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7 January 2022

G20

Frequently asked questions: G20

Abbreviation "FAQ" (Frequently asked questions) enlarge image
Source:  iStockphoto.com/porcorex

Who is in the G20?

The G20 comprises 19 states plus the European Union (EU). The member countries are: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The G20 member states represent over 85% of global gross domestic product, three-quarters of global trade and roughly two-thirds of the world’s population. Each presidency also regularly invites international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Financial Stability Board and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to participate in the G20 meetings.

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How do the G20 countries work together?

The most visible part of the G20 process is the summit of the heads of state and government, which is organised and prepared by the country holding the presidency. Additional meetings on finance policy issues attended by finance ministers and central bank governors are also organised under each presidency. Intensive political coordination takes place on various working levels among the governments ahead of the G20 meetings. The results of each meeting are published in a communiqué.

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How are the G20’s decisions implemented?

The G20 is an informal forum. It is not an international organisation and has neither administrative structures of its own nor permanent offices for its members. While the G20’s decisions are not legally binding, the member states make voluntary commitments which carry considerable political weight. Decisions are implemented by the relevant bodies, for example the International Monetary Fund or the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision.

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Are the G20 meetings not too expensive?

While it is true that the G20 conferences and summits cost money, the results achieved so far show that the political and economic gains far outstrip the initial expense.

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Does the G20 put economically weaker countries at a disadvantage?

The G20 forum is aimed at solving global challenges that can only be dealt with by countries taking joint action. These challenges also affect other countries in addition to the G20 members. Examples within the remit of finance ministers include the creation of regulatory standards to maintain a functioning international payment system, improving financial inclusion with measures to improve access to financial services for everyone, and the development of standards for financing infrastructure projects. These projects, and many more, are precisely in the interests of non-G20 members. In addition, representatives of non-G20 countries, often including economically weaker countries, also take part in G20 meetings as guests.

The G20’s outreach activities are also important in this context: the well-established dialogue with civil society and with representatives of NGOs, business, and unions, as well as with scientists and women’s and youth groups, is another important part of the G20. Representatives of ten “engagement groups” (Civil20, Think20, Business20, Labour20, Science20, Women20, Youth20, Urban 20, Parliament 20 and SupremeAuditInstitution20) develop recommendations that are presented during dialogue forums, allowing these groups to contribute their views to the G20 process.

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What is the Sherpa Track?

The G20 summits are prepared by “sherpas”, who are usually senior members of the staff of the heads of state and government. The summits for the heads of state and government were incorporated into the G20 process in 2008 as a response to the financial crisis.

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What is the Finance Track?

In the Finance Track, the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors come together at meetings that are prepared by the finance ministers’ and central bank governors’ deputies and their teams. The German finance minister’s personal deputy holds the official title of G20 Finance Deputy.

The largest and most important event in the Finance Track is the meeting of the finance ministers and the central bank governors.

The Sherpa Track and the Finance Track work together closely, and the results from all work areas are summarised in the leaders’ communiqué. Since financial and economic issues continue to play an important role at the level of the heads of state and government, the finance ministers also participate in the summits for G20 leaders.

The dialogue with civil society and with representatives of NGOs, business, and unions, as well as with scientists and women’s and youth groups, is another important part of the G20. Representatives of ten “engagement groups” (Civil20, Think20, Business20, Labour20, Science20, Women20, Youth20, Urban 20, Parliament 20 and SupremeAuditInstitution20) develop recommendations that are presented during dialogue forums and discussed with the G20.

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What happens at the specialist conferences, working groups and workshops?

There is intensive political coordination on various working levels among the governments ahead of the G20 meetings. In the Finance Track, this includes specialist conferences, working groups and workshops with the participation of researchers, industry representatives and officials from other ministries, where appropriate. At the meetings, important global issues are discussed and options for taking action are developed. The host country, which changes every year, decides on a specific focus which will play a particularly prominent role during its presidency.