The Right Moves in Los Cabos

DAKAR – As leaders of the world’s most powerful economies gather for the G-20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, policymakers everywhere seek action on today’s most pressing global issues: economic recovery and sustainable development.

Indeed, the world’s poorest, smallest, and most vulnerable countries need urgent progress in both areas. Without global economic recovery, their prospects for overcoming obstacles to growth will dim. And, without a comprehensive development agenda that addresses green energy, food security, and climate change, it will be impossible to create economies that can sustain economic and social advancement.

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Roughly 90% of the world’s countries are without seats at the G-20 table, so many of their most serious development challenges – for example, limited access to foreign markets or to finance for infrastructure investment – are beyond their control. These challenges are compounded by persistent debt and, for many countries, especially small island states, high vulnerability to natural disasters.

To be sure, the G-20 has made the most vulnerable countries’ key challenges a top priority, and has pursued the Seoul Development Consensus for Shared Growth – the nine-pillar multi-year plan endorsed at the 2010 summit – with unprecedented vigor. Moreover, the Mexican G-20 presidency has reached out to vulnerable non-members, actively integrating their experiences and lessons into the G-20 policy framework on development. And the Commonwealth and the International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF) – which together represent 110 countries – have contributed actively to the G-20 development agenda in the run-up to Los Cabos.

But more concerted international action is urgently needed to secure the financing required to fulfill developing-country imperatives. Indeed, existing sources of finance, domestic and foreign, are inadequate to address the range and scale of these challenges.

Innovative new sources of development finance must be fostered and given legitimacy. Financing from official sources must be adapted to individual countries’ circumstances, rather than adhering to a one-size-fits-all approach. And policymakers must explore new ways to address escalating debt, including tackling the most severely affected economies’ liquidity and solvency challenges.

Furthermore, investment in developing countries’ natural-resource base must be scaled up, buttressing a shift toward more environmentally sustainable output and economic growth. New initiatives to promote knowledge-sharing across countries must also be pursued.

Finally, concerted international action to mitigate the consequences of food insecurity is crucial. Indeed, as leaders of the G-20, the Commonwealth, and the OIF have emphasized in the last two years, national and regional responses, while significant, are insufficient without strong international support.

With this in mind, the G-20 presidency has set food security as a key priority this year. The poorest and most food-insecure countries need long-term investment commitments; financial and technical assistance; support for agricultural capacity-building; and a growth-oriented global trade environment. In particular, small landholders need new tools that enable them to increase productivity while establishing more sustainable production methods.

This month’s G-20 summit and United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro are pivotal opportunities to establish a more holistic international approach to global economic recovery and sustainable development. The pursuit of thriving, inclusive economies must be linked to efforts to address climate change and achieve universal food security.

But the outcomes that the world needs – viable financing options and frameworks to support economic transformation, as well as integrated environmental and sustainable-development governance – cannot be achieved without political will. Success at Los Cabos will depend on G-20 leaders’ ability to galvanize the same level of collective, concerted action that enabled them to curb global recession in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

The G-20 showed then that it could tackle global issues. Today, in partnership with the developing world, the G-20 must again take responsibility for all, displaying global leadership and vision in these difficult and fragile times.