The G20: Playing Outside the Big Tent

June 12, 2012
Nancy Alexander and Peter Riggs
This month, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (“Rio +20) on June 20-22 in Brazil immediately follows a Summit of the Group of 20 (G20) on June 18-19 in Mexico.  These events invite a comparison of their respective agendas and approaches to securing future economic development.  The “Rio+20” Conference occurs in the “big tent” of all UN member states in order to reflect on progress made over the last twenty years (since the 1992 Earth Summit) in achieving sustainable development  and (more controversially) to repackage these ideas into the market-friendly concept of building a ‘Green Economy.’

In contrast, the G20 Summit is a closed gathering of the world’s nineteen largest economies, plus the European Union—which will focus on managing the eurozone crisis, governance and financial reform, unemployment, and international development, including a  massive infrastructure initiative.

This paper explores the ways in which G20 Summit affect the outcomes of “Rio+20” and whether these two global events might be mutually reinforcing or work at cross-purposes.  

It begins by providing a brief history of the G20 and its two growth frameworks and, then, describes how, on the one hand, nation states are moving away from binding commitments (e.g., environment, climate, human rights, biodiversity) and, on the other, private actors (i.e., ‘public-private partnerships’) are shaping the future. The brave new world dominated by transnational corporations is deepening and expanding ‘market mechanisms,’ which commodify and ‘financialize’ natural resources. The conclusions describe government and civil society responses to the new challenges to global governance and sustainable development in a multi-polar world where the power of the financial sector remains ascendant.



Rio + 20: Fairness in a Finite World

In June 2012, the international community will gather in Rio de Janeiro 20 years after the first Earth Summit. The topics will be global environmental governance and greening the economy as the summit’s core topics. more»