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Seminar debates challenges faced by G20


Cristina Azevedo (Fiocruz News Agency)


There are a lot of statements, and a lot of commitments as well, but there is a lack of distinction of responsibilities and of the obligation in fulfilling the goals set, which hinders the operation of the G20. That is what the participants in the latest Advanced Seminar of the Fiocruz Global Health Center (CRIS/Fiocruz) point out. The G-20 Webinar: What we should expect from the richest people in the world in global and planetary health? analyzed the conclusions of the summit of the 19 countries that have the world’s main economies and the European Union.


For Paulo Esteves, International Relations Professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (IRI/PUC, in the Portuguese acronym), the problems date from the creation of the G8, then formed by the United States, Canada, France, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia. With the 2008 economic crisis, the G20, which also includes some developing nations, increased its role as the main driver of global economic policy debate, absorbed new themes, but still kept characteristics of its predecessor: a “club” layout, which excludes part of the agents, and a struggle in “distinguishing responsibilities”.

‘G2’ in G20

“The oligarchy expanded, but it does not mean that structures have been democratized”, said Esteves. “In the lack of a clear responsibility among the members, the G20 runs in circles in many dynamics. One of them is that everyone seems to be equal and seems to contribute in the same way. Another one is the ‘G2’ inside of the G20 itself, which is the USA/China negotiation. And the third one is that everyone is in charge. My grandmother used to say that when everyone is in charge, no one is in charge. Therefore, there is not a clear mandatory commitment. And when speaking about global public assets, we need to have mandatory contributions”, he added.

That reflects in the note made by Pedro Burger, assistant coordinator of CRIS, who commented about health in the group’s global process: the repetition of commitments that are more conceptual than tangible. “There is a well-elaborated rhetoric that stumbles upon geopolitical interests”, he noted. Burger, however, highlighted that “there was a conceptual evolution in the health issue, a strengthening of concepts such as unified health, universal coverage and a rapprochement of the United States to the World Health Organization (WHO) after the end of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Representing civil society, the Italian Nicoletta Dentico, co-president of the Geneva Global Health Hub (G2H2), was more critical, even in relation to reinforcement in the health issue. She exposed doubts relating to the fellow countryman and former prime minister Mario Monti leading the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development of the WHO. “If there is someone in Europe that inserted rules of the market in health, this person was Monti”, she stated. Dentico also lamented that the patent-breaking proposal relating to COVID-19 was not carried out, but noted that now “the elephant is in the room”.

Under the health lenses

The ambassador Santiago Alcazar, senior researcher at CRIS, went beyond: to him, the G20 needs to observe health and climate changes, two huge threats currently, through new lenses. “The group created a Health-Finances task force. They could say it is a new way of bringing the health lenses to the issue, but it is not. I do not know if the Finances ministers invited the Health ministers, or if it was the other way around. And it will have an impact on the agenda they will bring”, he noted.

Alcazar highlighted some matters in the final declaration that faced limitations due to this “restrict optics”. The fact that the G20 recognizes immunization as a global good and mentions the support to global strategics, such as Covax Facility, reveal that they “limit themselves to the pandemic, without addressing other subjects in health.” Investing in the Sustainable Development Goals, but mainly highlighting the universal health coverage, ends up dividing the SDG, “which as inseparable”. “For as long as they do not use the health lenses, they will not be able to see the human dimension”.

Lack of cooperation

The American economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, highlighted three big challenges. The first one is the lack of global cooperation: the multilateral institutions are weak, the processes are not implementable or suffer because great powers do not want to implement them. The governments reveal themselves to be weak when facing structural challenges. And there is no financial system operating at a national or global level that directs finances to solutions. “When adding all of that, we do not have a process of global action, be it for the pandemic of for climate changes”, he said. “There is no lack of declarations or commitment. There is a lack of cooperation”, he stated.

The next G20 meetings will be in developing countries: Indonesia in 2022, India in 2023, and Brazil in 2024. “If there is an opportunity of creating a fairer world, we should use those three years of it”, said Sachs, who mentioned Mexico’s President’s, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, suggestion that rich people should place US$1 trillion in a common fund to reach the SDG - an idea which the economist believes that the G20 should engage on.

The perspectives for the next meeting of the group, however, are not positive for Paulo Buss, coordinator of CRIS. Buss said he was disappointed in seeing Indonesia proposing the digital issue as a theme for the next meeting - which may mean a lost opportunity for the subjects addressed in the seminar.

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