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The value of the G20

GB Geo-Blog

The value of the G20

Are the G8 and G20 meetings worth over $1 billion in costs for security? I really doubt it.

Has anyone estimated the carbon footprint resulting from the travel by all of the attendees and the thugs who inevitably show up? What about the travel costs? Surely they must approach $100 million? Couldn’t all of this money be spent more wisely?

And there are enormous costs imposed on the citizens where the meetings are held. The lives of hundreds of thousands of people living and visiting in the Greater Toronto Area will be seriously disrupted for at least one week. These costs likely will run into the hundreds of millions. No one will compensate them for their losses.

Do the world leaders, their senior cabinet members and advisors (many of whom will just be meat in the room) need to meet face-to-face? There are excellent tele-conferencing technologies available, which could substitute for face-to-face meetings. They cost less, and extract a much smaller toll on all of the people who must disrupt their lives and schedules to attend these meetings.

Perhaps I could still justify the costs and massive inconvenience if face-to-face meetings produced useful outcomes. Can anyone recall any G20 meeting that did produce a useful outcome? And if ever there was such a case, could the outcome not have been produced via tele-conference instead?

It was difficult enough getting a consensus when there was only the G7. Now that it has expanded to the G20, it is even more difficult to reach a consensus on any issue, let alone agreement on what to do about it. The more seats at the table, the less likely an agreement can be reached on anything. There are simply too many conflicting views and goals and too many prima donnas.

Furthermore, as I pointed out in my previous blog, rules and the role of government do and will continue to differ among countries for many reasons. Convergence, a prerequisite for consensus, is unlikely.

So why continue the charade of these grandiose meetings? No one really expects major breakthroughs, and we will continue to plod along with smaller groups of leaders and institutions getting together, usually by phone, to deal with a crisis.

The opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect the views of either Global Brief or the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs.


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