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The G20 Antalya Summit's Substantial Success

John Kirton, Co-director, G20 Research Group
November 16, 2015

See Kirton Scoring Scheme

G20 leaders at Antalya have produced a summit of substantial success. They performed strongly on their new political-security subjects of terrorism and Syrian refugees. They produced a significant advance on their priority of economic inclusiveness and did solid work on their inherited agenda of macroeconomics, finance, trade, investment and tax. Yet they took at best a small step forward on implementation and accountability and failed on the compelling challenge of climate change.

Antalya's performance on the major dimensions of G20 governance confirm this judgement of substantial, security-skewed success. The summit's 14 commitments on terrorism and 84 on other issues made for a total of 84 in the two main communiques, the second lowest in the ten summits held thus far. There was only one communiqué compliment, although there were two affirmations of human rights. On the development of global governance, there were 42 references to institutions inside the G20 and 63 to those outside.

They were shocked into success on terrorism and Syrian refugees by the deadly attacks in Paris on November 13, in Antalya on October 10 and the downing of the Russian passenger airliner in Egypt on October 31. That sequence of increasingly severe, spreading, shared shocks gave leaders the galvanizing unity and determination to act boldly and broadly on terrorism and on Syrian refugees that had ISIS terrorism in Syria as its root cause. But it did not spread to have a similar stimulating effect beyond this new political-security sphere. The failure of the world's major multilateral organizations to combat ISIS-like terrorism or to adequately cope with the massive refugees flow and the absence of any world energy organization forced G20 leaders to focus on filling these global governance gaps, relying for advances on the rest of the agenda on the adequately performing Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, International Monetary Fund, World Bank and even World Trade Organization. Their deference to the fundamentally flawed regime of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, however, led to their great failure on climate change.

Thrusting the summit's performance into a substantial success overall were the globally predominant capabilities of the group as a whole and the equalization of capabilities among its members, with G7 member Japan joining BRICS members Russia and Brazil in recession and the United States, India and China becoming the growth leaders in their respective groups. The convergence among members on economic, social and political openness was spurred by the terrorist and Syrian refugee shocks, as seen in the G20 summit's explicit communiqué references to the values of human rights and privacy protection. Turkish president Tayyip Recep Erdogan, attending his ninth G20 summit and chairing his first, devoted his experience and recent electoral majority mandate to these domestic priorities, rather than to the broader issues beyond. The only other leader with a fresh majority mandate, Canada's Justin Trudeau with his priorities of youth unemployment, infrastructure investment and climate change, was attending his first summit ever on the world stage. While Trudeau acted as if the G20 was a leaders' interpersonal club and the terrorist shocks moved veterans Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin in this direction too, the sense of solidarity did not spread beyond the leaders-only dinner to broader a stronger, broader success.

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