Bildet viser lederne for G20-landene på toppmøtet i Kina i 2016 Foto: Casa Rosada/Creative Commons/CC BY 2.5 AR

EXCLUSIVE CLUB: G20 is made up by the most influential countries in the world. The image shows the leaders from the member countries gathered for the G20 meeting in China, 2016.

Nordic perspective on the G20

Published: 8 May 2017

Would expanding the G20 format, such as by including the Nordic countries, solve issues regarding the group's legitimacy and inclusivity? Ulf Sverdrup and Joachim Nahem explores the Nordic perspective on G20 in new working paper.

The Group of Twenty (G20) is an international forum that brings together the world's leading industrialised and emerging economies. The group accounts for 85 per cent of world GDP and two-thirds of its population. At their meetings, which have been held annually since 2008, the heads of state and government of the G20 have traditionally addressed issues relating to world economic growth, international trade and the regulation of financial markets.

Much of the important business takes place on the sidelines and in informal meetings. Germany currently holds the G20 Presidency and will host the G20 summit in Hamburg on 7 and 8 July 2017. Norway has been invited by Germany as an observer to the G20.

More effective global governance

At a time of geopolitical uncertainty and strong inter-dependencies there is a need for more effective global governance. The G20 provides a positive force but there are well-founded concerns with regard to its legitimacy and the risk of securing “club goods” at the expense of international institutions such as the UN.

In particular, many countries from the southern hemisphere feel excluded from this elite group and continue to expresses their worries – but they are not the only ones. The Nordic countries, among them Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland, constitute an economically powerful group of states that has been denied membership so far. So what is the Nordic perspective towards the G20, and how can the Nordics contribute best to this forum of the largest industrial and emerging states?

Limited incentives

In a new working paper published by the Federal Academy for Security Policy, titled The G20: Inclusivity and Legitimacy - a Nordic Perspective, Director Ulf Sverdrup and Senior Advisor Joachim Nahem (NUPI), argue that as long as states remain the building blocks of global governance, there will always subsist concerns with regard to the G20’s inclusiveness and legitimacy. Expanding the format, such as by including the Nordic countries, is unrealistic and will not solve much.

Although they share many values and similarities with regard to economic and public policies, the G20 is not a natural arena for the Nordic countries to operate as a united block. As long as Sweden, Finland and Denmark remain members of the European Union, this will be the driving force for their global policies – and not the Nordic Council. Likewise, when it comes to security issues: Norway’s, Denmark’s, and Iceland’s membership in NATO will trump any common Nordic standpoint which may involve Sweden and Finland who are not members of NATO.

The fact remains that the Nordic countries have limited incentives to forge common positions at the international level including the G20 if they were to be admitted. 

Agent for promotion

The authors hold that the G20 should see itself as an agent for promoting and supporting the broader international agenda, not as challenging it. The G20 would be most effective if it worked in tandem with other bodies, helping to bring new issues to the global agenda, and to implement the measures already agreed on. Efforts by both the current German and the previous Chinese G20 presidency to support and push for the Agenda 2030 and the Paris agreement are very important in this respect.