The G20 emerged as a financial and technical grouping from the fallout of the East Asian financial crisis with little regard for the agenda of small and vulnerable countries. The 2008 global financial crisis forced the G20 into the public eye. Leaders had to solve an urgent and deep crisis. Unprecedented co-ordinated action followed and brought with it a positive impact on development. The 2009 London Summit announced fiscal stimulus packages which have indirectly helped poorer countries, injected more liquidity into the financial system (with guarantees for poorer countries) and agreed, with some success, not to increase protectionism. The 2010 Toronto Summit established a Working Group on Development, with a mandate to create a development agenda and multi-year action plans to be adopted at the Seoul Summit. The Seoul Summit of November 2010 adopted the Seoul Development Consensus on Shared Growth.
This paper aims to conceptualise the development agenda at the G20 from a Commonwealth perspective which takes into account the vulnerabilities and resilience of Commonwealth small states in Africa, the Caribbean and Asia-Pacific. Small and vulnerable states have different development priorities from other types of developing countries, and it is important that the G20 (and the G20 Working Group on Development) is aware of this and integrates these considerations into its work. The Commonwealth will need to facilitate the process.
The Commonwealth has played an active role in G20 issues. Commonwealth countries make up a quarter of the G20 membership and together with the Francophonie, another plurilateral association, with a diverse membership of 57 countries, have highlighted the plight of the non-G20 from an early stage. Most recently, the Commonwealth Ministers of Finance Meeting (October 2010) welcomed a Commonwealth role in promoting G20 dialogue.
The Commonwealth has a key role to play in bringing the vulnerabilities of small states to the attention of the G20 by discussing G20 and development issues at key meetings, e.g. the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting before the French led G20 summit in autumn 2011. It can also organise regional meetings (after Seoul, e.g. in the Caribbean and the Pacific) to examine the new context of global governance and understand what the regions want from the G20 and how to implement and monitor the G20 multi-year action plans. It could establish priority demands for the G20 and help implement the multi-year action plans on development and provide an adequate monitoring framework to assess G20 actions.
It can advocate globally for inclusion of resilience and vulnerability aspects in the G20 development plans, asking for trade liberalisation of G20 members towards all developing countries; ensuring the proposed financial safety net covers small states (and that all external shocks are potentially covered); promoting additional debt relief for small states who have large debts; promoting Aid for Trade as this is especially effective in small states and linking small states networks to a G20-supported knowledge sharing network.