"Seoul-searching": the 2010 G-20 Seoul Summit

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Authors: Judith Cherry and Hugo Dobson
Date: July-September 2012
From: Global Governance(Vol. 18, Issue 3)
Publisher: Brill
Document Type: Article
Length: 8,471 words
Lexile Measure: 1850L

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The Group of 20 summit of developed and developing countries--the self-appointed "premier forum for international economic cooperation"--met in the South Korean capital in November 2010. This was a watershed event in that it was the first time for the G-20 to meet in an Asian, non-G8 country. This article evaluates the success of the Seoul summit against a range of criteria and from various perspectives, in addition to commenting on the appropriateness of these criteria in measuring the performance of future summits. KEYWORDS: G8, G-20, summit conferences.

THE FIFTH GROUP OF 20 (G-20) LEADERS' SUMMIT--THE SELF-APPOINTED "premier forum for international economic cooperation"--met from 11 to 12 November 2010 in Seoul, South Korea. In the relatively brief history of G-20 summitry, this remains a significant summit in a number of ways. It is the only G-20 summit to be hosted in Asia (before Seoul, summits were held in Washington, London, Pittsburgh, and Toronto on a biannual basis; after Seoul, the G-20 gathered in Cannes and moved to meeting on an annual basis), and remains the only time a non-Group of 8 (G8) country has hosted the G-20. For the hosts, this was an opportunity to both demonstrate leadership in the international community and take pride in staging a successful global event ranking alongside the 1988 Olympics and 2002 Soccer World Cup. On a different level, the agenda of the summit was replete with pressing issues from currency disputes to financial safety nets via the expansion of the G-20's agenda to include issues such as development through to the reform of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the evolving architecture of global governance, and the G-20's position therein as it metamorphosed into an emerging global steering committee from a crisis committee. In short, both the Korean hosts and the international community placed high (and possibly unrealistic) expectations on Seoul as an opportunity to address a wide range of issues.

A year later, in November 2011, the Cannes summit regularized the future hosting of G-20 summits. As a result, Mexico will act as a first-time host in June 2012; thereafter, Russia will assume the presidency in 2013, Australia in 2014, and Turkey in 2015. After 2015, the rotation will be decided within regional groupings, beginning with Asia comprising China, Indonesia, Korea, and Japan. Thus, G8 countries, which have dominated the G-20 process so far, will host fewer summits and non-G8 countries will assume considerable influence in deciding the direction of the G-20 summit process. In light of these developments, the Seoul summit stands out as a benchmark of what we might expect of the newcomers to "G" summitry in terms of their style of hosting, underlying motivations, and contribution to meeting the challenges of global governance. With the goal of gleaning lessons for the future, we assess the performance of the Seoul summit from a variety of perspectives as this (and any) summit has different meanings for different actors. We do this by applying criteria from the extant literature that not only evaluate the...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A301181779