NEW DELHI: The Covid-19 period brought about an understanding that systemic problems, be it climate change or inequality, no matter how local they appear to be, could easily become global challenges. The realisation that the world is deeply interconnected and that response to global problems requires countries around the world contributing and working together helped Italy focus on reviving multilateralism.
One of the first countries to be devastated by the pandemic, Italy assumed the year-long G20 presidency on December 1, 2020. During his opening speech at the Rome Summit, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said, “The more we go with all our challenges, the more it is clear that multilateralism is the best answer to the problems we face today. In many ways, it is the only possible answer. From the pandemic, to climate change, to fair and equitable taxation, going it alone is simply not an option.”
In a world divided by protectionism, unilateralism and nationalism, Covid-19 hit pretty hard. It isolated people, nations and continents. But the pandemic also worked as a catalyst; it brought changes and a scenario the world was only speculating to be its future. Around the world, be it developed or developing nation, the health infrastructure trembled, economy nosedived and there was bloodbath on stock exchanges. The resurgent rhetoric of unilateralism got trapped in the worst nightmare of globalisation. None of the dominoes was left standing. In this context, the three focus themes identified by Italy for its G20 presidency were: People, Planet and Prosperity.
Under ‘People’, Italy focused on creating a consensus for a network through which all countries in the world can get access to diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. And, while focusing on recovery, it wanted to tackle inequalities and promote equal opportunities for all in health, education, employment and human development.
The ‘Planet’ theme focused on rebuilding and restructuring the world, with climate and environment at its core and through renewable energies. ‘Prosperity’ focused on finding ways to overcome digital divide as access to new technologies and digital transformation can lead to prosperity for all.
Moreover, at various meetings, especially Finance Track, Italy focused on investment and growth; global financial stability and enhancing financial inclusion; strengthening the International financial architecture; and creating a fairer and more transparent international tax system.
It was during Italy’s presidency that a consensus was reached to extend the suspension of debt service payments for 50 countries until the end of 2021 and re-service of debt of few stressed countries. Italy was also able to create a pool of $650 billion in additional reserves to support low-income countries in surviving the aftermath of Covid-19. Another milestone that was achieved during its presidency was reform in the international taxation system leading to Global Minimum Corporate Tax.
Italy, however, failed to secure commitments from China, Russia and India to achieve carbon-neutrality by 2050. But, the commitment made during Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius was unanimously recognised in the final G20 Declaration. Another significant blow to Italy’s presidency came from the absence of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin from the Rome Summit as they argued that there was an increasing ‘westernisation’ of G20.
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