The G20 summit – what does it mean for the poor?


Published on People and, by John Madeley, 06 Apr 2009.

A 29 point communiqué, including US$1.1 trillion for global economic recovery, but weak on trade issues and almost non-existent on climate change. And little for the world’s poor from G20 leaders.

Leaders of 20 developed and developing countries – the G20 – met in London on 2 April 2009, saying that the world faces “the greatest challenge to the world economy in modern times; a crisis… which affects the lives of women, men, and children in every country”. They ended the meeting with a 29 point communiqué, including US$1.1 trillion for global economic recovery. But will it mean anything for the world’s poor? Will it contribute to reaching the Millennium Development Goals?

Leaders recognised the need for more regulation of the banking sector, and for a clampdown on tax havens. But it seems doubtful if there is any real shift of priorities.

The G20 leaders “have missed an historic opportunity to launch a global recovery plan that will benefit poor people and tackle the climate crisis”, commented the World Development Movement, (WDM) the UK-based anti-poverty group …

… Special Drawing Rights: 

On funding for development, the leaders announced US$100 billion of additional lending by the multilateral development banks, and a Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) allocation of $250 billion.

SDRs are not new. First introduced in the early 1970s, SDRs are a kind of bank deposit in a country’s favour that can be used to buy goods from abroad.

But the poorest countries may see only a little of the SDR allocation. Christian Aid expressed concerned about the G20’s apparent failure to target the new resources specifically at the world’s poorest countries, whose needs are most urgent,‘ said Charles Abugre, the agency’s head of policy.

The G20 communiqué uses words like fair and sustainable. “We are determined not only to restore growth but to lay the foundation for a fair and sustainable world economy”, said the 20 leaders. This implies fairness in world trade, plus action on the environment, especially to cut carbon emissions. But there was neither.

On trade, the leaders made a commitment to to restart the World Trade Organisation’s Doha round of trade talks. These have been dragging on since 2001.

The UK-based Trade Justice Movement called the “commitment” misguided. The Doha Round was supposed to be a development round, but any “development” has been negotiated away … (full text).


Little room to change economic policy, by Mboweni, Apr 7, 2009;

COMMENTARY: The G20 summit – what does it mean for the poor? on by John Madeley, 06 Apr 2009;

The G20’s failing grade, the Guaridan, 6 April 2009;

COMMENTARY: Time to think again on trade talks, by John Madeley, 31 Jul 2008;

From poverty to power, 25 Jul 2008.

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