Research project report for Senior College

By Peter Hajnal

5 October 2018

For quite some time I have been interested in efforts to reform the G7/G8 and the G20, their relationship, and their potential future. Many initiatives have been launched over the years, covering the membership, institutional development, processes, agenda and interactions of these two informal institutions of global governance. The research question for my project for which I received a Senior College research grant focused on the interaction of the two entities, the G7/G8 and the G20.

The outcome of the project is a chapter in the forthcoming second, revised and updated edition of my earlier book, The G20: Evolution, Interrelationship, Documentation (Ashgate/Routledge, 2014). The second edition is now in Routledge’s production stream.

The chapter in question (entitled ‘Reforming the ‘Gs’: Proposals and Achievements, Interactions, Challenges’) comprises a historical survey and an analysis of proposals to reform the G7/G8 and the G20; discusses reforms already achieved; and assesses the complex relationship between the G7/G8 and the G20. It examines a variety of reform proposals ranging from membership in the two groups, agenda development; institutional restructuring and improvement of processes. It then assesses the relationship between the G7/G8 and the G20; looks at the leader’s summits and sub-summit entities (ministerial fora and working groups) and initiatives concerning the G7/G8 and G20, and takes account of the continuing debate on the dichotomy of representativeness versus efficiency, and on the G20’s function as a crisis committee and a steering committee. It discusses the ways in which the G20 (which notionally makes consensus decisions) handles disagreements. It outlines various potential scenarios for the future development of the G7 and G20: expansion or reduction of membership; coexistence of the G7 and the G20; replacement of the G7 by the G20; replacement of both institutions by some other group; the G-2 concept; the idea of variable geometry and a ‘G-zero’ world.

The chapter then reviews challenges for the G7 and the G20 as they face the future; and presents overall conclusions. It notes that the G7-G20 coexistence as parallel institutions has prevailed so far, and concludes that complex relationships of the G7/G8 and G20 with formal IGOs having major roles in global governance must be part of the future of the G7 and G20, and that both fora should continue to define and develop their mutual relationship, especially in our turbulent world.

I am grateful to Senior College for this research grant that made the positive outcome possible by reimbursing expenses of interviews and a research assistant. In the resulting publication, I shall acknowledge the support I received from the College.