[Runner-up Award] Seoul should represent both G20 and non-G20 countries
What is the role of Korea in representing non-G20 countries? South Korea’s history is replete with many ‘firsts’. From the first Asian country to co-host the FIFA World Cup in 2002 alongside Japan to the first country to broadcast high-def 3D TV using terrestrial means, just to name a few. As the first Asian country to host the G20 Summit, this November marks yet another milestone for the country.
The Group of Twenty popularly known as the G20 a group that brings together the former G8 countries plus emerging powerhouses like Brazil and China has been emerging as the world’s premier body for shaping and coordinating economic policy. Since its inception, the forum has embraced financial markets reform, free markets, and the creation a sound banking system-all in reaction to the 2008-2009 global financial crises. Essentially, this ‘club’ of developed and emerging economies means that all non members are developing countries.
Rising from the ashes of poverty to an OECD-DAC member state, Korea remains a role model for many in the developing world who continuously seek to emulate its success. Inspired by South Korea’s unprecedented economic takeoff, many in the developing world seek to unravel the true mystery of the miracle on the Han River.
In the 1970’s, Korea embarked on a much echoed ambitious economic development plan that has seen it transform itself from a sleepy traditional backwater economy to an industrial powerhouse. Korea relishes an elevated new diplomatic stature as G20 2010 Chair. The timing is perfect as Korea seeks to upgrade her international standing symbolized by country’s brand tag “Global Korea.”
Korea is a unique host and thus faces unique challenges; in yesteryears Korea was probably in a similar locus and contending with similar -if not worse- problems than most of today’s developing world. Therefore, Korea seems well positioned to bridge the divide between the developing and developed world and it sounds logical that Korea should prioritize development on its agenda.
However, while the G20 seems more representative than the G7 or G8 groups, its members have inherently differing views and interests on diverse issues. In an institution where the bulk of the member states are developed countries, it is easy for their issues to trump those that affect developing countries.
The G20 summit is currently hinged on a pledge among global institutions to reform governance so that emerging and developing economies can be provided with a forum to voice their interests and concerns. In addition, the G20 presents an interesting paradox, while it represents more than 85% of the world’s economy; much less than 85% of the world is represented. As the eyes and ears of the developing world turn to Korea to deliver on the promise of giving them a voice, the challenge facing Korea as chair is simply put arduous.
However, in the milieu that will no doubt characterize the G20, pragmatism is key. The G20 is by no means a panacea that can take on the full scope of developmental issues. As the agenda setter, Korea should instead focus on development efforts where collective global action is required and where global financing facilities are felt to be valuable. Issues that require holistic solutions such as food security and water, climate change, sustainable development and growing concerns about the aid model of development especially in Africa are now in vogue across the international community.
In particular, the demise of donor aid is becoming increasingly aired and such failures speak to fundamental systemic flaws within the current development aid model which Korea should seek to address given its recently acquired aid donor status. Korea should use lessons from its own hard earned economic development model to see what has worked and can work.
Particularly, there have been talks within Korea of a paradigm shift from the historical aid-oriented focus towards an expansion of the private sector’s capacity among developing countries which seems a first step in the right direction. If Korea is successful in refocusing the attention of the G20 on at least one of those areas, it would indeed make a legacy as one of the leading countries of the world that bridges the divide between developed and developing countries.
Finally, South Korea needs to reach out to non-member countries in order to ensure that the G20 extends beyond the needs of the represented 20 member states. In its role as chair Korea will undoubtedly seek to infuse a sense of accountability, legitimacy and transparency to the G20. It is therefore pivotal for Korea to reach out to both the G20 and non-G20 members by putting in place a process of consultation and communication with both the public and private sectors particularly the global civil society and therefore serve as a conduit for a more balanced and sustainable global development agenda.