I recently travelled to Moscow to participate in several G20-related gatherings, and the ‘Council of Councils‘ meeting – a network established by the New York based Council on Foreign Relations. That meeting was quite wide-ranging  so I won’t reflect on it here. Details on it and the council of councils are available here, including set of memorandums pertaining to the Russian G20 chairmanship. Herewith some brief reflections on my ‘official’ G20 interactions.

g20russialogoI first participated in the ‘Think 20’, a network of think-tanks formed to brainstorm future agenda items and current issues and on the basis of that advise the host G20 state – Russia in this case. A summary, the various presentations and interviews (including one with yours truly) are available here. In general I thought the discussions were interesting and seemed to be taken seriously by our hosts. Naturally I pushed the trade agenda, and have to say I found that session to be the most coherent. How seriously the Russians will push it remains to be seen. Their President, Mr Putin, is now talking openly about implementing ‘intelligent protectionism’ so I have my doubts.

I also popped in to the Business 20 (B20) meeting to listen to their priorities. I was surprised to find that no representative of South African business was there, but that confirmed my sense that SA business has not really taken the B20 agenda seriously which in turn reflects an inward orientation in matters relating to foreign economic policy. Summaries of their deliberations are available here.

And I briefly attended another, you guessed it, ’20’ meeting: the ‘Civil 20’ (C20). This is a network of civil society organizations coordinated by the Monk School at the University of Toronto, which provides a great resource on all matters G20 and BRICS related. Their focus for next year’s G20 meetings is on addressing global inequality and how it has been affected by the ongoing financial crisis. Whilst this is an important topic I wasn’t convinced there is much G20 member states can do to address it given their internal differences over economic policy approaches.

So the G20 is bustling and the Russians are taking it seriously. What impact their stewardship will have remains to be seen. There is of course a much broader debate about the overall efficacy of the G20, but that is a subject for another day.