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A Significant Performance for People, Planet and Prosperity:
Prospects for the G20's Rome Summit

John Kirton,
Director, G20 Research Group, October 27, 2021



The 16th regular G20 summit, taking place in Rome, Italy, on October 30–31, 2021, will be a very significant event.

It will build on the results of the G20's Riyadh Summit hosted by Saudi Arabia on November 20–21, 2020, and on the future-oriented foundation from the highly successful G7 Cornwall Summit hosted by the United Kingdom on June 11–13, 2021. It takes place just before the long-awaited United Nations climate summit, which Italy will co-chair with the United Kingdom in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 1–12.

It will be the first G20 summit hosted by Italy, a core member of the G7, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union since their start. It brings G20 hosting back to a major democratic power with a long Mediterranean coastline that puts it at the crossroads of Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Atlantic worlds.

It will be hosted by Prime Minister Mario Draghi, participating in his first regular, comprehensive, in-person G20 summit as Italy's leader, after hosting the virtual G20 Rome Health Summit on May 21 and the G20 Summit on Afghanistan on October 12. It will be infused with fresh energy from a few new key leaders, led by U.S. president Joe Biden at his first face-to-face G20 summit, and Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida probably participating virtually for some portions immediately after his general election on October 31.

Also at their first in-person summit are Argentina's Alberto Fernández, the European Union's Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, and the United Kingdom's Boris Johnson. Also relatively new are the International Monetary Fund's Kristalina Georgieva and the World Bank's David Malpass. G20 summit veterans will be Indonesia's Joko Widodo, who will host in 2022, Saudi Arabia's King Salman, who Q in 2015. Other experienced leaders are France's Emmanuel Macron, South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa and Australia's Scott Morrison. The summit will probably benefit from the presence of the greatest G20 veteran, Germany's Angela Merkel, who will represent her country while its political parties decide who her successor will be. A few days before the summit, two leaders confirmed they would participate virtually rather than travel to Rome: Russia's Vladimir Putin, and Mexico's Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has never travelled to a summit since his election and will send foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard. There was also uncertainty whether China's Xi Jinping, who hosted in 2016, would go to Rome.

These leaders will be supported by Pedro Sánchez of Spain, a permanent guest of the G20, as well as Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore and Mark Rutte of the Netherlands. Félix-Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo of the Democratic Republic of the Congo will represent the African Union, Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei will represent the Association of South East Asian Nations, and Paul Kagame of Rwanda will represent the New Partnership for Africa's Development. Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand will also attend the summit.

In addition to the IMF's Georgieva and World Bank's Malpass, the other participants are Qu Donghu of the Food and Agriculture Organization, Randall Quarles of the Financial Stability Board, Guy Ryder of the International Labour Organization, Matthias Cormann of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Nkozi Okonjo-Iweala of the World Trade Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the World Health Organization (WHO) and António Guterres of the United Nations.

Under its priority pillars of "People, Planet, Prosperity," the Rome Summit will confront the central, cascading crises from the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and its economic, financial, employment and social devastation, especially for the health, well-being, equality, education and safety of women, girls and youth.

It will simultaneously address the closely related, critical compounding challenges of climate change, to support the UN's Glasgow Summit and of biodiversity loss to build on the results of the UN's conference in Kunming, China, on October 11–15. This includes financing development and the 2030 Agenda's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially for food and energy security to confront the crises emerging on these subjects now.

On the G20's core finance and economic agenda, the leaders will address fair international taxation, the need for more fiscal and monetary policy stimulus, financial fragilities in China and elsewhere, trade and tourism amidst rising protectionism and fragmented, domesticizing supply chains, incentivizing quality infrastructure and governing the proliferating digital economy in an open, fair and trusted way.

Amid rising geopolitical tensions and strains on the established multilateral order, they will also seek to combat crime, corruption and terrorist finance, and cope with new flows of refugees the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction too and the aftermath of the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan in August.

The Debate

The prospects for the summit have inspired a debate among several schools of thought.

As Italy's year as host began, the first school saw a severe struggle for success. Gordon Brown (2020) forecast a decade of low growth, high unemployment and potential solvency crisis, with no "internationally co-ordinated plan for growth that recognizes the limits of monetary policy when interest rates are near zero." He called for an emergency G20 summit in February, to unleash new infrastructure spending, a Marshall Plan for the developing world and action on tax havens and climate change.

The second school saw a big health challenge, centered on the vital, urgent need for a co-ordinated response to vaccinate the world against COVID-19. Tony Blair (2021) said "the G20 should commit to $6 billion in financing for health system absorption capacity and commission key global multilateral organizations to co-ordinate and centralize funding needs and disbursement." He pointed to the common vulnerability of all countries and people to the virus as the reason why they rationally should.

The third school saw the G20 gaining strength in global policy coordination and action. Chiara Oldani (2021) highlighted prospective advances on fair global taxation, due to member governments' massive deficits created by COVID-19, Italy's well-designed agenda, and the many preparatory ministerial and official-level meetings. But she added that chances of meeting the host's goals on debt restructuring and digital regulation were not high.

The fourth school saw promising progress on international corporate taxation, due to the agreement among G7 finance ministers in July and the biggest beneficiaries of the new regime being countries containing multinational firms' headquarters, above all the United States (Agyemang, Giles and Wheatley 2021). Larry Summers (2021) was cautiously optimistic, due to the experience, expertise and wisdom of Mario Draghi as chair and Joe Biden representing the United States, but concerned about the protectionist turn in US trade policy, the poorly executed US withdrawal from Afghanistan and its grudging vaccination record at home and abroad.

The Argument

On its very broad and demanding agenda, the Rome Summit is likely to produce a significant performance, with important advances on COVID-19, climate change and especially economic recovery. This performance will be propelled by several powerful forces from without and within, starting with the unprecedented shocks from outside and culminating with an in-person summit with the talented Mario Draghi in the host's chair.

To protect people and society, the G20 will advance the critical task of delivering COVID-19 vaccines into the arms of the poorest people throughout the world, and strengthening the WHO and international health architecture to prevent and prepare for the similar pandemics sure to come.

To protect the planet, on the ecology the G20 will affirm the need to keep global heating under 1.5°C degrees above preindustrial levels, protect much more of the Earth's disappearing nature on the land and the seas, have developed countries give developing countries more financial support to do so, commit to stronger, faster cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and agree to end international coal financing very soon. However, it will struggle to end fossil fuel subsidies, coal trade and use at home, and the other things needed to meet its goals.

To promote prosperity, for the economy, it will approve a revolutionary new international tax regime to have the world's richest digital and other multinational firms pay taxes to the countries where they earn their profits, and a minimum tax as well. It will decide how to channel the $650 billion worth of new special drawing rights (SDRs) created by the IMF to the developing countries that need them most to protect their suffering people, economy and ecology, too. It will produce a credible macroeconomic policy message, promising both to contain inflation should it become too strong and long, while keeping its members large fiscal and monetary policy stimulus coming in a mutually compatible, coherent way until a sustained, shared economic recovery takes hold. It will boost clean, green infrastructure too.

To produce peace and security, it will advance action against crime, corruption and terrorism but struggle to make much progress on acting against weapons of mass destruction and reconstructing a responsible Afghanistan.

These advances will be spurred from the outside by the unprecedented shocks from COVID-19, climate change, economic and development setbacks, closely related energy and food crises and security ones from Afghanistan, the need for G20 support to make the major multilateral organizations and the UN, G7, BRICS and special summits respond effectively, and the high concentration of the relevant capabilities within the G20, whose leaders know they must all cooperate in a coordinated way to control these deadly proliferating shocks. They will be brought together from the inside by their converging principles and practices on COVID-19, climate change and economic policy, the solid domestic backing that allows most of them to adjust to their colleagues abroad at a largely in-person summit, with the globally well-connected host Mario Draghi, Boris Johnson, Joe Biden, and Emmanuel Macron as hosts of the G7, UN and new special summits in 2021 that have been working together as never before.

Propelled by these formidable forces, the Rome Summit will likely be a significant success. It is unlikely to be a more strongly performing one, relative to the 15 regular G20 summits that have gone before (see Appendix A). But it could easily perform less well, given the many surrounding risks.

Plans and Preparations


At Rome G20 leaders and their guests will focus on Italy's priority agenda, publicly presented on December 1,  2020, as its presidency began. Under the three pillars of "People, Planet, Prosperity," these come in five categories. COVID-19 and similar health contagion comes first, composed of "ensuring a swift international response to the pandemic," providing "equitable, worldwide access to diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines and building up resilience to future health-related shocks." Climate change comes next, including green growth, renewable energies and the common environment. Commerce comes third, covering livelihoods, economies and trade. Cohesion comes fourth, embracing social inequality, women's empowerment, youth, vulnerable, jobs, social protection and food security. Connectivity comes fifth, through closing the digital divide and bringing digitalisation to all. Leaders will also address the G20's inherited, built-in agenda of items such as financial regulation and supervision, reform of the international financial institutions (IFIs), and terrorism.

Ministerial Meetings' Momentum

These leaders will build on the results of Italy's full slate of ministerial meetings, involving 14 different portfolios and including five clustered ones, all held before the summit and starting in May. They unfolded as follows: tourism on May 4; education and labour in Catania on June 22–23; foreign affairs and development in Matero on June 29; economy and finance on July 9–10 in Venice (in addition to the traditional meetings of finance ministers and central bank governors at the IMF/World Bank spring and annual meetings); environment on July 22; climate and energy on July 23 in Naples; culture on July 29–30 in Rome; digital economy and research on August 5–6 in Trieste; health on September 5–6 in Rome; agriculture on September 17–18 in Florence; trade on October 5 in Sorrento; and finance and health on October 29 in Rome, with the health ministers participating by videoconference. Such pre-summit ministerials are the strongest predictor of summit members compliance with their commitments on the same subjects, and perhaps other dimensions of performance too.

The fall meeting of finance ministers and central bankers, held in Washington DC on October 13, produced 55 commitments. They were led by the core economic subjects of financial regulation with 15, development with 13 and macroeconomic policy with four, along with tax, infrastructure and digitization with two each, and trade and IFI reform with one each. Beyond these 40 commitments that focused in traditional ways on "prosperity," health had seven for third place, crime and corruption four, and climate change three.

G20 health ministers in September produced 72 commitments. This was the highest ever, exceeding the 51 at Berlin on May 20, 2017, the 69 at Mar del Plata, Argentina, on October 4, 2018, and the 62 at Okayama, Japan, on October 20, 2019. The joint health-finance ministers meeting on universal health coverage on June 28, 2019, produced none.

G20 environment ministers, in July, produced 80 commitments. The environment had 60, followed by climate change with seven, crime and corruption with five, development with four, and health and education with two each. Of the 80, 26 were highly binding commitments and 34 low binding ones.

The joint G20 energy and climate ministerial produced 57 commitments. They were led by energy with 25 and climate change with 16, followed by the environment with seven, international collaboration with four, labour and employment with three, and education with two. Of the 57 commitments, 29 were highly binding and 57 low binding ones.

G20 Special Summits

A further boost for progress on COVID-19 came from the G20's Global Health Summit in Rome on May 21, 2021. It repeated the G20's first intersessional, subject-specific summit, also focused on COVID-19, held on March 26, 2020. The Rome Health Summit made 53 commitments, all on health, but with three related to development, two to trade, and one each to international cooperation, democracy, the economy, the environment, digitalization, and gender and age (see Appendix B).

The second special G20 summit, on Afghanistan on October 12, broadened the field of action. It produced an outcome document containing consensus principles, rather than decisional commitments.

Together with the Rome Summit, these two subject-specific summits will raise G20 summitry to a new high of three in one year, and will have socialized the new leaders into to how the make the club work.

Compliance Momentum

Further support came from the substantial interim compliance by G20 members with the 20 priority commitments, of the 107 total made at the G20 Riyadh Summit on November 21–22, 2020. By May 22 members had complied with them at a level of 74%. This is just above the average of all summits at the end of the full compliance period, from the end of one summit until just before the subsequent summit. Compliance with the Riyadh commitments was led by those on macroeconomics at 91%, followed by digitalization at 85%, climate change and health at 80% each, and gender at 79% (see Appendix C-1). Then, below the 74% average, came crime and corruption at 70%, development at 69%, labour and employment at 68%, trade at 67%, international tax at 63%, energy at 55%, and the environment at 53%. All subjects thus averaged compliance in the positive range, above 50%.

This interim compliance was led by the EU at 93%, followed by the UK at 92%, Germany at 92%, France at 89%, Canada and Korea at 83% each, and Japan, Brazil, and Indonesia at 75% (see Appendix C-2). Coming below the 74% average were the US, Argentina, Australia and Turkey with 70% each, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia with 68% each, Italy at 63%, Mexico at 60%, and India and South Africa at 53%.

As the Rome Summit approached, by September 27, compliance had reached a strong 84%, according to the G20 Research Group's preliminary findings. It was led by the two commitments on macroeconomic policy at 95%, followed by the three on health at 88% and the two on climate change at 88% too. Prosperity, people and planet were thus at the top. Elsewhere on the economy, one commitment on the digital economy had 90%, the two on development and debt relief 88%, and the two on tax 85%, but the two on trade only 70%. On society beyond health, the two commitments on gender had 88%, and the one on labour and employment 83%. On the ecology beyond climate change, the one commitment on energy (on fossil fuels subsidies) had 68% and the one on the environment (marine plastic litter) had 70%. In the political-security sphere, the one commitment on crime and corruption had 80%.

By member, compliance was now led by Merkel's Germany at 100%, the EU and Korea at 98%, the UK and France at 95%, and Canada and Joe Biden's US at 93%. Above the 84% average, Japan had 88% and Australia had 85%. Just below average were China, Brazil and Turkey at 83%. Italy, the Rome Summit's host, had 82% and Saudi Arabia, the Riyadh Summit's host, had 80%. Then came Indonesia and Argentina at 78%, and Russia at 75%. The laggards were Mexico and South Africa at 68% and India at 65% in last place.

Surrounding Summit Support

G7 Cornwall, June

The G7's Cornwall Summit on June 11–13 provided a very strong boost. It produced 429 commitments, the most of any G7 summit since its start in 1975. They were highly concentrated on the G20's Rome priority themes. For people, Cornwall produced 89 commitments on health, along with 17 on gender, and one on labour and employment. For the planet, it produced 123 commitments, with 55 on the environment, 54 on climate change and 14 on energy. For prosperity, it generated 33 on the digital economy, 21 on trade, 16 on macroeconomic policy, 15 on development, nine on infrastructure and three on international taxation. For political-security, it made 21 on democracy, 19 on regional security, 14 on human rights, seven on crime and corruption, two on weapons and non-proliferation, and two on terrorism.

BRICS New Delhi Summit, September

The BRICS New Delhi Summit on September 9 provided only small support. It produced 34 commitments, a total much lower than many BRICS stand-alone summits in the past. There were few on the Rome G20's core priorities. For people, health had only five and socioeconomics three. For the planet, climate change had only two, the environment and food and agriculture one each, and energy none. For prosperity, macroeconomics and trade had two each and IFI reform and the digital economy one each. On political-security, crime and corruption had four, human rights two, and non-proliferation and terrorism one each. At the top were international cooperation with five and BRICS cooperation with three.

Special Summits

Further support came from several special summits in late September, held at, by or on the margins of the opening of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). For climate change, UNGA began with Xi Jinping promising on September 21 to end China's financing for international coal plants. Biden followed that day by promising to double US climate financing for developed countries to $11.4 billion a year by 2024. During that week the US and EU announced a 30% cut by 2030 in their methane emissions. The US and China agreed to cut hydrofluorocarbons. Germany said it would spend €11.5 billion on energy efficiency in buildings.

For health, on September 22, at the COVID-19 summit Biden chaired, he promised a major increase in US COVID-19 doses for developing countries, with three for them for every one administered in the US. On September 26 Macron announced France was doubling its COVID-19 vaccine donations abroad to 120 million doses, or more than all used in France thus far.

For food, the UN Food Systems Summit took place on September 23.

For energy, on September 24, at the Energy Summit hosted by the UN Development Programme, over 35 countries committed over $400 billion in new finance and investment for energy poverty and decarbonization.

The Approach to the Rome Summit

Five weeks before the Rome Summit, there were still many moving parts. It was still difficult to know what the summit outcomes would be. G20 sherpas were trying to shrink the very long communiqué down to a manageable size of no more than 20 pages. Some wanted half that. There was also a discussion of a summit focused on Afghanistan, perhaps on the margins of the Rome Summit. In the third week of September, Draghi was working the phones, including a call with Putin on September 22, to arrange this.

The sherpas met again in mid-October to advance the work.

Projected Performance

On Rome's eve, the summit will likely be a significant success (Kirton 2021a, b). However it is unlikely to perform better than the previous 15 regular G20 summits (see Appendix D). But it could easily perform less well, given the many remaining risks.

On its first thematic priority of people, Rome will produce a significant performance. On vaccinations, it will promise to provide enough doses, dollars and support for domestic manufacturing to inoculate at least 70% of the world's population by the end of 2022. On pandemic preparedness and response, it will commit to significantly strengthen existing systems. On the WHO, it will agree on the need to strengthen this central international body through significant reform. On other diseases, it will advance action on tuberculosis, non-communicable diseases, mental health, zoonotic diseases that flow from animals to humans and anti-microbial resistance.

On its second priority of planet, Rome will produce a substantial performance, at best. It will agree that a 1.5°C post-industrial temperature rise is the most appropriate target. It will promise to generate at the UN's Glasgow climate conference beginning the next day enough action to keep this goal within reach. Key G20 members will commit to end international coal financing this year. They will start to give $100 billion a year to developing countries for climate finance.

And all will promise to protect more nature, in support of the UN's biodiversity conference next spring.

On its third priority of prosperity, Rome will produce a strong performance. It will approve a revolutionary new international tax regime, to force the world's richest digital and other multinational firms pay taxes to the countries where they make their money, and pay a minimum tax too. It will decide on channelling some of the $650 billion worth of SDRs from the rich to the poor countries. It will offer an appropriate macroeconomic policy message, promising continued fiscal and monetary stimulus until the recovery is secure, while keeping inflation under control. It will pledge more debt relief for hard-hit states.


This significant performance will be propelled by six strong forces (see Appendix E).

Shock-Activated Vulnerability

The first force is the unprecedentedly strong severity and scope of the shocks that have exposed the vulnerability of all G20 members, including the most powerful ones, coming from COVID-19, climate change and economic contraction, and then energy, food, Afghanistan and migration.

COVID-19 has already killed millions and cost trillions, and the toll will mount. The most vulnerable country by far has been the United States, followed in turn by its fellow G20 members of Brazil, India, Mexico and Russia.

Climate shocks have reached a new peak in G20 countries in 2021, and are scientifically certain to get worse. They compounded the closely related energy and food shocks arising in the autumn. Toward the end of September an energy crisis in Europe and a food crisis arose, both from price spikes and supply shortages.

Economic shocks from the COVID-19 crisis saw gross domestic product (GDP) plunge in 2020, a fragile two-speed recovery return in 2021, and serious economic distress remain for several G20 members and many beyond. financial and economic concerns in China.

Security shocks started with the Taliban swiftly taking power in Afghanistan in late August, thus fostering terrorism from al Qaeda and ISIS and outward migration flows from the many Afghans desperate to leave.

Communiqué-recognized shocks and vulnerabilities on such subjects appeared often in the outcome documents of recent G20 summit and ministerial meetings, particularly the meetings on health, Afghanistan. finance and agriculture.

Media-highlighted shock-activated vulnerability was strong. In the 20 days between September 1 and 22, the front page of the Financial Times included stories on the economy on 16 days, digitalization on 16 days, health on 10 days, democracy on 10 days and climate change on six days, led by extreme weather events. This suggests a broad performance at Rome. In the Sunday New York Times during that same period, climate change appeared on the front page of all three issues, health in two and the economy, digitalization and democracy in one, suggesting a strong performance on climate change.

Scientific shocks were very strong, led by those in the much-quoted report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published on August 8.

Multilateral Organizational Failure

The second force is the significant multilateral organizational failure in controlling these shocks without the G20's help.

The WHO and its affiliates depend on G20 members to provide the needed COVID-19 doses, dollars and domestic manufacturing support, to create the emergency response mechanisms and healthcare systems to cope with such pandemics, and to treat the many diseases sidelined by COVID-19.

UN climate summits and ministerial meetings since the 2015 Paris Agreement have massively failed to stop the soaring climate emergency now facing the world. They will fail again at Glasgow, unless the G20 makes the big decisions at Rome the day before. They will also do so on biodiversity and the UN conference in Kunming in the spring, without a big boost from the G20 at Rome.

The IMF and World Bank have done better, notably with the IMF's creation of $650 billion in SDRs. But they have not controlled the mounting debts of poor countries, nor have they compelled those indebted countries' private sector creditors to do their fair share. They needed G20 leaders, whose countries control these core multilateral organizations, to produce these SDRs and act at Rome to finalize channelling the SDRs to those most in need.

In the political-security domain, the United Nations Security Council Council, led by its Permanent Five members, failed to stop the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August or to control the many crises arising there in the aftermath.

The strongest success from a multilateral organization came from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on the new international tax regime. But here the secret to its success was working from the start with the G20.

Predominant Equalizing Capability

The third force is the strong globally predominant, internally equalizing capabilities of G20 members.

They possess almost all of the world's safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines, about 80% of the sources of greenhouse gas emissions, most of the world's natural sinks that suck these emission out of the atmosphere and over 80% of the global economy too. They have 80% of the solutions to the shocks of today.

G20 predominance is increasing, with its members growing economically faster than those outside.

But its internal equalization is declining, as its developed members grow faster than its emerging and developing ones, even as its two most powerful members, the US and China converged at the top. The most powerful members – the US and China – with their economies now slowing and equalizing, should know that they need help from each other and all their G20 colleagues too. China's growth rate is well above that of the US, but it is slowing substantially, while concerns about a financial crisis in the overleveraged property sector are growing.

The OECD reported that GDP changes from the fourth quarter in 2019 to the second quarter in 2021 were in led by G7 members, starting with the US at +0.8%, and followed by Canada at −1.1%, Japan at −1.5%, the EU at −2.5%, Germany at −3.2%, France at −3.2%, Italy at −3.8% and the UK at −4.2%.

No G20 member could solve the COVID-19, climate and economic crises alone.

Common Converging Principles and Practices

The fourth force is G20 members' convergence on common principles and domestic practices on health, climate and economic recovery. Most big G20 members are now producing, sharing or financing COVID-19 vaccines. Almost all are acting to control climate change and stimulate their economies in fiscal and monetary ways. They are all committed, careful Keynesians now.

Converging political characteristics of democracy are small and shrinking. Although Biden has bolstered democracy in the US, it is declining in the BRICS and some members of MIKTA – Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey and Australia – and beyond.

Domestic Political Cohesion

The fifth force is the adequate political backing that most G20 leaders have at home, allowing them to adjust to their G20 colleagues abroad, in order to forge the needed agreements at Rome. This domestic support is good enough in all G7 members, very strong in China and Russia, and substantial in India and South Africa, if not in Brazil.

Domestic political cohesion is solid overall. It is strong in Italy, making Draghi a strong summit host. It is substantial in the US, where Biden has over three years in office left, although his approval ratings have been weakened by his Afghanistan withdrawal and a divided Congress where the passage of his historic $3.5 trillion infrastructure plan remains in doubt. It is significant in the UK, where Johnson has a parliamentary majority, his public approval strong and his next election in 2024. However, it is small Japan, where the governing LDP replaced the unpopular Yoshihide Suga with Fumio Kishida, who called a general election on October 31, and in Germany, where, after the elections on September 26, veteran Angela Merkel will likely be replaced by her finance minister, Olaf Schultz, from the opposition SDP when the coalition government is finally determined. In France, an unpopular Macron faces what could be a close election in April 2022. Domestic political cohesion is strong in China and Russia (after its managed parliamentary elections in September), substantial for India's Modi, but small in Brazil and South Africa. In most other members, the leaders have firm control.

Club at the Global Network Hub

The final force is the G20 summit's growth to new heights as its leaders' personally valued club, at the hub of an expanding network of global summit governance. Rome finally restores in-person G20 summitry, even if the leaders of Japan, Russia Mexico and probably China will probably appear only on video screens. And Rome caps a year of unprecedented G20-centred summitry that will culminate in Glasgow right after Rome ends.

For the majority of leaders who are travelling to Rome, interpersonal bonds can flourish. Draghi has high international expertise and experience, especially in the finance and economic field. Since his appointment in early February he has participated in two G7 summits, chaired two G20 summits (on health and on Afghanistan), and participated in Joe Biden's Leaders Summit on Climate in April. Italy belongs to several summit institutions of global relevance and reach: the EU, NATO, the Asia-Europe Meeting, and, most recently, the Belt and Road Forum.

Further spokes in the global summit network came from the new Quadrilateral, where the US, Japan, Australia and Korea held their first video summit in March and their first in-person summit at the White House on September 24. The Quad agreed to act on COVID-19, infrastructure, climate change, technology, space and cybersecurity – most of the G20 priorities at Rome.


For these reasons, the Rome Summit could be one of the best performing G20 summits ever, through its supply of the timely, well-tailored global governance the world needs. But it still will not do nearly enough to meet the soaring demand for global solutions, above all on climate change.


Agyemang, Emma, Chris Giles and Jonathan Wheatley (2020). "Global Tax Deal Domestic Legislation Holds Key to Success of Accord," Financial Times, July 3–4,p. 3.

Blair, Tony (2021). "How to Vaccinate the Whole World," Financial Times, August 5, p. 17.

Brown, Gordon (2020). "G20 Nations Must Devise a Strategy for Post-Pandemic Growth," Financial Times, December 17, p. 17.

Kirton, John (2021). "Will the G20 Produce a Significant Success at Rome?," Presentation for "G20 Summitry: Performance, Prospects, Proposals for Rome 2021," Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History and the G20 Research Group, University of Toronto, October 21, 2021. http://www.g20.utoronto.ca/analysis/211022-kirton.html.

Kirton, John (2021). "A Significant Performance for People, Planet and Prosperity: Prospects for the G20's Rome Summit," in John Kirton and Madeline Koch, eds., G20 Italy: The 2021 Rome Summit (London: GT Media). https://bit.ly/g20it.

Oldani, Chiara (2021). "G20 Italy 2021," Global Policy Journal, July 19. https://www.globalpolicyjournal.com/blog/19/07/021/g20-italy-2021

Summers, Lawrence (2021). "Facing Up to the G20's Challenges," in John Kirton and Madeline Koch, eds., G20 Italy: The 2021 Rome Summit (London: GT Media). https://bit.ly/g20it.

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Appendix A: G20 Summit Performance, 2008–2020



Domestic political management Deliberation Direction setting Decision making Delivery Development of global governance
Internal External Engagement groups
Attendance # compliments % members complimented # days # documents # words



Democracy Liberty # commitments


Compliance # assessed # references Spread # references Spread # references Spread
2008 Washington A− 100% 0 0% 2 2 3,567



10 2 95


76% 8 0 4 39 11 0 0
2009 London A 100% 1 5% 2 3 6,155



9 0 129


57% 8 12 4 120 27 0 0
2009 Pittsburgh A− 100% 0 0% 2 2 9,257



28 1 128


69% 17 47 4 115 26 0 0
2010 Toronto A− 90% 8 15% 2 5 11,078



11 1 61


70% 16 71 4 164 27 0 0
2010 Seoul B 95% 5 15% 2 5 15,776



18 4 153


67% 42 99 4 237 31 0 0
2011 Cannes B 95% 11 35% 2 3 14,107



22 0 282


71% 26 59 4 247 27 4 2
2012 Los Cabos A− 95% 6 15% 2 2 12,682



31 3 180


77% 21 65 4 138 20 7 2
2013 St. Petersburg A 90% 15 55% 2 11 28,766



15 3 281


68% 26 190 4 237 27 9 5
2014 Brisbane B 90% 10 40% 2 5 9,111



1 0 205


71% 29 39 4 42 12 0 0
2015 Antalya B 90% 0 0% 2 6 5,983



0 2 198


71% 24 42 4 54 11 8 6
2016 Hangzhou B+ 95% 7 25% 2 4 16,004



34 5 213


72% 31 179 4 223 19 14 6
2017 Hamburg B+ 95% 0 0 2 10 34,746



2 11 529


69% 36 54 6 307 19    
2018 Buenos Aires B− 90% 0 0 2 2 13,515



7 2 128


78% 22 20 5 24 15    
2019 Osaka   95% 0 0 2 2 6,623



7 6 143


78% 19 56 5 54 17    
2020 Riyadh   100%[a] 3 10% 2 1 5,697



6 6 107


Total     66   30 63 193,067



188 34 2,832


- 278 933 60 2,001 289 42 21
Average N/A 90% 4.4 0.1 2.0 4.2 12,871.1



14.5 2.6 188.8


71% 21.4 66.6 4.3 142.9 20.6 3.8 1.9


N/A = not applicable. Only documents issued at a summit in the leaders' name are included.

Grade is based on a scoring scheme created by John Kirton, as follows: A+ Extremely Strong, A Very Strong, A-Strong, B+ Significant, B Substantial, B- Solid, C Small, D Very Small, F Failure (including made things worse). Available at http://www.g20.utoronto.ca/analysis/scoring.html.

Domestic political management: participation by G20 members and at least one representative from the European Union and excludes invited countries; compliments are references to full members in summit documents.

Deliberation: duration of the summit and the documents collectively released in the leaders' name at the summit.

Direction setting: number of statements of fact, causation and rectitude relating directly to open democracy and individual liberty.

Decision making: number of commitments as identified by the G20 Research Group.

Delivery: scores are measured on a scale from −1 (no compliance) to +1 (full compliance, or fulfilment of goal set out in commitment). Figures are cumulative scores based on compliance reports.

Development of global governance: internal are references to G20 institutions in summit documents; external are references to institutions outside the G20; engagement groups are references to engagement groups. Spread indicates the number of different institutions mentioned.

[a] 2020 Riyadh attendance = Donald Trump attended, but left early and was first replaced by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and then by Larry Kudlow

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Appendix B: Rome Declaration: Global Health Summit Commitments

Subject Number of commitments
Core ALL Health 53
Related Development 3
Trade 2
International cooperation 1
Democracy 1
Economy 1
Environment [and agriculture] 1
Digitalization 1
Gender [and age] 1

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Appendix C-1: 2020 G20 Riyadh Summit Interim Compliance by Commitment

Rank Commitment Average
1 Climate Change: Paris Agreement +0.90 95%
2 Macroeconomics: Inclusive growth +0.85 93%
3 Health: Preparedness and response +0.80 90%
4 Macroeconomics: Capital markets +0.75 88%
5 Digital Economy: Consumer rights +0.70 85%
6 Gender: Inequalities +0.65 83%
7 Development: COVID-19 +0.55 78%
Health: Vaccine distribution
Trade: Investment
10 Gender: Economic participation and entrepreneurship +0.50 75%
International taxation: Tax systems
12 Health: Information sharing +0.45 73%
13 Crime and corruption: Threats +0.40 70%
14 Labour and employment: Job protection +0.35 68%
15 Climate change: Circular carbon economy +0.30 65%
16 Development: Debt relief +0.20 60%
17 Trade: Open markets +0.12 56%
18 Energy: Fossil fuels +0.10 55%
19 Environment: Marine plastic litter +0.05 53%
20 International taxation: Base erosion and profit shifting 0 50%

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Appendix C-2: 2020 G20 Riyadh Summit Interim Compliance by Member

Rank Member Average
1 European Union +0.85 93%
United Kingdom
3 Germany +0.84 92%
4 France +0.79 89%
5 Canada +0.65 83%
7 Brazil +0.50 75%
10 Argentina +0.40 70%
United States
14 China +0.35 68%
Saudi Arabia
17 Italy +0.26 63%
18 Mexico +0.20 60%
19 India +0.05 53%
South Africa

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Appendix D: Prospective Rome Summit Performance by Subject

People: Health
Mental health C−
Planet: Ecology
Climate change B
Biodiversity B
Other environment (oceans, plastics, pollution) B
Prosperity: Economy
Macroeconomic policy B−
International tax A
Trade C−
Channelling special drawing rights B
Development and debt B−
Infrastructure B
Digital economy C+
Crime and corruption C
Terrorism C
Nuclear proliferation C
Afghanistan B−
More frequent summits (per 2009–2010, 2020, 2021, Gordon Brown, etc.)  

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Appendix E: Propellers of the G20 Rome Summit's Projected Performance

  Performance Causes
Summit Performance Total Total Shock-activated vulnerability Multilateral organizational failure Predominant equalizing capability Common, converging policies and practices Domestic political cohesion Club at the network hub
2020 Riyadh Small 4 34 8 8 7 4 4 3
2021 Rome Significant 7 43 9 7 7 5 6 9

Notes: Riyadh's shock-activated vulnerability was strong due to height of the first and second waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, depth of the economic downturn, and new peaks in greenhouse gas concentrations and rising extreme weather events. Its strong multilateral organizational failure was due to the inability of the World Health Organization, UN Climate, International Monetary Fund and World Bank to arrest these shocks and offset the vulnerabilities they produced. On predominant equalizing capability it was solid as G20 predominance remained high and China's state of COVID-19 and economic growth was much higher than those of the United States. On common, converging policies and practices, Riyadh's performance was small as democracy was declining in China, Russia, Brazil and Turkey, and Donald Trump, who represented the United States at the summit, denied that Joe Biden had been elected president in November. Domestic political cohesion was small, as it was high only in China and Russia but low in the United States, after Trump's electoral defeat. On the G20 as a club at the network hub, Riyadh was very small, as it was an entirely virtual summit and King Salman's Saudi Arabia is not a member or a participant in the major plurilateral summits of global relevance and reach.

10 A+ Exceptionally strong
9 A Very strong
8 A− Strong
7 B+ Significant
6 B Substantial
5 B− Solid
4 C+ Small
3 C Very small
0 F Failure/Non-existent

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John KirtonJohn Kirton is director of the G20 Research Group, G7 Research Group and Global Health Diplomacy Program and co-director of the BRICS Research Group, all based at the University of Toronto. A professor of political science, he teaches global governance and international relations and Canadian foreign policy. His most recent books include Reconfiguring the Global Governance of Climate Change, with Ella Kokotsis and Brittaney Warren (forthcoming), Accountability for Effectiveness in Global Governance, co-edited with Marina Larionova (Routledge 2018), China's G20 Leadership (Routledge, 2016), G20 Governance for a Globalized World (Ashgate, 2012) and (with Ella Kokotsis), The Global Governance of Climate Change: G7, G20 and UN Leadership (Ashgate, 2015), as well as The G8-G20 Relationship in Global Governance, co-edited with Marina Larionova (Ashgate, 2015), and Moving Health Sovereignty in Africa: Disease, Govenance, Climate Change, co-edted with Andrew F. Cooper, Franklyn Lisk and Hany Besada (Ashgate, 2014). Kirton is also co-editor with Madeline Koch of several publications on the G20, the G7 and global health governance, including G20 Italy: The 2021 Rome Summit and G7 UK: The 2021 Cornwall Summit, and, with the support of the World Health Organization, Health: A Political Choice — Solidarity, Science, Solutions, published by GT Media and the Global Governance Project.