The G20: an improvised ‘Crisis Committee’ or an embedded ‘Steering board’ for the world
Arguably the most important catalytic effect of the ‘Great Recession” of 2008–2009 has been the creation of the G20 at the leaders’ level. As a form of improvised diplomacy the G20 merits extensive scrutiny, revealing as it does the degree of adaptation possible in the international system. The G20 links a significant ideational component, a new dynamic between established and emerging powers, and a complex set of issues. The innovative quality of the G20, however, rests on two very distinct strands of activity and tests of accomplishments. The G20 can be viewed as a ‘recession-buster’ with a vital but momentary purpose. Alternatively, the G20 can be taken to be an embedded ‘steering committee’ for the world. Both of these interpretations have validity. The crisis committee scenario highlights a technical regulatory-driven agenda. The steering committee scenario by way of contrast showcases the connection between the G20 and a new type of global settlement. Passing the test as a crisis committee hinges on very specific deliverables. Passing the test as a steering committee is even more demanding as any move toward a new state-specific ‘concert’ is highly contested. This article examines these debates, locating the G20 in a historical/comparative perspective and in terms of the wider context of shifting power structure at the beginning of the twenty-first century.