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G20 at a glance

What is the G20? And who are its members? What you need to know about the summit in Hamburg

G20 Summit Hamburg
G20 Summit Hamburg © Bundesregierung/Tybussek - G20 Summit Hamburg

What is the G20?

The Group of Twenty (G20) is the central forum for international cooperation on financial and economic issues. The G20 countries account for more than four-fifths of gross world product and three-quarters of global trade, and are home to almost two-thirds of the world’s population. Its decisions are influential and help to bring about reform at national and multinational levels.

Who belongs to the G20?

The G20 comprises 19 countries plus the EU. The countries are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States of America (US).

International organisations also participate regularly in the G20 summits, that is, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB), the Financial Stability Board (FSB), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations (UN). Furthermore, each Presidency can invite other countries, regional organisations and international organisations to the summit.

Why was the G20 created?

The meeting of G7 finance ministers and central bank governors was expanded to the G20 format for the first time in 1999. This meeting was prompted by the turbulence on the international financial markets during the Asian crisis. In the face of the financial crisis in 2008, the G20 meeting was raised to the level of heads of state and government.

How does the G20 work?

The G20 is not an international organisation, but rather what is known as an informal forum. This means it does not adopt decisions that have a direct legal impact. The G20 does not have an administrative council with a permanent secretariat or a permanent delegation of its members. This is why the Presidency, which rotates on an annual basis, plays a particularly important role.

How will civil society be included in the G20?

In Germany, the involvement of civil society in the processes of global governance has a long tradition. The dialogue with civil society is intended to provide an opportunity to discuss ideas and recommendations from the stakeholders involved and include them in the ongoing negotiations where appropriate.

As was the case with the G7 summit, Chancellor Angela Merkel has initiated a comprehensive dialogue process. In various dialogue fora, international civil society representatives from the spheres of business (Business20), non-governmental organisations (Civil20), trade unions (Labour20), science (Science20), think tanks (Think20), women (Women20) and youth (Youth20) will have an opportunity to set out their positions. Responsibility for organising these meetings lies solely in the hands of civil society. The focus will be on current G20 topics on which civil society, together with international partners, will draw up recommendations for the G20. In the run up to the dialogue for a, civil society representatives will have the opportunity to become involved at the negotiating stage at the level of the G20 sherpas.

Who else is attending the summit?

The respective G20 Presidency also maintains close contact with various interest groups and non-G20 countries. The German Presidency has invited Spain, the Netherlands, Norway and Singapore to take part in the meetings of the G20. Representatives of the African Union (AU), the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) will also be present in Hamburg. Before every summit there is a dialogue with non-governmental organisations, business associations and trade unions as well as representatives of the parliament and foreign embassies.

How does the G20 work?

The summit meetings of the heads of state and government are the most visible part of the G20 process. The respective presidencies assume responsibility for the organisation and preparation of the conferences. The governments engage in close dialogue and coordinate their activities at various working levels. Before every summit meeting there are conferences on specialist subjects, some of them also at the ministerial level. Accordingly, meetings of agriculture ministers, foreign ministers, finance ministers, digital affairs ministers, labour and employment ministers and health ministers were already held in spring 2017.
The topics for the summit are prepared by the governments’ chief negotiators, the so-called sherpas, who meet several times a year and on three days immediately before the summit. A summit declaration (communiqué) containing the most important outcomes is published at the end of each summit; there are also accompanying reports and work plans.

How open is the G20?

The German G20 Presidency attaches great importance to dialogue with civil society and wants to hear its ideas and proposals on G20 topics. That is why in the months before the summit Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel attended dialogue forums with representatives of non-governmental organisations (Civil20), trade unions (Labour20), research (Science20), women (Women20), young people (Youth20), industry (Business20) and think tanks (Think20). The ideas, positions and recommendations of the dialogue forums are intended to enrich G20 debates.

Where have successes been achieved?

The G20 is an important but informal forum for international cooperation. Its decisions have a great influence on the policy of the member countries through voluntary commitments and can give important impetus to binding agreements. In 2009, at the first G20 summit, emergency economic measures were agreed against the background of an imminent global recession with unforeseeable consequences. That reassured the markets. Additional measures to regulate inter­national financial markets were also agreed at that and subsequent summits. In 2015 and 2016, important decisions were taken to combat tax evasion. Important signals are sent not only with regard to economic and financial policy, but also on other global issues – for example, in the fields of climate policy or development cooperation.

More information

The German G20 Presidency website offers a wide range of topical and background information about the G20 in English and German. It also provides access to available summit documents and information about the decisions taken in Hamburg.