Global family is 'dysfunctional,' UN chief says as division stalks G20 summit

Global family is 'dysfunctional,' UN chief says as division stalks G20 summit
Credit: Belga

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had a stark warning for world leaders on the eve of the G20 summit in New Delhi: the global family is “dysfunctional,” and runs the risk of conflict, at a time of growing divisions between states, he stressed.

“If we are indeed one global family, we today resemble a rather dysfunctional one,” Guterres told reporters in New Delhi on Friday. “Divisions are growing, tensions are flaring up, and trust is eroding – which together, raises the spectre of fragmentation and, ultimately, confrontation.”

The G20 brings together 19 of the world’s largest economies plus the European Union, accounting for 85% of global GDP and two-thirds of the world’s population. However, major disagreements over Russia’s war in Ukraine and how to help emerging countries tackle global warming are likely to stand in the way of any agreements at the summit, which is being held on Saturday and Sunday in New Delhi.

'This fracturing [...] spells catastrophe'

“This fracturing would be deeply concerning in the best of times, but in our times, it spells catastrophe,” Guterres said. “The global financial architecture is outdated, dysfunctional and unfair. It needs deep, structural reform – and the same can be said of the UN Security Council.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping will be absent from the summit amid heightened trade and geopolitical tensions with the US and India, with whom Beijing shares a disputed border.

Vladimir Putin will also be absent from New Delhi, amid Russia’s diplomatic isolation and accusations of war crimes against the Russian head of state. Moscow, however, continues to encourage its allies to water down international condemnation of its invasion of Ukraine.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will lead the Russian delegation and Chinese Premier Li Qiang will lead China's representatives at the summit.

Division over Russian invasion of Ukraine

In the absence of his Russian and Chinese counterparts, US President Joe Biden is likely to take centre stage at the summit. Biden arrived on Friday in New Delhi, and immediately had a bilateral meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whom he had received with great fanfare in June at the White House.

The United States is strengthening its ties with India to stand up to China, while New Delhi is seeking to establish a leading international role, despite their differences over Russia: India did not sign up to the sanctions against Moscow after the invasion of Ukraine.

The G20 appears divided over the invasion, with many countries more concerned about grain prices than diplomatic condemnations of Moscow’s behaviour.

Mr. Modi called on G20 leaders ahead of the summit to bypass their divisions and tackle crucial global issues – including global debt restructuring and the commodity price shocks that have followed Russia’s invasion - but his call fell flat in ministerial meetings leading up to the summit.

Russia's blockade attacks on ships on the Black Sea are 'scandalous' - Charles Michel

In this regard, Charles Michel, president of the European Council, told reporters in New Delhi on Friday that it was "scandalous that Russia, after terminating the Black Sea Initiative, is blocking and attacking Ukrainian sea ports. "

"This must stop," Mr. Michel said. "Ships with grain must have safe access through the Black Sea."

However, the news coming out of the Indian capital as the leaders of the world's richest countries and blocs began arriving there was not all about division. There were signs that the underrepresentation of an entire continent in the bloc could soon come to an end.

EU favours AU's admission to G20

On Thursday, Mr. Modi reiterated his desire to expand the G20 with “the inclusion of the African Union as a permanent member,” drawing a positive response from the EU, a fact highlighted by Charles Michel.

“I am delighted to welcome the African Union as a permanent member of the G20 and I am proud that the EU immediately reacted positively to support this candidacy,” Mr Michel said before adding: “Let’s wait and see what the decision will be. But one thing is clear: the EU supports Africa’s membership of the G20.”

For now, South Africa is the continent’s sole representative in the G20, which includes seven countries from the Asia/Pacific region – Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Saudi Arabia and South Korea – six from Europe (France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Turkey and the UK) and five from the Americas – Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and the United States, plus the EU.

'Multilateralism should serve the interests of all'

A spokesman for South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday that South Africa was going to help put in place a framework leading to the AU joining the group. "It is important that the collective voice of the continent is represented at this forum," spokesman Vincent Magqenya said at a press conference.

Senegalese President Macky Sall, who chairs the African Union, recently called for an overhaul of international governance, asking for greater representation of Africans in international organisations such as the G20 and the UN Security Council. In October, M. Sall said multilateralism should "serve the interests of all" or risk "losing legitimacy and authority."

Both Presidents Sall and Ramaphosa are due to attend this weekend’s summit.

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