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Planning for a post-Covid world – editorials

The Group of Twenty (G20) ended its annual summit without deliverables, but with a sense that global leaders have begun shifting their gaze to a post-Covid-19 world. The G20 has been largely missing in action through much of the pandemic. The inability to have physical interactions inhibited genuine diplomatic outreach. More dama-ging was the every-government-for-itself scramble that followed the outbreak, something that left little space for the spirit of multilateralism. The hostility between the two most powerful nations, the United States and China, did not make summitry easier.

In any summit, participants reach out to their domestic public as well as lay out an agenda for their fellow world leaders. Outgoing US President Donald Trump’s decision to play golf during a special session on Covid-19 was a crude message for his pandemic-denying base at home. But there was positivity in the manner the summit members spoke of the future. There was the expected noise on vaccine distri-bution, debt relief and the need to coordinate economic responses to the ailing world economy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s important intervention was to underline the need to put climate change front and centre of the global agenda.

Over the next few G20 summits many of these abstractions need to be converted into concrete steps. The G20’s strength is its ability to bring to bear the attention and resources of the most-powerful governments on the most-difficult global issues. Ensuring the revival of cooperation over global financial architecture, supply chain stability and climate will be the task of future hosts, including India, which has moved its chairmanship to 2023.

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