Opinion – All was not lost at the G20 in Bali
As the host of the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (G20 FMM) in Bali, Indonesia did it best to manage the highly charged atmosphere and a divided meeting. Fortunately, all G20 foreign ministers participated, including the invited guest, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, by video link. Soviet Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sat at the same table as US State Secretary Antony Blinken, but they did not speak to each other.
The walk-out, no group photo, no joint statement and other protocols were long anticipated by the hosts. The substance of the G20 was, however, not diluted.
Notwithstanding the political drama, the G20 foreign ministers were able to discuss the global impact of the food and energy crises, which have also caused all kinds of unintended impacts on inflation, economic security, the international energy market, peace and security. Obviously, the meeting fell short of fulfilling its ambitious theme of “Recover Together, Recover Stronger”, but the overall efforts, to build a more peaceful, stable and prosperous world together, was included in all participants’ speeches.
The G20FMM also managed to tackle another key challenge, namely multilateralism and trust. All participants agreed on the importance of multilateralism and the need to find ways to strengthen global collaboration and increase mutual trust among countries for peace and development. That was, however, more easily said than done. During the meeting, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi made it clear that global challenges require global solutions, realising that today it is getting more and more difficult for the world to sit down together.
The G20 FMM agreed that, despite the bleak views of the impacts of the Russia-Ukraine war, there were some bright spots, especially efforts to ensure equitable access to vaccines.
UN Secretary General Antonio Gutierrez minced no words stating that there must joint efforts by existing international institutions to work and deliver together, to overcome humanity’s pressing challenges. He proposed biennial summits that would bring the G20, the UN Economic and Social Council, international financial institutions and the UN Secretary General’s office together to work towards a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient global economy.
In Bali, the first high level meeting between China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his American counterpart Antony Blinken also took place. It was very significant, even though the meeting did not produce any breakthroughs. It has, however, established good intentions, from both sides, that could lead to more dialogue in the coming days. They can do more to tackle transnational issues, related to climate change, global health, countering narcotics and the situation in Myanmar.
In the coming months, both Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden will have ample opportunities to hold bilateral talks, if they so wish. Apart from the ASEAN-related summit, there are also G20 and APEC leaders’ meetings, which will be convened successively from Nov 11th to 19th.
One important lesson from the G20FMM is that conflict anywhere in the world, especially among the world’s food producers, has a disastrous effect on the global economy and the wellbeing of all peoples.
Therefore, the Russia-Ukraine war must be stopped as soon as possible, to allow the normal flow of food and other necessities.