The G-20 After Eight Years: How Effective a Vehicle for Developing-Country Influence?

Leonardo Martinez-Diaz
Leonardo Martinez-Diaz Global Director - Sustainable Finance Center, World Resources Institute

October 17, 2007


To what extent has eight years of participation in the Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (G20) strengthened the influence of developing countries in global governance? This paper tries to answer this question by assessing the degree to which the G20’s annual communiqués reflect the policy preferences of the G20’s developed and developing country members. Nine policy issues are selected in which developed and developing countries have expressed significant differences of opinion in forums outside the G20. Then, consensus on those issues is compared systematically across the G20, the G7, and the G24. The G7 and the G24 communiqués are used as proxies for the policy preferences of the developed and developing countries of the G20, respectively.

The results of this exercise suggest that the G20 has primarily served as a vehicle for mobilizing support for G7 policies, especially on issues about which the G7 governments cared most strongly. Endorsement by the G20 has given these G7-driven policies a broader base of legitimacy and support. At the same time, positions favored by developing countries—especially those that would have imposed large costs on G7 firms and governments—have made little headway in the group. Developing countries have become more active and assertive in the G20 as the network has matured, and in two instances they made original contributions to the global policy agenda. But so far, the benefits of these initiatives have been modest. After eight years, the G20 has done little to enhance developing-country influence. Yet, the paper also identifies a several reasons why it may too early for developing countries to give up on the G20.