G20 leaders' declaration plays down climate and Ukraine war

Document of the Global South seen as a diplomatic victory for countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America

Leaders at the G20 summit on Saturday, in New Delhi. Getty Images
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India succeeded in forging a consensus among world leaders at the G20 summit on Saturday.

The G20 stressed the need for countries not to use force to grab territory, at the gathering in New Delhi.

The consensus was unexpected, as the G20 was divided over the war in Ukraine, with western countries earlier calling for strong condemnation of Russia in the declaration, while other nations urged a focus on broader economic issues.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the agreement.

“With the hard work of our teams and your support, there has been a consensus on New Delhi G20 declaration,” he said, rapping the table several times.

“My proposal is that this leaders’ declaration should be adopted. I announce to adopt this declaration.”

The leaders declare a joint statement after every summit, summarising their commitments and pledges.

“Until yesterday it seemed it would be difficult so this is quite a diplomatic victory,” Sumedha Dasgupta, a senior analyst, Asia at the Economist Intelligence Unit, told The National.

On climate, too, the G20 found minimal common ground, despite meeting in what the EU's climate monitor says is expected to be the hottest year in human history.

The leaders agreed that the world needs a total of $4 trillion annually of low-cost financing for the energy transition, with a high share of renewables in the primary energy mix.

The statement called for accelerating efforts towards a “phasedown of unabated coal power”, but said this had to be done “in line with national circumstances and recognising the need for support towards just transitions”.

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar described the New Delhi document as “inclusive”.

“The declaration the leaders have agreed on today focuses on promoting strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth. It seeks to accelerate progress on SDGs and has come up with an action plan accordingly,” he told reporters at the India Media Centre at Pragati Maidan, the venue of the summit.

Amitabh Kant, India's G20 sherpa, said the declaration was a “Document of the Global South”, adding that all 83 paragraphs in the document were accepted by the members.

“This demonstrates both the Prime Minister's and India's great ability to bring all developing countries, all emerging markets, all developed countries, China, Russia, everybody together on the same table and brief consensus,” Mr Kant said.

Achieving a consensus was a test for New Delhi. Western nations and their allies, such as Australia and Japan, stand in solidarity with Ukraine after its invasion by Russia and blame Moscow for global economic disruptions as well as food shortages and inflation.

At their last summit in Bali, the leaders declared that the conflict was the cause of global economic problems, including inflation, and disruption of food supply chains.

Russia and China agreed to the paragraphs but withdrew their support this year, saying that the G20 was not the right platform to discuss security issues – with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping deciding to give the event in New Delhi a miss.

Mr Jaishankar agreed that getting all the members on board for the joint consensus required “considerable time” but also thanked the members including China, for its consent.

“Obviously because of the ongoing conflict, strong views about it, considerable time was spent on it in the last few days centred around the war,” Mr Jaishankar said.

“Eventually … everybody came together for the consensus. The emerging markets in particular took a lead on this.”

India worked very closely with Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia to reach a consensus on the language on the war in Ukraine in the summit document, he said.

New Delhi said it was a document of the “Global South”, a term used to refer to developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

New Delhi has been trying to portray itself as a rising geopolitical force and considers getting the joint consensus a victory of its growing power and independent foreign policy.

The opening day of the G20 summit from Delhi

The opening day of the G20 summit from Delhi

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The EIU's Ms Dasgupta said that India’s success in getting the joint communique will bolster Mr Modi and India’s image on the world stage.

“India has traditionally not led multilateral organisation and doesn’t have leadership experience but now, for the past two years, India has tried to change things. India’s expression legacy will now significantly drive and now with the joint statement is one, the AU, many such things have come out of the statements.”

“If there was not a consensus it would have raised questions about India’s ability to lead. Now that there is a joint communique, the opposite is true. India has positioned itself as quite a credible leader, someone who can make the Global South heard among the richer sections of the world,” Ms Dasgupta said.

The New Delhi Declaration also condemned acts of terrorism saying it was criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, “wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed”.

“We condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including those on the basis of xenophobia, racism and other forms of intolerance, or in the name of religion or belief, recognising the commitment of all religions to peace. It constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security,” the G20 New Delhi Leaders' Declaration said.


Updated: September 10, 2023, 9:40 AM