How to read the fine print of the G20 Delhi Declaration
The Delhi Declaration of G20 acknowledges the defining moment in history and addresses political, economic, and environmental challenges
The Delhi Declaration of G20 begins by stating that this is a “defining moment in history” and that G20’s decisions today will affect the future of the people and planet. Don’t dismiss this as typical diplomatic hyperbole, for this recognition of the importance of the moment, and the implications for the long-term, is central to understanding India’s historic achievement on Saturday.
Before it gets into the substantive elements across domains, the text , agreed upon in entirety by all 20 members, outlines the political, economic and environmental challenges that have engulfed the world. In a clear sign of India’s role in ensuring that the interests of both the global South, which constitute the marginalised within the international order, and the poor and vulnerable who constitute the marginalised within both rich and poor countries, is addressed, the text also lays out clear principles and priorities.
The Indian presidency has made it clear that there will be no compromise between fighting poverty and fighting the climate crisis. And themes such as ensuring growth, getting sustainable development goals (SDGs) back on track, battling the climate crisis, preparing for health emergencies, reforming multilateral development banks (MDBs), dealing with the debt crisis, spreading digital public infrastructure (DPI), generating jobs, bridging the gender gap, and giving a voice to the global south dominate the letter and spirit of the document.
Here is a snapshot of the consensus in the declaration on the six priorities India had identified in its presidency.
Growth, economy and jobs
The declaration realises that global economy is at a fragile moment, with “balance of risks tilted downside”.
It says G20 members will commit themselves to implementing “well-calibrated monetary, fiscal, financial, and structural policies to promote growth, reduce inequalities and maintain macroeconomic and financial stability”. All countries know that if they wish to achieve strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive economic growth, they will have “to stay agile and flexible in their policy responses”.
G20 Central banks, the text says, have committed to achieve price stability, ensure that inflation expectations remain well anchored, and “communicate policy stances to help limit negative cross-country spillovers”, while G20 members reaffirm that central bank independence is crucial to maintaining policy credibility. On fiscal policy, in line with the outcome at the meeting of the finance ministers, G20 members have said they will “prioritise temporary and targeted fiscal measures to protect the poor and the most vulnerable, while maintaining medium-term fiscal sustainability”.
The growth story cannot hinge on the state alone, and the Delhi Declaration sees a key role for the private sector and commits to creating “inclusive, sustainable, and resilient global value chains, and support developing countries to move up the value chain”, facilitating investments, promoting the ease of doing business, and recognising the role of startups and MSMEs.
At a time when the multilateral trading regime is in crisis, G20 members have also committed to a “rules-based, non-discriminatory, fair, open, inclusive, equitable, sustainable and transparent multilateral trading system, with WTO at its core”, terming the trade organisation indispensable. The declaration outlines a set of principles and actions that can make trading system more effective and fairer.
It also recognises the importance of addressing skill gaps, ensuring “decent work” and providing social protection policies. In this regard, once again in recognition of the flow of people from the global south, the text says that “well-integrated and adequately skilled workers benefit origin and destination countries alike”, with G20 countries committing to working towards ensuring “well-managed, regular and skills-based migration pathways”.
Financial Inclusion and DPI
A big takeaway from the Indian presidency, which finds reflection in the Delhi Declaration, is the text’s endorsement of G20 Policy Recommendations for Advancing Financial Inclusion and Productivity Gains through DPI. The declaration encourages the “continuous development and responsible use of technological innovations including innovative payment systems, to achieve financial inclusion of the last mile and progress towards reducing the cost of remittances”. And the grouping has endorsed the G20 2023 Financial Inclusion Action Plan (FIAP), “which provides an action oriented and forward-looking roadmap for rapidly accelerating the financial inclusion of individuals and MSMEs, particularly vulnerable and underserved groups in the G20 countries and beyond”. This, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman noted at a press conference, will be a big legacy of the Presidency.
The text defines DPI as “a set of shared digital systems, built and leveraged by both the public and private sectors, based on secure and resilient infrastructure” that “can be built on open standards and specifications, as well as opensource software can enable delivery of services at societal-scale”. This is the first time that at the leaders’ level, G20 has adopted a broad definition of DPI, a huge win for the Indian presidency. It also underlines the principle of interoperability, importance of “data free flow with trust and cross-border data flows while respecting applicable legal frameworks”. The agreement welcomed the G20 Framework for Systems of Digital Public Infrastructure, India’s plan to build and maintain a Global Digital Public Infrastructure Repository (GDPIR) and taken note of the Indian Presidency’s proposal of the One Future Alliance (OFA), a voluntary initiative aimed to build capacity, and provide technical assistance and adequate funding support for implementing DPI in low and middle income countries. HT had first reported that the summit may see the emergence of OFA.
All of this legitimises India’s role as a digital leader, builds on India’s own DPI template, allows India to be the home of a DPI data base, and allows the country to take the institutional lead in taking the DPI experience globally. The finest Indian innovation of this century is set to go global.
The Delhi Declaration recognised that there has been a setback in achieving SDGs and commits to redressing this weakness. To do so, the leaders have reaffirmed their commitment to mobilising “affordable, adequate and accessible financing” from all sources to support developing countries, scale up sustainable finance.
On hunger, the G20 declaration has adopted the Deccan High-Level Principles on Food Security and Nutrition, including encouraging efforts to strengthen research cooperation on climate resilient grains such as millets; increase access, availability, and efficient use of fertiliser and agricultural inputs, accelerate innovations and investment focused on increasing agricultural productivity, “support developing countries’ efforts and capacities to address their food security challenges”, facilitate “open, fair, predictable, and rules-based agriculture, food and fertilizer trade”, and “not impose export prohibitions or restrictions and reduce market distortions”, a particularly salient point given how food insecurities have led to a rash of export bans, including by India. The declaration also recognises that food and energy markets remain volatile.
On health, the leaders have committed to strengthen primary health care and health workforce and improve “essential health services and health systems to better than pre-pandemic levels, ideally within the next 2-3 years,” and facilitate equitable access to “safe, effective, quality-assured, and affordable vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and other medical countermeasures”, among other steps.
On education, the declaration commits G20 countries to “inclusive, equitable, high-quality education and skills training for all, including for those in vulnerable situations”. This includes recognising the importance of foundational learning , harnessing digital technologies to overcome the digital divides for all learners, extending support to institutions to keep pace with tech trends such as AI.
The Delhi Declaration will stand out for its green development pact, with G20 members saying they will “urgently accelerate” actions to address environmental crises and challenges including climate change and recognising that the crisis is real and here.
This will be done by “strengthening the full and effective implementation of the Paris Agreement and its temperature goal, reflecting equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances”. The fact that CBDR is recognised is once again a nod to the historic responsibility of the developed world in tackling the challenge.
The big takeaway from the declaration is a clear commitment by the members to achieve net-zero emissions by around 2050. “We reiterate our commitment to achieve global net zero emissions /carbon neutrality by or around mid-century while taking into account latest scientific developments and in line with different national circumstances, taking into account different approaches including circular carbon economy, socio-economic, technological and market developments and promoting the most efficient solutions.”
The leaders’ summit has also endorsed the G20 High-Level Principles on Lifestyles for Sustainable Development, a key initiative of PM Narendra Modi, to make the battle against climate crisis a mass movement by ensuring sustainable lifestyles. “Relevant studies on it show that it could contribute to significant emission reduction by 2030 for a global net-zero future.”
And the declaration speaks of “accelerating clean, sustainable, just, affordable and inclusive energy transitions following various pathways”. Uninterrupted flows of energy from various sources are important, developing countries need to be supported in their transitions to low carbon/emissions, and they need to be provided financing for it, the declaration recognises. In this regard, the G20 members have promised to pursue and encourage efforts to “triple renewable energy capacity globally” by 2030.
And on climate finance, the Indian presidency has sought to build specific pathways instead of just leaving the battle as one between the developed and developing world by recognising the role of public finance, private finance, and additional lending capabilities of MDBs. But it also recognised that developing countries need $5.8-5.9 trillion in the pre-2030 period to implement their NDCs (emission reduction commitments), and another $4 trillion per year for clean energy technologies by 2030 to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
One of the big themes of the Indian presidency has been delivering “better, bigger and more effective MDBs by enhancing operating models, improving responsiveness and accessibility, and substantially increasing financing capacity to maximise development impact”. To find ways to do so, India set up an expert group under former US treasury secretary Larry Summers and veteran Indian policymaker NK Singh.
The leaders endorsed the G20 roadmap for implementing the recommendations of the capital adequacy framework (CAF) “while safeguarding their long-term financial sustainability, robust credit ratings and preferred creditor status”. Leaders also encouraged MDBs to collaborate in areas such as hybrid capital, callable capital, and said that initial CAF measures could potentially yield additional lending headroom of approximately $200 billion over the next decade.
The leaders also asked MDBs to “evolve their vision, incentive structures, operational approaches and financial capacities”, lauded the work of the independent expert group; asked MDBs to leverage private capital through innovative financing models and new partnerships to maximise their development impact; and promised to mobilise concessional finance to boost the World Bank’s capacity to support low and middle-income countries
The declaration also commits G20 to “women-led development” and enhancing their “full, equal, effective, and meaningful participation as decision makers”. To do so, it committed to enhancing their labour force participation, ensuring equal access to “affordable, inclusive, equitable, safe and quality education from early childhood through higher education to lifelong learning”. It also promised to promote the full and meaningful participation of women “in a transitioning world of work by enabling inclusive access to employment opportunities”, enhance investment in the “availability and accessibility of social protection, and to affordable care infrastructure”, eliminate gender-based violence, push for women’s inclusion into the formal financial system, eliminate gender stereotypes and biases, and change norms, attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate gender inequality.
G20 leaders also agreed to create a new Working Group on Empowerment of Women to support the G20 Women’s Ministerial and looked forward to the convening of its first meeting during the Brazilian G20 Presidency.
The only reason, however, that a Delhi Declaration was possible was because of a breakthrough on the section on Ukraine, interestingly titled “For the planet, peace and prosperity”. This is a classic act of balancing, but while it is easy to read it as a concession to Moscow, there is enough in the text to take into account the views of others.
The language on Ukraine first recognizes the harmful consequences of wars and conflicts. It then refers to each member reaffirming their national positions and UN resolutions on the war, which had overwhelmingly criticised Russia — but while this fact was mentioned in the Bali Declaration, it is given a skip in Delhi declaration, possibly to win over Moscow’s approval for the text. The declaration then states that while abiding by the UN charter, “all states must refrain from the threat or use of force to seek territorial acquisition against the territorial integrity and sovereignty or political independence of any state”, once again a more generic statement than the past.
But this clearly opened the way for Indian presidency to include the concerns around the war of different actors. The text speaks of the unacceptability of the threat or use of nuclear weapons (which only Russia has done); it then outlines the impact of the war on “global food and energy security, supply chains, macro-financial stability, inflation and growth” (without attributing responsibility for it); it speaks of how this has complicated the policy environment for countries, “especially developing and least developed countries which are still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic disruption which has derailed progress towards the SDGs” (a clear nod to the concerns of the global south).
The text then asks for the full implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative (which Russia is seen as interrupting for geopolitical reasons ) and it calls for the cessation of military destruction or other attacks on relevant infrastructure” (which Russia has done disproportionately in Ukraine, although Kyiv has also stepped up its attacks within Russia), and expresses concern about the impact of the conflict on security of civilians and in terms of “hindering an effective humanitarian response”.
The section then calls for “relevant and constructive initiatives that support a comprehensive, just, and durable peace in Ukraine that will uphold all the Purposes and Principles of the UN Charter for the promotion of peaceful, friendly, and good neighbourly relations among nations in the spirit of ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’.”
By ending with how this era is not the era of war, PM Modi’s famous direct message to Russia last year, the declaration’s most critical section enables progress on all other fronts.