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From Paris to Antalya:
The Terrorist Spur to the G20's Success in Antalya

John Kirton, Co-director, G20 Research Group
November 14, 2015

The deadly terrorist attacks taking place against civilians on the evening of November 13, 2015, will have a unifying, galvanizing impact on the leaders gathering in Antalya, Turkey, for their G20 summit on November 15 and 16. They are well prepared to react having organized their summit to dedicate their opening personal dinner discussion to the issue of terrorism, along with the issue of Syrian refugees related to terrorism in potentially several ways. The Paris attacks will likely spur them to a stronger, more coordinated set of counterterrorist actions that will break new ground. It will mark the G20's coming of age as a full-strength global political-security governor in the same way that the older G7/G8 has long been.

The G20 first took up terrorism when it was a forum for finance ministers and central bank governors in the wake of the al Qaeda terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC on September 11, 2001. Immediately following these attacks, no other international institution of consequence composed of ministers or leaders would hold its meetings, including the G20 finance ministerial meeting scheduled to take place in India several weeks later. At the initiative of G20 co-founder Canada's finance minister Paul Martin, his colleagues agreed to meet not in distant India but in nearby Ottawa, where they focused for the first time on stopping terrorism by controlling terrorist finance. They produced an unprecedented set of decisions, which were effectively delivered by all the members in the subsequent years. (For further details, See "Combatting Terrorism, Ottawa 2001," Chapter 5 in John Kirton's G20 Governance for a Globalized World.)

Terrorist finance became a staple issue on the G20 ministerial agenda and at summits after the G20 rose to the leaders' level with its first meeting under the chair of George W. Bush in Washington DC in November 2008. Surprisingly, it was absent from the agenda and the outcome document at the ninth G20 summit, hosted by the internationally inexperienced Tony Abbott, prime minister of Australia, in Brisbane in 2014. 

However, for the Antalya Summit, chaired by G20 summit veteran Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, it has been at the centre of the agenda for well over a month and a half. Moreover, in early November, in part to deal with this issue, in an unusual move the Turkish chair invited G20 leaders to bring their foreign ministers with them to Antalya to help deal with terrorism and related political issues.

More broadly, the experience of the much older G7/G8 has shown that such summits are spurred to success by shock-activated vulnerability, a category within which deadly terrorist attacks against civilians stand in the first rank. As the 9/11 attacks on the United States showed, all leaders set aside their normal differences to unify as one against such threats. They do so as human beings who empathize intuitively with the tragedy that their fellow humans suffer. They also do so as leaders of their respective countries, responsible to confront and conquer this existential threat to the monopoly of the legitimate use of violence that only a country's government should have. They are particularly spurred to success when they face in short sequence second and subsequent shocks of a similar sort. Here the November 13 attacks in Paris quickly followed the deadly terrorist attacks in Turkey's capital of Ankara on October 10 that killed more than 100 innocent civilians and injured hundreds more. They further follow the explosion of a Russian airliner over Egypt on October 31, which killed all 224 individuals on board and which is thought to have been caused by a terrorist bomb.

In the recent history of global summitry, the Paris attacks most resemble those that took place on the transit system in London, the capital of the United Kingdom, on July 7, 2005, at the same time as the G8 leaders plus the leaders of the five biggest emerging economies were gathered for their summit in Gleneagles, Scotland. Spurred in substantial part by the London terrorist attacks, the leaders produced at Gleneagles one of the most successful G7/G8 summits of all time. There is every chance that the Paris attacks will spur the G20 leaders at Antalya to do the same for the 10th summit two days later.

See also: "Terrorism, ISIS and Syria: The Evolution of the G20" by Tristen Naylor.

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