The G20: balancing national interests with the global common good

Fues, Thomas / Dirk Messner
External Publications (2016)

in: China Quarterly of International Strategic Studies 2 (3), 293-309


The Group of Twenty (G20) has been evolving as a widely recognized, yet controversial, power center of the global economy. While this self-selected club has performed important functions for member states and the world at large, criticism persists with regard to its effectiveness and legitimacy. The G20 still struggles with the critical challenge of how to balance the legitimate pursuit of national interests with a genuine commitment to the global common good. At present, the G20 Development Working Group (DWG) is tasked with coordinating and monitoring G20 activities on the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. However, real progress will only happen if and when the personal representatives of the G20 members, or the Sherpas, take full responsibility of the process and assert their authority toward the G20 Finance Track on this issue. The current Chinese presidency has strengthened the globalist orientation of the G20 by placing the UN 2030 Agenda on the central stage. The G20 Hangzhou Summit is very likely to adopt a 2030 Action Plan which addresses three transformative dimensions: domestic actions within each G20 country, collective actions toward global public goods, and support for low-income and developing countries. The upcoming German presidency should build on the Chinese agenda by focusing on five priorities: First, to promote the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); second, to create synergies between South-South and North-South development cooperation; third, to become role models for structural transformation; fourth, to support sustainable urbanization; and finally, to enhance the evolution of global knowledge communities. As demonstrated by Chinese research institutions, knowledge organizations in the Thinktank 20 (T20) can play an important role by providing critical analyses and policy recommendations to G20 leaders.

About the authors

Fues, Thomas



Messner, Dirk

Political Scientist


Further experts

Berger, Axel

Political Science 

Brandi, Clara

Economy and Political Science 

Olekseyuk, Zoryana


Owusu, Solomon


Stender, Frederik