The G20 or Group of Twenty is an intergovernmental forum comprising 19 countries and the European Union (EU). It works to address major issues related to the global economy, such as international financial stability, climate change mitigation, and sustainable development.
The G20 is composed of most of the world's largest economies, including both industrialized and developing nations, and accounts for around 90% of gross world product (GWP), 75–80% of international trade,[b] two-thirds of the global population, and roughly half the world's land area.
The G20 was founded in 1999 in response to several world economic crises. Since 2008, it has convened at least once a year, with summits involving each member's head of government or state, finance minister, foreign minister, and other high-ranking officials; the EU is represented by the European Commission and the European Central Bank.[c] Other countries, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations are invited to attend the summits, some on a permanent basis.
At its 2009 summit, the G20 declared itself the primary venue for international economic and financial cooperation. The group's stature has risen during the subsequent decade, and it is recognized by analysts as exercising considerable global influence; it is also criticized for its limited membership, lack of enforcement powers, and for alleged undermining of existing international institutions. Summits are often met with protests, particularly by anti-globalization groups.
The G20 is the latest in a series of post–World War II initiatives aimed at international coordination of economic policy, which include institutions such as the "Bretton Woods twins", the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and what is now the World Trade Organization.
The G20 was foreshadowed at the Cologne summit of the G7 in June 1999, and formally established at the G7 Finance Ministers' meeting on 26 September 1999 with an inaugural meeting on 15–16 December 1999 in Berlin. Canadian finance minister Paul Martin was chosen as the first chairman and German finance minister Hans Eichel hosted the inaugural meeting.
A 2004 report by Colin I. Bradford and Johannes F. Linn of the Brookings Institution asserted the group was founded primarily at the initiative of Eichel, the concurrent chair of the G7. However, Bradford later described then-Finance Minister of Canada (and future Prime Minister of Canada) Paul Martin as "the crucial architect of the formation of the G-20 at finance minister level", and as the one who later "proposed that the G-20 countries move to leaders level summits". Canadian academic and journalistic sources have also identified the G20 a project initiated by Martin and his American counterpart then-Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. All acknowledge, however, that Germany and the United States played a key role in bringing their vision into reality.
Martin and Summers conceived of the G20 in response to the series of massive debt crises that had spread across emerging markets in the late 1990s, beginning with the Mexican peso crisis and followed by the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the 1998 Russian financial crisis, and eventually impacting the United States, most prominently in the form of the collapse of the prominent hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management in the autumn of 1998. It illustrated to them that in a rapidly globalizing world, the G7, G8, and the Bretton Woods system would be unable to provide financial stability, and they conceived of a new, broader permanent group of major world economies that would give a voice and new responsibilities in providing it.
"Geithner and Koch-Weser went down the list of countries saying, Canada in, Portugal out, South Africa in, Nigeria and Egypt out, and so on; they sent their list to the other G7 finance ministries; and the invitations to the first meeting went out."
The G20's primary focus has been governance of the global economy. Summit themes have varied from year to year. The theme of the 2006 G20 ministerial meeting was "Building and Sustaining Prosperity". The issues discussed included domestic reforms to achieve "sustained growth", global energy and resource commodity markets, reform of the World Bank and IMF, and the impact of demographic changes due to an aging world population.
In 2007, South Africa hosted the secretariat with Trevor A. Manuel, South African Minister of Finance as chairperson of the G20.
In 2008, Guido Mantega, Brazil's Minister of Finance, was the G20 chairperson and proposed dialogue on competition in financial markets, clean energy, economic development and fiscal elements of growth and development.
On 11 October 2008 after a meeting of G7 finance ministers, US President George W. Bush stated that the next meeting of the G20 would be important in finding solutions to the burgeoning economic crisis of 2008
The Summit of G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, who prepare the leaders' summit and implement their decisions, was created as a response both to the financial crisis of 2007–2008 and to a growing recognition that key emerging countries were not adequately included in the core of global economic discussion and governance. Additionally, G20 summits of heads of state or government were held.
Since 2011, when France chaired and hosted the G20, the summits have been held only once a year. The 2016 summit was held in Hangzhou, China, the 2017 summit was held in Hamburg, Germany, and the 2018 summit was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
A number of other ministerial-level G20 meetings have been held since 2010. Agriculture ministerial meetings were conducted in 2011 and 2012; meetings of foreign ministers were held in 2012 and 2013; trade ministers met in 2012 and 2014, and employment ministerial meetings have taken place annually since 2010.
In 2012, the G20 Ministers of Tourism and Heads of Delegation of G20 member countries and other invited States, as well as representatives from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and other organisations in the Travel & Tourism sector met in Mérida, Mexico, on May 16 at the 4th G20 meeting and focused on 'Tourism as a means to Job Creation'. As a result of this meeting and The World Travel & Tourism Council's Visa Impact Research, later on the Leaders of the G20, convened in Los Cabos on 18–19 June, would recognise the impact of Travel & Tourism for the first time. That year, the G20 Leaders Declaration added the following statement: "We recognise the role of travel and tourism as a vehicle for job creation, economic growth and development, and, while recognizing the sovereign right of States to control the entry of foreign nationals, we will work towards developing travel facilitation initiatives in support of job creation, quality work, poverty reduction and global growth."
In March 2014, the former Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop, when Australia was hosting the 2014 G20 summit in Brisbane, proposed to ban Russia from the summit over its role in the 2014 Crimean crisis. The BRICS foreign ministers subsequently reminded Bishop that "the custodianship of the G20 belongs to all Member States equally and no one Member State can unilaterally determine its nature and character."
In 2016, the G20 framed its commitment to the 2030 Agenda (Sustainable Development Goals) in three key themes; the promotion of strong sustainable and balanced growth; protection of the planet from degradation; and furthering co-operation with low-income and developing countries. At the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, members agreed on an action plan and issued a high level principles document to member countries to help facilitate the agenda's implementation.
Japan hosted the 2019 summit, The 2020 summit was to be held in Saudi Arabia, but was instead held virtually on 21–22 November 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic under the presidency of Saudi Arabia. 2021 G20 Rome summit which was held in Rome, the capital city of Italy, on 30–31 October 2021.
List of summits
To decide which member nation gets to chair the G20 leaders' meeting for a given year, all members, except the European Union, are assigned to one of five different groupings, with all but one group having four members, the other having three. Nations from the same region are placed in the same group, except Group 1 and Group 2. All countries within a group are eligible to take over the G20 Presidency when it is their group's turn. Therefore, the states within the relevant group need to negotiate among themselves to select the next G20 President. Each year, a different G20 member country assumes the presidency starting from 1 December until 30 November. This system has been in place since 2010, when South Korea, which is in Group 5, held the G20 chair. The table below lists the nations' groupings:
|Group 1||Group 2||Group 3||Group 4||Group 5|
The G20 operates without a permanent secretariat or staff. The group's chair rotates annually among the members and is selected from a different regional grouping of countries. The incumbent chair establishes a temporary secretariat for the duration of its term, which coordinates the group's work and organizes its meetings. The 2019 chair was Japan, which hosted the 2019 summit in Osaka. The current chair is held by Italy. The 2021 summit is planned to be held in Italy. The 2022, 2023 and 2024 summits will be hosted by Indonesia, India and Brazil respectively.
Proposed permanent secretariat
In 2010, President of France Nicolas Sarkozy proposed the establishment of a permanent G20 secretariat, similar to the United Nations. Seoul and Paris were suggested as possible locations for its headquarters. Brazil and China supported the establishment of a secretariat, while Italy and Japan expressed opposition to the proposal. South Korea proposed a "cyber secretariat" as an alternative. It has been argued that the G20 has been using the OECD as a secretariat.
As of 2021 there are 20 members of the group: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Spain is a permanent guest invitee.
Representatives include, at the leaders' summits, the leaders of nineteen countries and of the European Union, and, at the ministerial-level meetings, the finance ministers and central bank governors of nineteen countries and of the European Union.
In addition, each year, the G20's guests include Spain; the Chair of ASEAN; two African countries (the chair of the African Union and a representative of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and a country (sometimes more than one) invited by the presidency, usually from its own region.
The first of the tables below lists the member entities and their heads of government, finance ministers and central bank governors. The second table lists relevant statistics such as population and GDP figures for each member, as well as detailing memberships of other international organizations, such as the G7, BRICS and MIKTA. Total GDP figures are given in millions of US dollars.
Member country data
bil. USD (2018)
mil. USD (2021)
mil. USD (2021)
|Nom. GDP per capita
|PPP GDP per capita
|P5||G4||G7||BRICS||MIKTA||DAC||OECD||C'wth||N11||OPEC||CIVETS||IMF economy classification|
|European Union||17,078,376||21,518,356||38,338||48,305||0.900||512,600,000||4,233,262||No||No||Yes||No||No||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||Advanced (majority)[e]|
In addition to these 20 members, the chief executive officers of several other international forums and institutions participate in meetings of the G20. These include the managing director and Chairman of the International Monetary Fund, the President of the World Bank, the International Monetary and Financial Committee and the Chairman of the Development Assistance Committee.
The G20's membership does not reflect exactly the 20 largest economies of the world in any given year; as the organization states:
In a forum such as the G20, it is particularly important for the number of countries involved to be restricted and fixed to ensure the effectiveness and continuity of its activity. There are no formal criteria for G20 membership and the composition of the group has remained unchanged since it was established. In view of the objectives of the G20, it was considered important that countries and regions of systemic significance for the international financial system be included. Aspects such as geographical balance and population representation also played a major part.
As of 2021, all 19 member nations are among the top 33 economies in terms of nominal GDP, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Among the major economies not represented are Iran (ranked 17th), Switzerland (20), Taiwan (22), Thailand (26), Nigeria (29), Israel (30) and Norway (32), despite many ranking higher than some members. The Netherlands (18), Poland (23), Sweden (24), Belgium (25), Ireland (27) and Austria (28) are included only as part of the EU, and not independently. Spain (14) has participated as a "permanent guest invitee" in every summit since the group's inception; as of 2010, the Spanish government's policy is to not request official membership.
When measured by purchasing power parity (PPP), all 19 members are among the world's top 32 economies, according to 2021 data by the IMF. Of these major economies, Taiwan (ranked 18th), Egypt (21), Thailand (22), Iran (23), Pakistan (24), Vietnam (25), Nigeria (26), the Philippines (29), Malaysia (30) and Bangladesh (31) are not G20 members, while Poland (20) and the Netherlands (27) are only included as EU members, and Spain (16) as a permanent guest invitee.
However, in a list of average GDP, calculated for the years since the group's creation (1999–2008) at both nominal and PPP rates, only Iran, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, Spain, Taiwan and Thailand appear above any G20 member in both lists simultaneously.
Role of Asian countries
A 2011 report released by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) predicted that large Asian economies such as China and India would play a more important role in global economic governance in the future. The report claimed that the rise of emerging market economies heralded a new world order, in which the G20 would become the global economic steering committee. The ADB furthermore noted that Asian countries had led the global recovery following the late-2000s recession. It predicted that the region would have a greater presence on the global stage, shaping the G20's agenda for balanced and sustainable growth through strengthening intraregional trade and stimulating domestic demand.
Typically, several participants that are not permanent members of the G20 are extended invitations to participate in the summits. Each year, the Chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations; the Chair of the African Union; and a representative of the New Partnership for Africa's Development are invited in their capacities as leaders of their organisations and as heads of government of their home states. Additionally, the leaders of the Financial Stability Board, the International Labour Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United Nations, the World Bank Group and the World Trade Organization are invited and participate in pre-summit planning within the policy purview of their respective organisation. Spain is a permanent non-member invitee.
Other invitees are chosen by the host country, usually one or two countries from its own region. For example, South Korea invited Singapore. International organisations which have been invited in the past include the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS), the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Eurasian Economic Community (EAEC), the European Central Bank (ECB), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Global Governance Group (3G) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Previously, the Netherlands had a similar status to Spain while the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union would also receive an invitation, but only in that capacity and not as their own state's leader (such as the Czech premiers Mirek Topolánek and Jan Fischer during the 2009 summits).
Permanent guest invitees
The initial G20 agenda, as conceived by US, Canadian and German policy makers, was very much focused on the sustainability of sovereign debt and global financial stability, in an inclusive format that would bring in the largest developing economies as equal partners. During a summit in November 2008, the leaders of the group pledged to contribute trillions to international finance organizations, including the World Bank and IMF, mainly for reestablishing the global financial system.
The G20 countries account for almost 75% of the global carbon emissions. After the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, more "issues of global significance" were added to the G20 agenda: migration, digitisation, employment, healthcare, the economic empowerment of women and development aid. Despite promises G20 nations subsidised fossil fuel companies over $3.3 trillion between 2015 and 2021.
Wolfgang Schäuble, German Federal Minister of Finance, has insisted on the interconnected nature of the issues facing G20 nations, be they purely financial or developmental, and the need to reach effective, cross-cutting policy measures: "Globalization has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, but there is also a growing rise in frustration in some quarters […] development, [national] security and migration are all interlinked"
Exclusivity of membership
Although the G20 has stated that the group's "economic weight and broad membership gives it a high degree of legitimacy and influence over the management of the global economy and financial system", its legitimacy has been challenged. A 2011 report for the Danish Institute for International Studies criticised the G20's exclusivity, particularly highlighting its underrepresentation of African countries and its practice of inviting observers from non-member states as a mere "concession at the margins", which does not grant the organisation representational legitimacy. With respect to the membership issue, former US President Barack Obama noted the difficulty of pleasing everyone: "Everybody wants the smallest possible group that includes them. So, if they're the 21st largest nation in the world, they want the G21, and think it's highly unfair if they have been cut out." Others stated in 2011 that the exclusivity is not an insurmountable problem, and proposed mechanisms by which it could become more inclusive.
In line with Norway's emphasis on inclusive international processes, the United Nations and the UN-system, in a 2010 interview with Der Spiegel, former Norwegian foreign minister Jonas Gahr Støre called the G20 "one of the greatest setbacks since World War II" as 173 nations who are all members of the UN are not among the G20. This includes Norway, a major developed economy and the seventh-largest contributor to UN international development programs, which is not a member of the EU, and thus is not represented in the G20 even indirectly. Norway, like other such nations, has little or no voice within the group. Støre argued that the G20 undermines the legitimacy of international organizations set up in the aftermath of World War II, such as the IMF, World Bank and United Nations:
The G20 is a self-appointed group. Its composition is determined by the major countries and powers. It may be more representative than the G7 or the G8, in which only the richest countries are represented, but it is still arbitrary. We no longer live in the 19th century, a time when the major powers met and redrew the map of the world. No one needs a new Congress of Vienna.
Norway, under the government of Erna Solberg, attended the 2017 G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, and participates[when?] in working groups and sub-working groups, for instance on research. The Norwegian Minister of the Elderly will participate[when?] under the 2019 Japanese presidency of the G20.
Spanish position on membership
The Spanish government's policy is to not request official membership. Despite being hit hard by the economic crisis after 2008, Spain is still the world's thirteenth largest economy by nominal GDP (the fourth in the European Union) and fifteenth largest by purchasing power parity, clearly exceeding the numbers of several current members of the G20 such as Argentina or South Africa. In addition, since the 1990s several Spanish companies have gained multinational status, often expanding their activities in culturally close Latin America, where Spain is the second biggest foreign investor after the United States and keeps an important influence. These facts have reinforced the idea that Spain should seek permanent membership of the G20.
In contrast with the Spanish position, the Polish government has repeatedly asked to join the G20.
Before the 2009 G20 London summit, the Polish government expressed an interest in joining with Spain and the Netherlands and condemned an "organisational mess" in which a few European leaders speak in the name of all the EU without legitimate authorisation in cases which belong to the European Commission.
During a 2010 meeting with foreign diplomats, Polish president Lech Kaczyński said:
Polish economy is according to our data an 18th world economy. The place of my country is among the members of the G20. This is a very simple postulate: firstly – it results from the size of Polish economy, secondly – it results from the fact that Poland is the biggest country in its region and the biggest country that has experienced a certain story. That story is a political and economic transformation.
In 2012, Tim Ferguson wrote in Forbes that swapping Argentina for Poland should be considered, claiming that the Polish economy was headed toward a leadership role in Europe and its membership would be more legitimate. A similar opinion was expressed by Marcin Sobczyk in the Wall Street Journal,. Mamta Murthi from the World Bank said,"...To be in ‘a club’, what Poland can do is to behave as if it already is in the club it wants to join."
In 2014 consulting company Ernst & Young published its report about optimal members for G20. After analyzing trade, institutional and investment links Poland was included as one of the optimal members.
G20 membership has been part of Poland's Law and Justice party and President Andrzej Duda political program. In March 2017, Deputy Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki took part in a meeting of G20 financial ministers in Baden-Baden as the first Polish representative.
Global Governance Group (3G) response
In June 2010, Singapore's representative to the United Nations warned the G20 that its decisions would affect "all countries, big and small", and asserted that prominent non-G20 members should be included in financial reform discussions. Singapore thereafter took a leading role in organizing the Global Governance Group (3G), an informal grouping of 30 non-G20 countries (including several microstates and many Third World countries) with the aim of collectively channelling their views into the G20 process more effectively. Singapore's chairing of the 3G was cited as a rationale for inviting Singapore to the November 2010 G20 summit in South Korea, as well as the 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 summits.
Foreign Policy critiques
The American magazine Foreign Policy has published articles condemning the G20, in terms of its principal function as an alternative to the supposedly exclusive G8. It questions the actions of some of the G20 members, and advances the notion that some nations should not have membership in the first place. Furthermore, with the effects of the Great Recession still ongoing, the magazine has criticized the G20's efforts to implement reforms of the world's financial institutions, branding such efforts as failures.
The G20's prominent membership gives it a strong input on global policy despite lacking any formal ability to enforce rules. There are disputes over the legitimacy of the G20, and criticisms of its organisation and the efficacy of its declarations.
The G20's transparency and accountability have been questioned by critics, who call attention to the absence of a formal charter and the fact that the most important G20 meetings are closed-door. In 2001, the economist Frances Stewart proposed an Economic Security Council within the United Nations as an alternative to the G20. In such a council, members would be elected by the General Assembly based on their importance to the world economy, and the contribution they are willing to provide to world economic development.
The cost and extent of summit-related security is often a contentious issue in the hosting country, and G20 summits have attracted protesters from a variety of backgrounds, including information activists, opponents of fractional-reserve banking and anti-capitalists. In 2010, the Toronto G20 summit sparked mass protests and rioting, leading to the largest mass arrest in Canada's history.
Fossil fuel subsidies
The G20 countries account for almost 75% of the global carbon emissions and promised in 2009 to phase out 'inefficient subsidies'. Despite these promises G20 nations have subsidised fossil fuel companies over $3.3 trillion between 2015 and 2021, with several nations increasing subsidies; Australia (+48.2%), US (+36.7%), Indonesia (+26.6%), France (+23.8%), China (+4.1%), Brazil (+3.0%), Mexico (+2.6%). China alone generates over half of the coal-generated electricity in the world.
- 19 countries and the European Union (EU).
- If excluding EU intra-trade, 75%.
- Summits were biannual in 2009 and 2010; since the November 2011 Cannes summit, G20 summits have been annual.
- The de jure head of government of China is the Premier of the State Council, whose current holder is Li Keqiang. The President of China is legally a ceremonial office, but the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (de facto leader in one-party communist state) and simultaneously the Chairman of the Central Military Commission (commander-in-chief) has always held this office since 1993 except for the months of transition, and the current paramount leader is Xi Jinping.
- 23 out of 27 EU states are classified as advanced
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