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A Firm Foundation for Los Cabos:
G20 Summit Performance, 2008-2011

John Kirton, Julia Kulik and Leanne Rasmussen
G20 Research Group, University of Toronto
June 18, 2012

As the G20 leaders at Los Cabos, Mexico look forward to starting the seventh G20 summit this evening, June 18, they should know that they have to live up to — but can build on — the firm foundations set by the performance of the six summits that have gone before. The sequence started with the first summit on November 14-15, 2008, in Washington DC, and continued with the second in London on April 1-2, 2009, the third in Pittsburgh on September 24-25, 2009, the fourth in Toronto on June 26-27, 2010, the fifth in Seoul on November 11-12, 2010, and the sixth in Cannes on November 3-4, 2011, just over seven months ago. The first summit got off to a strong start in a few selective but essential ways. Since then G20 summits have generally produced a rising performance reaching strong levels across all the key dimensions by which summit success can be seen and scored (see Appendix A).

Dimensions of Performance

In their domestic political management, the number and spread of compliments to specific G20 members surged, especially after the fourth summit in Toronto in June 2010 and above all at the sixth summit at Cannes in November 2011. In its deliberations, the number of words in the leaders’ summit communiqués steadily increased. At Cannes the leaders spent a little more time together than the standard less than 24 hours o the first four summits, and Los Cabos was designed to have 10.5 hours of working time, the highest thus far. In setting directions for principles and norms of open democracy and human rights, there was a steady rise since the third summit in Pittsburgh in September 2009.

In decision making, through clear, future-oriented, precise collective commitments designed to bind the subsequent behaviour of all G20 members, the great leap forward came at Seoul and, above all, at Cannes in 2011. Washington had started with 95 commitments, followed by London with 88, Pittsburgh with 128 and Toronto with 47. But at Seoul the decisional performance spiked to 156 commitments and at Cannes soared again to reach 299.

In delivering these decisions, through members’ subsequent compliance with their priority commitments during the time until the next summit is held, there was a strong start, subsequent drop, but sustained rise since Seoul to a level of substantial performance at Cannes. Washington’s priority commitments were complied with at a level of 84%, London’s at 62%, Pittsburgh at 62%, Toronto’s at 64%, Seoul’s at 75%. and Cannes at 77%. It seems from the last two summit’s performance that the more commitments G20 has made, the higher the members’ compliance with the priority ones have been.

In developing global governance through the creation, guidance and support of international institutions inside and outside the G20, G20 summit performance has also been rising strongly in recent years. Inside the G20, references in the summit communiqués to its institutions started with six at Washington and two at London, fell to zero at both Pittsburgh and Toronto, but spiked to 48 at Seoul and 26 at Cannes. In the ministerial institutions that support the summit, the G20 system started with its forum of finance ministers and central bank governors in 1999, added one for employment ministers at Pittsburgh (which first met in April 2010), and those for agriculture and development in 2011, and those for trade, foreign affairs and tourism in 2012.

In developing global governance institutions outside the G20, the first four summits put in a modest performance, with the exception of a productive London Summit in 2009. However, at Seoul, performance spiked fourfold from its previous London peak and hit a new high for Cannes in 2011.

Conclusion

Taken together, this record of increasing performance across a broadening range of performance dimensions suggests that Los Cabos, with its big, bold, broad agenda, could be a summit of substantial success. As the G20 summits have increased their communiqué compliments to key members and leaders communiqué-encoded conclusions, the G20 has deepened its explicit endorsement of shared principles of open democracy and human rights. At the same time, it has generally increased the number of decisions made, members’ delivery of those decisions and the development of global governance institutions both inside and outside the G20 itself.


Appendix A: G20 Summit Performance, 2008–2012

Summit
Domestic political management
Deliberation
Direction setting
Decision making

Delivery

Development of global governance
#CC
% mem
Days
Documents
Words
Dem
Rights
Decisions

Compliance

Inside G20
Outside G20
2008 Washington
0
0%
2
1
3,656
10
2
95
+0.67
6
37
2009 London
2
5%
2
3
6,247
8
0
88
+0.23
2
105
2009 Pittsburgh
0
0%
2
1
9,327
17
0
128
+0.24
0
57
2010 Toronto
3
15%
2
2
10,683
23
1
47
+0.28
0
31
2010 Seoul
3
15%
2
5
15,768
20
3
156
+0.50
48
200
2011 Cannes
11
30%
2
3
14,095
28
1
299
+0.54
24
198
2012 Los Cabos
2
Total
14
15
59,776
813
Average
2
2.5
9,962.67
135.5
+0.42

Sources: G20 Research Group, University of Toronto, International Organizations Research Institute at the National Research University Higher School of Economics in cooperation with the National Training Foundation of the Russian Federation.

Notes:

Domestic political management: # CC = number of communiqué compliment (i.e., favourable specific references to a G20 member); % mem = percentage of members complimented in documents.

Deliberation: Days = duration of summit; Document = number of documents issued at the summit collectively by the leaders; Words = number of words in documents.

Direction setting: Dem = number of references to principles and norms of democracy or political openness; Rights = number of references to individual human rights or individual liberties.

Decision making: Number of total commitments made, including commitments as they relate to the G20 as a whole and excluding country-specific commitments.

Delivery: Overall compliance score of G20 members with the priority commitments assessed by the G20 Research Group and HSE.Development of Global Governance: Inside G20 = number of references to a G20 institution at the leaders’, ministerial, official, civil society and multistakeholder level, excluding those in which the G20 is the subject; Outside G20 = number of references to international institutions other than the G20 ones.

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