[Viewpoint] Bridge needed between G-20 and UN

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[Viewpoint] Bridge needed between G-20 and UN

One of the most important diplomatic and economic tasks Korea is faced with this year is the successful hosting of the G-20 Summit meeting in Seoul in November. The meeting is a forum of major developed and developing economies that make up 86 percent of the global gross national product and two-thirds of the world’s population. When the global financial crisis began in the fall of 2008, we were worried about a possible economic slump harsher than the Great Depression. However, the global economy was able to pull itself out of the crisis relatively quickly, and it is beyond dispute that international cooperation under the initiative of the G-20 made a contribution to the timely recovery.

In the course of preparing for the summit in November, Korea has to get over two challenges properly. The first is to choose an appropriate agenda. So far, the G-20 meeting has been focused on cooperation to overcome the financial crisis, but as the November meeting takes place after the crisis has been managed to a certain extent, an appropriate agenda for sustainable economic growth post-crisis needs to be prepared. At the Davos Forum in January, President Lee Myung-bak proposed the resolution of the development gap between nations and a global financial safety net as the agenda for the Seoul summit.

Another long-term necessity is outreach to nonmember countries who argue against the legitimacy of the G-20. As the G-20 achieves more and more results, countries that are not a part of the group might grow more discontented and concerned. Recently, the foreign minister of Norway raised doubts about the legitimacy of the G-20 system and urged changes in the composition of the group in a contributing article to a daily newspaper.

In order to solve these problems, Seoul needs to make the best of the United Nations. Most international organizations are faced with the challenge of maintaining a balance between representativeness and effectiveness, two values that can conflict with each other.

The G-20 is recognized for its effectiveness as 20 major economies are involved, but its representativeness is now in question. In order for the G-20 to be established as a legitimate international forum and mechanism for problem solving, it desperately needs close cooperation with the United Nations, which is universally recognized.

When Ali Abdussalam Treki, the president of the United Nations General Assembly, visited Korea recently, he said that the launch of the G-20 certainly helped solve the financial crisis, but as the mechanism has failed to reflect the interests of 172 UN member countries - except for the G-20 participants - the G-20 must come up with a solution.

Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of the United Nations, was invited to the last three G-20 summits. However, the Group of 20 is a forum of sovereign states, and therefore, the attendance of the UN secretary general was not official but an invitation at the discretion of the chair country.

Now, the G-20 meeting needs to be systematized as its agenda expands. Therefore, the United Nations and civil society are strongly suggesting that the United Nations should get involved in the entire process of the G-20 Summit through the secretary general, since the United Nations represents virtually the entire world, with very few exceptions. There is no one but the UN secretary general to represent the interests of UN member countries who are not part of the G-20. Moreover, his role is important in delivering and implementing the policy direction of the G-20 to the entire UN system.

In August 2009, I took the presidency of the World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA), a civilian organization providing assistance to the United Nations established in 1946. The WFUNA leadership and UN officials have been consulting unofficially to reinforce the cooperation between the G-20 and the United Nations. Government officials of Korea and Canada, next year’s G-20 Summit host, need to explain the summit meeting preparation status and the agenda to UN member countries officially or unofficially and sufficiently reflect their opinions in the G-20 process.

Fortunately, the United Nations is increasingly eager to accelerate dialogue with the G-20. Lately, 28 non-G-20 nations, including Singapore, formed the Global Governance Group to promote small group activities. Therefore, both Korea and Canada need to make the most out of such movements within the United Nations.

The G-20 and the United Nations can supplement each other in representativeness and effectiveness and maintain balance between the two values. The G-20 can elevate its confidence and legitimacy by having the UN secretary general get involved in the G-20 process officially. If the secretary general acts as a bridge between the two international organizations, all UN member countries will voluntarily implement the decisions made by the G-20.


*The writer is the president of the World Federation of United Nations Associations. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.


by Park Soo-gil

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