situation and rising tension between major powers.
To what degree, though, can Indonesian diplomacy lay claim to having delivered the success? What about the strong pressures from the West regarding the war in Ukraine? And apart from the pride expressed by Indonesian people, how can the G20 Bali leaders’ declaration benefit the global community?
How Russia-Ukraine conflict dominated the G20
Since Russia launched its attack against Ukraine in February 2022, the discussions in G20 meetings had changed.
Major powers, especially the United States, had insisted on an agenda to discuss the war during the G20 summit, calling on all members to exclude Russia from G20 membership and invite Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to attend.
The G7 countries even threatened to walk out of events if Russian President Vladimir Putin attended. In almost all of the G20 ministerial-level meetings, or so-called working group, the G7 continued to criticise and condemn Putin for the war. As the consequences, several meetings were unable to produce a communique (agreement document).
Hosting the G20 summit, Indonesia had set three priority issues to be discussed, consisting of global health governance, digital transformation, and energy transition. Those are relevant to the current global COVID-19 recovery efforts.
However, the pressures, from both the West and those member countries that refused sanctions against Russia, had put Indonesia in a tricky position. Indonesia had taken various measures as extra efforts to respond to the pressures and ensure that the G20 Summit could run peacefully and properly.
One of the most highlighted efforts was the initiative of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to visit Russia and Ukraine and meet both Putin and Zelenskyy. Jokowi directly invited them to the G20 summit.
Ultimately, though, Russia was represented by Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov, while Zelenskyy attended virtually. The intensifying tug-of-war among the big powers during the two-day conference could be seen by what is written on the declaration. Point 3 of the Bali G20 leaders’ declaration explicitly conveys condemnation against Russia’s invasion in Ukraine:
Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy - constraining growth, increasing inflation, disrupting supply chains, heightening energy and food insecurity, and elevating financial stability risks. There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions.
Instead of representing all members, the paragraph only mentions “most members”, indicating that not all state leaders of G20 support the condemnation. This reflected the tough debates in the formulation of the declaration.
During the G20 Summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping called on all countries not to politicise the Russia-Ukraine issue and not to blame the conflict for the food crisis. China believed that the food crisis was caused by the hampered supply chains due to the sanctions imposed by the West against Russia.
Since the global debates about the Ukraine war emerged, the Indonesian government had firmly emphasised that the G20 forum did not aim to discuss and resolve the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
It should be noted that the G20 is an informal forum whose dialogues should focus on the global economy. Security and geopolitical issues, in particular, should not be discussed at the Summit. This is clearly a complex, interconnected matter, however.
Monitoring the G20 results
Enormous challenges also enveloped the summit as it took place amidst post-pandemic global recovery efforts. The theme carried by Indonesia, “Recover Together, Recover Stronger”, had a profound meaning about the importance of recovering together, both in terms of economic growth and development. The principle of inclusiveness and leaving no one behind in the sustainable development agenda was echoed in such a way in various G20 meetings.
However, the meaning of “together” here still leaves a question: to whom or which group of countries does it refer to? Hence, the primary task is ensuring that G20 members carry out the various commitments produced at the summit.
G20 countries are expected to concretely implement key agreements, including accumulating pandemic funds, which are not only beneficial for G20 members but also, and especially, for developing countries that are vulnerable to the current challenges impacting the world.
Monitoring the execution of the G20 agreement is crucial, considering that the G20 forum is not a binding forum. This is what will determine the real success, or otherwise, of Indonesia’s G20 presidency.
Zalfa Imani Trijatna from Universitas Indonesia (UI) translated this article from English.