Australian Outlook

In this section

The Delhi Declaration Takes Aim at the Most Pressing Global Challenges

28 Sep 2023
By Raghbendra Jha and Dr Ashok Sharma
Delhi, India. The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attends the last session, speaks to the media and then leaves Delhi after the G20 finishes. Source: Number 10 /

India’s leadership at the G20 summit showcases a more inclusive agenda for the world’s economic leaders. Yet, more work is needed on addressing key stresses in climate change and debt crises. 

The G20 Summit in New Delhi on 9 – 10 September was held against the backdrop of the world economic leaders trying to put together a program of recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic which had killed nearly 7 million, and severely disrupted the global economy. These near catastrophic developments confounded already persisting challenges of huge debt burdens (particularly in developing countries), the Ukraine War, food and energy insecurity, and the existential challenges emanating from climate change.

Leaders at the summit were also looking to develop a mechanism for a voice for the Global South in world Affairs to address the economic gap between developed and developing countries. Some momentum toward this was attained in the successful BRICS summit held in South Africa between 22-24 August, 2023.

At the G20 Summit, under the theme of “One Earth, One Family, One Future,” participating nations committed to promote international cooperation and communication, with a focus on multilateral cooperation to address major global concerns such as debt crises, climate change, and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

India as the leader of the Global South

For India, the New Delhi Summit was a diplomatic turning point. It not only provided a forum to address the concerns of the Global South, but India was also able to use its leadership of the summit to secure unanimous approval for a Leaders’ Declaration. The United States supported Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to reform international organisations, including the UN Security Council (UNSC), to better reflect the shifting global dynamics. For Modi, the summit also coincided with India’s successful Chandrayaan-3 moon landing and its first mission to the Sun Aditya-1.

In an innovative step, members of the G20 announced a rail and shipping corridor linking India with Europe via the Arabian Gulf, to be  known as the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC). Two corridors—one connecting India to the Arabian Gulf and the other the gulf to Europe—will make up the IMEC. Not only is this likely to galvanise trade and investment throughout the region, but also act as a direct challenge to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The Voice of the Global South: Towards Multilateralism

G20 nations came together to coordinate their efforts and work together toward shared objectives. The message was clear that in the emerging global order the world will need to work together as no one nation alone can successfully address the problems that are global. The summit was also a breakthrough for a more inclusive world by making the African Union a permanent member, showcasing the strength and importance of the Global South. The African Union has long been ignored by the major economies. This is despite projections that the continent over the next 30-40 years is likely to expand to become one of the fastest growing regions in the world.

Managing International Debt Vulnerabilities

According to the UN, global public debt reached an astonishing US$92 trillion in 2022. Despite how problematic this may seem right now, international debt is now showing signs of abating. The G20 encouraged all members to think about ameliorating the debt burdens of many developing countries, some of whom, such as Sri Lanka, are facing deep economic and social crises. It was also considered that developed countries such as the US and Japan needed to lower their public debt.

The summit members also discussed setting up a debt crisis recovery plan for the less developed nations, particularly because they had already made some substantial progress in that direction. The Delhi Declaration emphasised the importance of addressing debt vulnerabilities in low and middle-income countries in an effective, comprehensive, and systematic manner as committed to in the Common Framework for Debt Treatments on 13 November, 2020. To this end, the declaration gave a call for the continued discussion on policy-related issues linked to the implementation of the Common Framework.

Addressing Climate Change 

Global action to address climate change remains inadequate. Notwithstanding the fact that G20 nations collectively contribute approximately 80 percent to global emissions, the summit could not put together a consensus on the phase-out of fossil fuels. However, under the Green Development Pact for a Sustainable Future, members resolved to pursue environmentally sustainable and inclusive economic growth and development in an integrated, holistic, and balanced manner. The summit committed to accelerating actions to address environmental challenges and reaffirmed steadfast commitments to an effective implementation of the temperature goal made in the Paris Agreement to limit the temperature to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

The Delhi Declaration also adopted the goal of seeking to triple global renewable energy capacity; committed to mainstream Lifestyle for Environment (LiFE); implement sustainable energy transitions; provide sustainable finance; reaffirm the pursuit of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); and launch the Global Biofuel Alliance (GBA), a new organisation aimed at promoting the development and adoption of sustainable biofuels, along with the establishment of relevant standards and certification.

G20 nations with more than 80 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 2/3 of its population have an exceptional economic might which can be used to address global issues and accomplish shared objectives. By coming through on a consensus, the Delhi Declaration has shown that the G20 is equipped to deal with  many of the pressing global challenges.

Professor Raghbendra Jha is Emeritus Professor of Economics at the Arndt-Corden Department of Economics at the Crawford School of Public Policy, the Australian National University.

Dr Ashok Sharma is a Visiting Fellow at the University of New South Wales, Canberra, at the Australian Defence force Academy. He is also an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Canberra and an Academic Fellow of the Australia-India Institute at the University of Melbourne.

This article is published under a Creative Commons Licence and may be republished with attribution.