Hamburg, Violence, G20 – Is This a Viable Format?

The G20 summit came to Hamburg, overwhelming the city, and has now moved on. As for high politics, it was partly 20 – 0 (everyone allegedly against terrorism), 19 – 1 (climate change), and an unclear constellation in trade matters (with some issues having not been clearly framed).

Along with 10,000 politicians, sherpas, journalists, and 20,000 police officers, there also were hundreds of thousands of demonstrators (at one point on Sunday), and some 1,000 or so hard-core violent fighters who enjoyed the opportunity to endulge their machismo and seed chaos and fright. Even judging the whole theatre with benevolence from a distant viewer’s seat, one can hardly can avoid having the impression that there was a gross mismatch between the enormous efforts, and cost, to prepare and implement and defend all this, on the one hand, and the outcome, on the other.

The absent veto players and electorates from the domestic scenery are always around. There are too many topics and way too many participants/ guests. If we assume that the 40 leading individuals (19 plus one participants, plus 20 high-level reps from international organizations and the like) only talk for five minutes each, then three and a half hours are gone.

So this week’s question is: Are these monster-meetings any good?

– Klaus Segbers

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  1. Alexei Voskressenski 5 days ago

    The G-20 has it sense. It enables world leaders to see each other regularly, sit together and talk on the one or two most important issues in a format other than UN meetings. However, when such meetings started, they were much smaller in size and led to the discussion of fundamental questions to the benefit of ordinary people. Their evolvement into monster-meetings with thousands of participants aside, they seem to lose their initial cause. Hence numerous protests. May be it is a time to return to more practical results and bring the G-20 agenda closer to ordinary people?

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  2. Justas Paleckis 5 days ago

    The G20 summits (like the G7) have their routine: leaders are talking, while anti-globalists are protesting. This time in Hamburg, hard-core violent fighters indeed did some work more actively than usual and chaos was inevitable. The police could easily secure public order if the world’s most powerful leaders were gathered in a more secluded place than a millionth port. But talks in Hamburg were also useful. At least it was slightly pushed forward on all issues discussed. It is necessary for the leaders of the most powerful states to meet, talk, argue and search for a compromise. The more often, the better. Especially today, when we remember the times of the Cold War as relatively calm. In addition to the G20 summits there could be organized more compact meetings: members of the UN Security Council plus its potential members – India, Brazil, Japan, Germany, maybe PAR. Such summits would at least partially compensate the UN’s impotence. Stronger contacts between leaders, their open discussions would definitely contribute to the scattering of fatal threats jeopardizing our world. The problem of cost of organizing such summits is more than a secondary issue.

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  3. Stefan Engert 5 days ago

    The G-20 is a yearly forum that assembles the world largest national economies. Its membership is exclusive (based on economic importance), which means that poorer regions – the African continent in particular – are underrepresented (compared to their population numbers). During the annual meetings, the governments primarily discuss economic and financial matters; decisions are non-binding and non-transparent. Therefore one could question the G-20’s legitimacy in any case. It is no wonder that the meetings attract popular mass protest from the anti-globalization movement. Whilst this form of democratic protest is indeed necessary and legitimate (e.g. “Lieber tanz’ ich als G-20”, “Global Solidarity Summit”, “1.000 Gestalten”) in order to hold non-transparent governmental clubs such as the G-20 accountable to public scrutiny, the so-called Black Bloc violence that accompanied the recent meeting in Hamburg is not because rioting in the streets, looting shops, and setting cars on fire simply is crime and can neither be labelled nor justified as a form of anti-capitalistic dissidence. As argued, G-20 summit meetings are already dubious with regard to their political legitimacy. Their effectiveness (i.e. political problem solving capacity) doesn’t seem to convince, too. Thus, is the whole G-20 thing redundant in any case? Rather a ‘Yes’. But nobody needs criminal activities to remind us of that point.

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  4. Anastasia Wischnewskaja 5 days ago

    As the complexity of the globalized world is growing, international politics moves along with this trend, making negotiations and communication processes more complicated. There is however a real need for more communication and coordination, the only question is if mega-formats like G20 are appropriate to accommodate those needs. What I personally appreciate about G20 is that it is a non-bureaucratic format. There are so many international organizations that are effectively downgraded to talking shop, but have apparatus’ and budgets, that G20 – useless as it is – appears to be more efficient in terms of cost effect calculation. What worked for Europe (more bureaucracy) will not necessarily work for the whole world and it is time to think about handing some IOs’ responsibilities over to G20. Then it would be possible to hold the meeting at one of the UN’ venues maybe even right before or after the General Assembly, that would make it more cost-efficient.

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  5. Sergei Medvedev 5 days ago

    The meetings of the G7, G8 and eventually G20 have become increasingly obsolete in
    the world of cross-border flows, networked transactions and distributed governance.
    National governments, their organizations and networks cannot capture the new fluid
    reality, hence the increasing inadequacy of these meetings, and the declaratory
    nature of their policy outcomes. The G20 is a travesty of global governance, trying
    to cope with the 21st century challenges with the mechanisms devised deep in the
    20th century.

    On the other hand, in the society of spectacle, this roaming circus produces an
    important media event, reassuring the global public and endorsing national
    bureaucracies and security policies – in a sense, this is a self-contained security
    operation, a moveable state of exception that legitimizes national security
    institutions and practices. And, yes, it also gives jobs to experts like us that
    are compelled to comment each time the circus comes to town.

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