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From G7 to G20…A New World - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Ever since the first meeting was held at the Plaza Hotel in New York in 1985, the G7, a group that comprises of the world’s largest seven economies (US, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Canada and Italy) has been the world’s unofficial economic equivalent to the UN’s Security Council.

In the years that followed, the G7 summits began to expand and the debates began to include global political issues. A new member then joined the G7 and it became the G8 including new member Russia in a step that acknowledged the change that had taken place on the international level after the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the emergence of Russia as its successor and its opening up to the world.

Today, the world seems to be on the threshold of a new phase in which a fresh political and economic map is being formed with respect to international relations and balances of power. The G20, which includes several other countries described as promising and significant on the global economic map, in addition to the original seven member states, is going to become the official podium for coordinating economic policies in the world.

Just as the G20 was formed in 1999 amid the financial crisis of the Asian markets when the G7 required the cooperation of the rising economic powers, the consolidation of the G20, which held its first top-level meeting last year, also took place amid a similar but bigger financial crisis, which struck the world in the last quarter of 2008. So the role that is being played by the rising economies became vital to saving the world from the recession.

During the economic and financial meetings in Istanbul that concluded last Sunday, the manifestations of the transfer of power were quite clear in the announcement made by the G7 that in the future it would scrap meetings and official statements in particular, though it might hold unofficial discussions if necessary. This came just a few weeks after the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh in the United States, knowing that the G20 has acquired the status of the world’s economic equivalent to the Security Council. The growing influence of the G20 will be reflected in the handing over of at least five percent of the voting power of traditional industrial states [to developing countries] at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the world’s top financial institution.

As we can see, a new global map is being shaped. This map is being led by the economy based on the idea that it is more realistic and relies more on fact rather than theoretical ideas and slogans. On the political side, the task of making international institutions represent the real map of the world with its rising powers seems to be a difficult one. This would involve modifying the Security Council so as to reflect the change in the international balances of power, increasing the number of members, and rearranging the right to veto power, which is granted to the five recognized official nuclear superpowers: US, Britain, France, China and Russia. It is worth mentioning that only three out of these five powers are members of the G7.

Whilst the G20 includes the five superpowers that are permanent members of the Security Council and also happen to be giant economic powers, one unofficial nuclear power has managed to join the new group, namely, India. This is not due to its nuclear capabilities but rather because of its rapid economic growth. Most of the G20 member states, including Argentina, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and South Africa, are not nuclear powers. In many cases, in terms of importance, the size of the economy outweighs the magnitude of military capabilities.

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim is Asharq Al-Awsat's deputy editor-in-chief. He is based in London.

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