The G20 is an informal association of finance ministers and central bank governors from the world’s largest economies and consists of 19 countries as well as the EU. The group was established after the Asian financial crisis (1997–1998) in an attempt to improve the governance of the international financial system. The G20 then took on a more advanced role after the financial crisis broke out in 2008, and now has a number of issues on the agenda that are not directly linked to the international financial system.

The next G20 summit will be held in South Korea in late autumn 2010. Among other things, the members will discuss reforms in the Monetary Fund (IMF). These reforms are intended to give emerging economies a formal influence and voting power commensurate with their economic size. The issue is sensitive, especially among European countries. Many wonder why the G20 has existed all the time that both the UN, the World Bank and the IMF together could have been a forum for discussing the regulation of international financial markets .

Part of the reason is that regulation of international financial markets is not part of the core tasks of any of the organizations. However, it is also about the fact that the G20 is not a formal international organization. The G20 does not have its own secretariat – the host country for each meeting acts as a secretariat in the period leading up to a new meeting. Such a form of global governance often appears to be more flexible and effective precisely because states retain more direct control and influence.

According to weddinginfashion.com, the G20 is just one of several examples of a form of global governance that has become more prominent in recent years. Schematically, we can say that the element of informal forums and more flexible, often network-based, forms of governance have emerged as a supplement and partly also as a competitor to formal international organizations. This development may affect the UN in particular: the UN has states as members (192 as of autumn 2010), and each vote counts equally with the exception of votes in the Security Council. In other large international organizations, such as the IMF and the World Bank, the weight of votes varies according to how much money the individual state has invested.

The UN basically has a mandate to take on a coordinating role for global governance in a number of areas. When member states do not choose to use the UN for such a purpose, it is partly because the UN is perceived as a good arena for diplomacy, but as a poor channel for governance: by virtue of its universal membership, the UN gives more legitimacy to decisions and common goals than others international organizations. But for the same reason, large states often choose to bypass the UN because they perceive this as a more effective form of global governance. The G20 is an expression of this.

The UN then also established a working group where Norway’s UN ambassador was one of the leaders to look at the UN’s role in global economic governance. The work in this group again brought out the tensions between

  • the countries that emphasize the legitimacyof the UN by virtue of universal membership, and
  • those who highlight the inefficiency of theUN .

The latter group – especially those who are members of the G20 themselves – claim that a smaller group of states can govern more effectively than the 192 member states can manage, and that their legitimacy lies in the ability to deliver effective measures.

Like all other international organizations, the UN’s capacity to govern depends on the support it receives from the “owners” of the organization, ie the member states. This does not mean that what the UN does and does not do can be traced directly to the degree of member states’ political and economic support. A number of other factors are also important: the management of the organization, the competence of the employees and the ability to adapt and ally with other types of actors, states as well as non-governmental organizations. Nevertheless: Although the UN is the most important international organization in a number of fields – and especially in international security – there are several other fields where the UN operates at best in parallel with other international organizations and more informal associations, such as the G20.

Responsibility to Protect (R2P)

The idea that states have a responsibility to protect – R2P – is an innovation in international politics. The background was primarily the genocide in Rwanda and the wars in the Balkans in the 1990s. There, the international community was unable to stop systematic killings and abuses against civilians. This led to extensive debates on so-called “humanitarian intervention”. During the aforementioned UN summit in 2005, the member states agreed that the sovereignty of states is conditioned by a responsibility to protect their civilian population from genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has, among other things, the mandate to investigate and prosecute such violations of international law. The court has, among other things, indicted Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir for crimes against humanity and war crimes in connection with the war in Darfur.