G20 success: We must pursue promises of the New Delhi Declaration

Through the New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration, India has aimed at mainstreaming an environmentally conscious lifestyle for sustainable development.  (AFP)
Through the New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration, India has aimed at mainstreaming an environmentally conscious lifestyle for sustainable development. (AFP)

Summary

  • India clearly has the potential to become a global norm-shaper but it’s also crucial for various commitments made in the New Delhi Declaration by G20 leaders to be met in a timely manner.

Much has been said about the G20 processes in India over the past one year. Some 200-plus meetings covered diverse sectors like agriculture, health, environment, etc, to explore avenues for cooperation. Interestingly, as much as it was a spectacle to behold, given its variety of cultural performances, the G20 under India’s presidency was also hailed as a substantive victory for the country and the Global South. The consensus achieved under India’s presidency has been seen as a sign of confidence that this group of influential countries is continuing to take on emergent challenges. This is reassuring, especially in the light of today’s geopolitical polarization. Examining India’s role in carrying everyone along and what it means for it is also essential.

First, the G20 New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration comprises a total of 83 paragraphs, of which 79 are substantive. It has chapters on strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth, accelerating progress on sustainable development goals, a green development pact for a sustainable future, a technological transformation and digital public infrastructure, multilateral institutions for the 21st century, international taxation, gender equality and empowering all women and girls, financial sector issues, countering terrorism and money laundering, and creating a more inclusive world. Across these eight chapters, there are as many as 87 outcomes and 118 adopted documents: the Leaders’ Declaration, 26 Outcome Documents and 91 others. Along with strategic achievements like drawing renewed attention to counter-terrorism and reinvigorating multilateralism, India helped bring about some crucial commitments to climate action. These include an agreement to pursue the tripling of renewable energy technologies capacity by 2030 globally, which will be critical to accelerating the clean-energy transition. Also, the G20 High-Level Voluntary Principles on Hydrogen will help drive production, utilization and trade of hydrogen produced from zero and low-emission technologies to decarbonize hard-to-abate sectors.

Most importantly, the leaders have committed to implementing the G20 High-Level Principles on Lifestyles for Sustainable Development (LiFE). This idea, which emphasizes embracing an environmentally conscious lifestyle, was first proposed during CoP-26 in 2021. Through the New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration, India has aimed at mainstreaming this lifestyle for sustainable development. Other notable additions include detailed discussions on women-led development in areas like driving gender-inclusive climate action, bridging the gender digital divide, enhancing economic and social empowerment, and securing women’s food security, nutrition and well-being. A flagship deliverable of the presidency also included the G20 Framework for Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI), highlighting the effectiveness of DPI in easier delivery of services. These commitments are seen as a significant diplomatic breakthrough, which may play a key role in defining the G20’s legacy, especially from the perspective of a developing country.

Second, India used the G20 platform to amplify the voice of the Global South. A stand-out contribution is the inclusion of the African Union, which represents 55 African countries, including many Least Developed Countries. Moreover, getting G20 leaders to commit to pursuing efforts to reform multilateral development banks (MDBs) by enhancing their operating models and increasing their financing capacity is a significant achievement. The declaration also mentions the scaling up of investment and climate finance from “billions to trillions of dollars." The need to reform multilateral institutions to make them more inclusive and representative of developing countries has also been highlighted. As a result, G20 leaders recalled the UN General Assembly Resolution 75/1, reaffirming the need for reforms to achieve reinvigorated multilateralism.

Third, how do these commitments translate to substantive gains for India? The G20 negotiations chaired by India have reminded the world of India’s non-aligned yet principled position when it comes to driving consensus. India’s distinct position as a developing country riding the boat with developed countries gives it a stage to mainstream its approaches. This reflected in the consensus that has been achieved on two geopolitical texts—the language on the Russia-Ukraine war and continuation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative to ensure food supplies remain uninterrupted. The slogan “For the Planet, People, Peace and Prosperity" gives us a peak into the Indian approach of balancing maximalist positions. The G20 also gave India multiple opportunities to strengthen its bilateral ties embedded in years of goodwill that the foreign desk in New Delhi has accrued. Answering what lies ahead then requires looking at what lies beyond the G20. Though influential, the forum has a limited mandate, unlike others. Therefore, the focus should be on leveraging this performance among other groupings (Quad, SCO, Brics) and bilaterally. India has had a big-brother attitude in South Asia, and its stint at the G20’s helm can help it transform into a global norm-shaper and thought-maker that delivers. It is now crucial to implement these commitments in a timely manner, pursue the promises made, and give other developing countries an opportunity to be the voice of the Global South.

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