Globalization and Summit Reform

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Peter C. Heap

Globalization and Summit Reform

An Experiment in International Governance

Foreword by Dr. Gordon Smith
Afterword by The Right Honourable Paul Martin


ISBN: 978-0-387-76531-0 (hardcover)             e-ISBN: 978-0-387-76533-4

Library of Congress Control Number: 2008923005

Printed on acid-free paper

To Lynda

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Ever since I was a graduate student at the University of Chicago in October 1962, I have been interested in challenges at the global scale that could affect the future of humanity. The Cuban Missile Crisis brought home to me how vulnerable we are. Indeed it brought home that we could be dead from causes thousands of miles away with a warning of a maximum of thirty minutes. It was obvious the world was becoming smaller.

As I looked out the window from my apartment in Chicago, I could see children of school age at play in the alley – despite it being a weekday. They weren’t in school. One rarely saw adult men with them – only women. What consequences would that bring? Not far away was the headquarters of a strange group calling themselves the Black Moslems. There was a palpable anger that radiated from there. Where would this lead? Was there not a breaking point in how much difference in wealth and general well-being could be tolerated?

I became increasingly interested in international politics, in particular about how we governed ourselves through international institutions and international law. Hans Morgenthau emphasized to us the importance of national interests. It became clear to me that governments needed interests as an incentive to act, certainly if there were important consequences in acting. Values were important but were not a sufficient condition.

I decided to complete my graduate work at MIT because of its program in strategic studies. Thanks to William Kaufman I became increasingly aware of the consequences of uncertainty, differences in perception and failures in communication. Bill was at the time working part-time in Washington as an adviser to Bob McNamara, the Secretary of Defense. The latter produced a superb DVD called The Fog of War, which includes an insider’s view of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The bottom line emerging from McNamara’s account is that the world was very close to nuclear war. More disturbing still, war could well have occurred not because any state really wanted such a conflict, but instead through inadvertence.

In the following decades, I worked both in positions outside Canada as well in Ottawa. My NATO experience both in the late 1960s and as Ambassador from 1985 to 1990 confirmed in my mind the fragility of the international order. Working in Ottawa in the Privy Council Office taught me a great deal about how governments make decisions. There was an obvious gap between our growing interdependence in the world and our means for governing that interdependence.

In 1994 Prime Minister Jean Chrétien asked me to be Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and his Personal Representative for the G-7/8 Summits. I restructured the Department of Foreign Affairs so that there would be a strong group capable of dealing with the emerging agenda of non-traditional issues. These ranged from climate change to trans-national organized crime. It became more and more apparent to me that global governance in the various sectors was lagging. It was also clear that attempts to improve global governance were fraught with difficulty – largely stemming from perceptions of national interest that were limited in their time perspective. Perspective was essentially determined by the electoral calendar.

Observing the G-7/8 up close was very valuable. It was clear that leaders had a broader view and were often frustrated by the tunnel vision of their ministers. They were interested in big global issues; one year, for example, there was a focus on the spread of infectious disease. It was also clear that inter-personal dynamics counted for a great deal. They became, more or less, friends; you talk differently to people you see on a regular basis and who call you by your first name.

Imagine my delight, therefore, when I went to see Paul Martin, then Canada’s Finance Minister, and he told me that managing our growing global interdependence was the most important challenge facing the world. Although his portfolio focused on international financial issues, his interest was much broader. When in due course Mr. Martin became Prime Minister, he brought with him a desire to apply the lessons he had learned as one of a group of twenty Finance Ministers to the head of government level. As for me, I left the public service in 1997 to build the Centre for Global Studies at the University of Victoria. Perhaps not surprisingly, given my background, it has focused on issues of global governance.

This book describes the journey of advancing former Prime Minister Martin’s initiative to create an L-20. Or at least it describes what a group of people led by John English and me tried to do both to test the validity of the idea and to broaden its support. Although many of us had governmental experience in our backgrounds, we were no longer part of government. We now lived in the environment of “think tanks”. Our new task was to cast the net wide for useful ideas and bring back what we found to decision-makers, in the hopes that they in turn would be inspired to act.

Particular credit has to go to my friend and colleague, inside and outside government, Barry Carin, who did more work than anyone on this project. He thought through the approach, organized the meetings and wrote the reports.

We must also give thanks to our various sponsors, most importantly the International Development Research Centre and the Canadian International Development Agency.

Paul Martin is no longer active in government. But his conviction that leaders can make things happen that no one else can replicate remains; I share that conviction. Our work now focuses on creating a smaller group of fourteen countries. It may be easier to agree on fourteen to start. The fourteen are the G-8 plus Brazil, India, China, South Africa and Mexico (the BRICSAM countries have been invited to the last couple of G-8 Summits to participate in a few hours of the meeting). That makes 13. We are also including Egypt as it is inconceivable, at least to me, that a new Summit membership could be struck without an Islamic country, preferably one from the Middle East.

I hope this book will be of interest to a variety of readers:

Image those interested in global challenges and the gap in global governance;

Image people interested in Summit reform;

Image those who want to know more about what happened to the L-20 idea; and

Image people who want some ideas on how those on the “outside” can influence the “inside”.

We would be delighted to hear what you think; contact us at, and we can continue the conversation which this book chronicles.

Note to University Teachers

The information in this book has been developed into an L-20 University Course Package. This Package can be found at two locations on the World Wide Web – the L-20 website itself ( and the IGLOO online database ( IGLOO is an online network that facilitates knowledge exchange between individuals and organizations studying, working or advising on global issues.

Executive Director
Centre for Global Studies
University of Victoria

Dr. Gordon Smith

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This book tells the story of a project which involved many talented people over several years. My role as their chronicler therefore requires me to acknowledge my debt to them as a group for their sustained, high quality work on what I consider to be a very important aspect of the evolution of global governance.

As with all such endeavours, however, I owe a specific thanks to a number of colleagues who helped me along the way. To begin at the top (at least in terms of rank), I would like to thank the Right Honourable Paul Martin for his involvement in the L-20 project as a whole and for his patience and care in reviewing an early draft of this book. We were extremely pleased that he agreed to contribute an insightful Afterword to this publication.

I am also very grateful to the sixteen distinguished project participants (listed in Appendix D of this volume) who responded in a most forthcoming way to post-workshop interviews in the summer of 2006. Their comments and suggestions were always constructive and helpful.

Closer to home, I must thank Gordon Smith and Barry Carin for giving me the opportunity to take on this task in the first place. They have been unstinting in their assistance and have provided invaluable first-hand information (usually over lunch) about an important process they originated and continue to nurture today. Also at the Centre for Global Studies, the continuing support and reporting skill of Clint Abbott is much appreciated.

Finally, I would like to thank Lynda Cronin for her encouragement and wise advice as the story unfolded. This book is dedicated to her, with love and admiration.

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Foreword by Dr. Gordon Smith




Introduction Confronting the Horsemen


1 Genesis of the L-20 Project


2 Underlying Assumptions


Gaps in the Institutional Architecture


What Do Leaders Do Anyway?


3 Taking Aim – Focusing the Project


Early Meetings


Project Launch


The First Round of Workshops


4 Adjusting the Trajectory


Gathering International Support


The Second Round


5 Engaging the United States – The Central Puzzle of Global Governance


6 Global Fairness and the Search for Legitimacy


Globalization and Fairness


Concepts of Legitimacy


The Role of Civil Society


New Approaches to Old Problems


7 Lessons Large and Small


Role of Leaders


L-20 Composition


Possible Agenda Items


Skepticism and Doubt


The New World of Networks


8 Making the L-20 a Reality


Option 1 – Managing a Crisis


Option 2 – Building a Package


9 L-20 Nuts and Bolts


Composition – One More Time


Linkages to Existing Institutions


Launch Options and Operating Procedures


Outside Consultation


Network of Think Tanks


10 Next Steps


L-20 in a Changing World


The Next Stage – Breaking Global Deadlocks


Final Thoughts


11 Back to the Horsemen


Afterword Globalization and Summit Reform: A Leader’s View by The Right Honourable Paul Martin


Appendix A Project Meetings


Appendix B L-20 Composition Options


Appendix C Project Funders and Meeting Hosts






Appendix D Post-Workshop Interviews


Interview Questions








Confronting the Horsemen

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.1

Revelations 6:8

In 1498, a young artist from Nuremburg, Albrecht Durer, completed a series of woodcuts on themes from the biblical Book of Revelations. One of the most famous of that series was his vivid rendering of the four riders described in the sixth chapter of that book. There were three other riders apart from Death – their names were Pestilence, War and Famine.

Mankind has been trying to come to terms with all four Horsemen for thousands of years. In some parts of the world, their presence has become a mere rumour, a dark shadow rarely encountered. In other parts, notably Africa and the Middle East, the Horsemen are spreading their dominion with casual, malicious ease.

This book is about one of many recent efforts to rein in the Horsemen, to bring order and light and fairness to places where chaos, disease and cruelty are gaining ground. This chronicle records the mobilization of practical experience and specialized knowledge from many countries. The people who participated in this project sought answers to some of the classical problems of governance. How do we prevent war? How do we feed the hungry? How do we house the homeless? How do we cure the sick? How do we decide together the way forward?

The project this book describes did not find all the answers, but it explored an approach with great potential for good. And it confronted a range of critical challenges which the impact of globalization has made even more important. Nowadays, these challenges do not affect life in just one village or one city or one country or even one continent. They affect us all.


1 The Bible, King James Version, The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Chapter 6, Verse 8.

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Chapter 1
Genesis of the L-20 Project

As the twentieth century waned, the world seemed smaller, the problems it faced more intractable, and the tools for meeting those challenges less effective. Paradoxically, at the same time, the prospects for humankind seemed brighter than ever. The pace of change was accelerating in field after field. The Berlin Wall crumbled, genetic engineering became a reality, the internet transformed business practices, and global warming moved from the science lab to the front page and on to government leaders for action. Old certainties vanished, “new eras” beckoned, and those with the luxury to contemplate the future course of events were whip-sawed between hope and despair. Whatever the promise of the new millennium, however, the old enemies – Pestilence, War, Famine and Death – still stalked the land.

The global economy was charging to the end of the century but, through the nineties, a steady drumroll of financial crises called into question the stability of the international system established fifty years earlier at Bretton Woods. The Mexican crisis of December 1994 led to the collapse of the peso and was followed by sharp declines in other emerging markets. Crises in Indonesia, Korea and Thailand in 1997–98 affected the entire region and badly damaged the Asian “tigers”. Financial instability attacked Russia in 1998, Brazil in 1998–2002, Turkey in 1999–2002 and Argentina in 2000–01. In the developed countries, and especially in Clinton’s America, the economy effervesced, but the “dot-com bubble” driving it had speculative overtones which ultimately led to the stock market collapse in the fall of 2001. At the same time, the Chinese and the Indians were multiplying their linkages to the world economy so effectively that in Asia the number of people living on less than $1 a day dropped by nearly a quarter of a billion from 1990 to 2001.1 Globalization stirred passions in the streets even as it generated jobs and spread wealth (however unevenly).

In the 1990s, the threat of war between the superpowers may have ended (since only one was left), but peace seemed as elusive as ever. In 1991 the United States successfully led an international coalition to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupation, but any hope that a broader approach to collective security would evolve was shattered in the streets of Mogadishu and the killing fields of Srebrenica. Although the Americans extricated themselves from Somalia and brokered the Dayton Peace Accord, the political will in the US to expend blood and treasure to keep the international peace evaporated. Perhaps most shamefully of all, a world bereft of leadership from the United States or anyone else stood by while the massacres in Rwanda mocked the notion that the second millennium was ending with a more “civilized” global community.

And then, as the century turned, two large aircraft flew into two large buildings in the centre of Manhattan, and thousands died. Terrorist acts on a large scale in an urban setting were not new. London had endured IRA bombings; both metropolitan France and Algeria had seen similar guerrilla activity in the fifties and sixties; organized violence in developing country capitals was not uncommon. But the American heartland had remained inviolate, even through two world wars. On September 11, 2001, the world watched in real-time horror as the tragedy unfolded in its self-proclaimed “media capital”. The (more or less) ordered Westphalian dispensation, with its borders, its national flags and its formal declarations of war seemed to evaporate.

The pale Horseman rode on.

During much of the nineties, Paul Martin was the Canadian Minister of Finance. His experience in this job solidified his conviction that managing ever increasing global interdependence was the biggest challenge facing the world community. During the early part of his time as Minister, Martin worked closely with the then Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gordon Smith. Smith acted as the Canadian “Sherpa”2 for a succession of G-7 Summits,3 overseeing Canada’s substantive preparations as the Prime Minister’s personal representative. As part of these preparations, Smith sought input from Martin regularly not only on specific Summit agenda items but on trends in international thinking as the G-7 meetings evolved.

One interesting development they discussed was the growing desire of Leaders to broaden the Summit agendas past purely financial and economic matters. Substantively, Leaders added such topics as climate change, health, infectious diseases, water, famine, transnational crime, terrorism and controlling weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to their deliberations. More importantly for the longer term, the focus kept returning to questions of governance – how to collaborate more effectively in setting a course for a world apparently dominated by the blind forces of globalization.4 As expressed in the words of the communiqué of the 1998 Birmingham Summit:

In a world of increasing globalisation we are ever more interdependent. Our challenge is to build on and sustain the process of globalisation and to ensure that its benefits are spread more widely to improve the quality of life of people everywhere. We must also ensure that our institutions and structures keep pace with the rapid technological and economic changes under way in the world.5

The financial crises of the late 1990s convinced the G-7 Finance Ministers that key emerging-market countries were not adequately included in the core of global economic discussion and governance. Paul Martin was a prime mover, in company with Lawrence Summers, the US Treasury Secretary, in the discussions which led to four initial meetings in 1998 and 1999 involving larger groups of countries (the G-22 and G-33), and eventually, in December 1999, to the institutionalization of a dialogue among a constant set of partners, the G-20.6 It is worth taking a moment to describe the G-20 and its ongoing work, because this grouping is the model, at Ministerial level, for the approach which Paul Martin and others have proposed to apply in the case of a similar group of world Leaders, the L-20. For Martin and his supporters, this was the way to make a smaller world more governable and fairer – to meet the Horsemen and to face them down.

The members of the G-20 are the finance ministers and central bank governors of 19 countries – Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. The European Union (EU) is also a member, represented by the rotating EU President and the European Central Bank.7

The intent of the grouping is clear in geographic and economic terms. To the original G-7 (G-8 with the addition of Russia in 1997) from the developed world have been added ten leading emerging-market countries plus Australia and the EU. The regional distribution is not precise (Europe is seriously over-represented and Africa the reverse), and the list is biased towards large countries (in terms of geographic extent, population and size of economy), arguably making it difficult to take full account of the specific concerns of the vast majority of the (often quite small) countries on the rolls of the United Nations. On the other hand, the G-20 does represent about 90 percent of global gross national product and 80 percent of world trade, as well as two-thirds of the world’s population. So, if one assumes that the world should have a management committee larger than the big three – the United States, the European Union and China – but smaller than the full membership of the United Nations (192 at last count, with more on the way as some countries break apart), then the G-20 is not a bad compromise.

As is often the way in international decision-making, the simple argument carried the day. Paul Martin recalled, in a November 18, 2001 interview, a conversation with the US Secretary of the Treasury, Lawrence Summers. Martin said – “You know, nobody’s going to follow a G-7 dictate. They’ve got to be at the table and be part of the solution. As a result of that conversation, the Americans agreed and the G-20 was formed.”8

Since its formation, the G-20 has addressed a range of issues, including agreement about policies for growth, reducing abuse of the financial system, dealing with financial crises, and combating terrorist financing. Most broadly, the G-20 has aimed to develop a common view among its members about the evolution of the global economic and financial apparatus. This has included work on possible reform to key institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and the generation of credible analysis on key issues such as demographic change, progress toward regional integration and understanding the development of international commodity and financial markets.

On its own terms, the G-20 has been generally successful in allowing its members to pursue a focused, consistent agenda. Paul Martin’s view of the lessons to be drawn from the G-20’s experience was expressed in an article appearing some years later (2005) in Foreign Affairs magazine.

First, some decisions – no matter how technical – can only be made at the political level. Second, despite the many differences that exist within the group, there are also surprisingly large areas of commonality; all the countries are wrestling with similar issues and have drawn similar lessons from past failures. Third, when national decision-makers discuss issues openly and frankly, it is remarkable how much can be accomplished (never underestimate the value of peer pressure in getting to yes). The G-20 has also allowed world leaders to move from a focus on crisis management to a focus on steady improvements in international economic stability and predictability.9

After his pivotal role in establishing a G-20 and seeing it meet its original objectives so successfully, Martin became convinced that a similar forum was required for political leaders. He called for creation of an L-20 (the Leaders-20), a results oriented body dedicated to those issues on which clear political leadership was needed to move the world forward. In 2003, he brought this idea to Gordon Smith and to another close associate, John English, the eminent Professor of History and Political Science at the University of Waterloo, for proving out. By this time, Martin had a very immediate reason for wanting to test the practicality of the L-20 idea – he was making a push to be Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, and he had every expectation of making the L-20 approach an initiative he would take forward as Prime Minister.

In 2003, Gordon Smith was head of the Centre for Global Studies (CFGS) at the University of Victoria10 and John English had just become head of the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) at the University of Waterloo.11 Smith’s extensive government experience as a federal Deputy Minister (especially of Foreign Affairs) combined with English’s distinctive academic and political background (he served as a Liberal Member of Parliament from 1993 to 1997) made them logical choices for undertaking this project. The two organizations they managed would serve as the secretariats and fund-raisers for the exercise.

The hunt for the Horsemen was on.


1 United Nations, The Millenium Development Goals Report, 2005. United Nations Department of Public Information, New York, 2005, DPI/23990, p. 6.

2 The term “Sherpa” refers to the senior government official who acts as the personal representative of a Government Leader during preparations for a Summit meeting. Often this official is the permanent head of the country’s Foreign Ministry. “Sous-sherpas” (usually one official each from the Foreign Ministry and the Finance Ministry) assist the Sherpa.

3 Annual meetings of the leaders of the seven leading industrial countries – United States, United Kingdom, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Canada – which began in their current form in 1976.

4 Personal interview with Gordon Smith, April 5, 2006.

5 The Birmingham Summit, 15–17 May 1998, Communique, paragraph 1. Retrieved April 3, 2006 from

6 Personal interview with Gordon Smith, April 5, 2006.

7 For the history and activities of the G-20 Finance Ministers group, see the website of the current G-20 chair, Australia. Retrieved April 6, 2006 from

8 Barry Carin, Gordon Smith, Making Change Happen at the Global Level, L-20 project paper, 2003, quoted in footnote 9. Background paper prepared for L-20 meeting, October 26–27, 2003, Waterloo, Ontario – retrieved April 7, 2006 from

9 Paul Martin, A Global Answer to Global Problems. Foreign Affairs, May/June 2005

10 For background on the Centre for Global Studies, see their website at

11 For background on the Centre for International Governance Innovation, see their website at

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Chapter 2
Underlying Assumptions

The issues which CFGS and CIGI undertook to examine at Paul Martin’s behest fall comfortably within the ambit of James Rosenau’s conception of global governance.1 In particular, they concern the quintessentially political dynamic which animates the newly uncertain border between domestic and foreign affairs.

“Newly uncertain” may of course be something of a misnomer, since it implies that the phenomenon known generally as globalization reflects an unprecedented situation. As many historians might point out, the “first globalization” began in the nineteenth century, with the colonial empires of Europe (and later the United States) at its centre and the industrial revolution of steel and steam as its engine. This historical caveat duly noted, however, it can probably be asserted that the current degree of mutual interpenetration of national economies, technologies, cultures and politics is unparalleled.

Within this context, the CFGS/CIGI project has been informed by a pair of underlying assumptions which should be unpacked a bit before describing the project’s early days.

Gaps in the Institutional Architecture

A recurring theme of project organizers and participants was the inability of existing international institutions to manage critical global challenges. Whether the organization was long established (such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the United Nations and its various specialized agencies) or of more recent vintage (such as the World Trade Organization, the G-8 and the regional trade groupings), none seemed able to meet the demand for a fairer form of globalization in which more countries and peoples shared in the benefits.

Among the weaknesses of international organizations noted by participants early in the process were: a lack of democracy; a tendency to spawn a proliferation of entities, agencies and initiatives; an inadequate integration of effort through a linking body such as the UN; and a failure to address the concerns and aspirations of the global South or to tackle seriously issues of poverty. To this list of sins could be added a rigidity of disciplinary focus coupled with an apparent inability to deal with cross-cutting issues, and a tendency to make decisions slowly and behind closed doors. This last characteristic is especially damaging since it erodes public support, at least in developed countries with traditions of transparency and accountability in government.

Not only did existing organizations have a questionable record in terms of efficiency and effectiveness, their mandates were ill-suited to current, rapidly changing conditions. Longstanding deadlocks in areas such as trade in agricultural products or the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction went unresolved, while new issues such as managing climate change or the spread of infectious disease stubbornly refused to be shoe-horned into existing organizational boxes.

In addressing this dilemma in their paper, Making change happen at the global level, drafted for the project’s first organizational meeting in October 2003 in Waterloo, Canada, conference organizers Gordon Smith and Barry Carin canvassed four potential routes to institutional transformation.2

Image First, organizations could undertake internally generated reform on a voluntary basis.

Image Second, sustained external pressure could result in organizations being reshaped, in effect against their will.

Image Third, existing organizations could be ignored and new, more representative, relevant and effective bodies established.

Image Fourth, an existing group already characterized by informality and lack of permanent structure could be adapted to meet current needs.

After reviewing the track record of both the G-8 Leaders and the G-20 Finance Ministers groups, Smith and Carin concluded that an adaptation along the lines of Martin’s L-20 proposal was the most practical alternative, i.e. the fourth option. This was the starting point for discussion throughout the project. The question arises whether this view that the existing international architecture was substantially broken reflects a generally accepted diagnosis or whether the project participants represent a self-selected group who brought a preconceived agenda to the table.

Certainly, the managers of the major international organizations themselves have recognized the need for change, albeit to varying degrees. The former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, repeatedly sought and promoted reforms to the UN system but, in the absence of a workable consensus among UN members, little action seems likely in the immediate future. The UN’s World Summit failed in September 2005 to agree to the fundamental step of changing the membership of the Security Council to make it more representative, and expressed concern about how badly the UN Secretariat operated. In response, in March 2006, the Secretary General issued a report admitting to many shortcomings:

…my assessment is – if I may put it bluntly in one sentence – that in many respects our present regulations and rules do not respond to current needs: and indeed that they make it very hard for the Organization to conduct its work efficiently or effectively.3

At the same time, Mr. Annan effectively took the UN members to task for refusing to resource the organization to meet the demands of the mandates which Member States have imposed on it. Furthermore, he accused some States of unduly interfering in UN operations and misunderstanding the respective roles of the membership and the management of the organization. Still, in the wake of the debacle of the “oil-for-food” program, the Secretary General was ill placed to be making calls for restoration of “trust and partnership”.

If the Secretary General needed further confirmation of the need for reform of the UN system, he received it at the end of 2006 in the report of the High-level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence in the areas of Development, Humanitarian Assistance and the Environment. The Panel, led by three Prime Ministers, found that the UN’s efforts were well-meaning but incoherent, and that the system needed to learn to “deliver as one”. As the Report’s Executive Summary bleakly expressed it:

…without ambitious and far-reaching reforms the United Nations will be unable to deliver on its promises and maintain its legitimate position at the heart of the multilateral system. Despite its unique legitimacy, including the universality of its membership, the UN’s status as a central actor in the multilateral system is undermined by lack of focus on results, thereby failing, more than anyone else, the poorest and most vulnerable.4

At the other end of the mea culpa scale lies the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF has recognized the need for changes to meet “the challenges of globalization”, but its Managing Director, Rodrigo de Rato, is much more inclined to incremental improvements than some of his sterner critics, who include Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England, and David Dodge, the Governor of the Bank of Canada. Dodge’s “ideal IMF” –

…would have a sharper focus and a more international aspect to its surveillance, with clear rules governing a greatly reduced lending role. It would also be more representative than the current IMF, and would have an overhauled governance structure.5

In his March 2006 speech, Dodge pointed to a more fundamental issue, which confirms the unease of L-20 project participants about the current state of international institutions. He noted the case which Raghuram Rajan, the Director of the IMF’s Research Department, has made that the “spirit of internationalism” is in full retreat. Rajan emphasizes that the Bretton Woods delegates were able to see how their own country’s interest was clearly wrapped up in a collective interest, and that this sense of shared venture is ebbing. He adds – “…even as the linkages among economies grow, the places where dialogue among nations can reasonably take place are diminishing”.6

At the time of Dodge’s speech, Managing Director de Rato was content to characterize the criticism from Canada and others as “exaggerated”.7 Subsequently, however, pressure continued to mount from inside and outside the Fund to deal more definitively with a fundamental governance issue – the allocation of decision-making within the institution as determined by the distribution of members’ quotas. Although the September 2006 IMF Governors’ meeting in Singapore approved a resolution authorizing small increases for four members’ quotas and a timetable for additional reform, this outcome was widely seen as timid. The question remains whether the IMF will move rapidly enough to retain credibility. In the words of a recent proposal for change:

A realignment of voting shares is central to preserving support of the Fund by all of its members and thereby to the Fund’s relevance and legitimacy in promoting global growth and economic and financial stability.8

Perhaps the person best situated to judge the extent to which the will to engage in constructive dialogue leading to substantive outcomes has weakened is the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Pascal Lamy. Lamy is presiding over the Doha Round of international trade negotiations. This latest Round began in 2001 and faces a practical deadline of mid-2007, because the American President’s “fast track” authority (i.e. the ability to submit a trade agreement to Congress for a straight up or down vote without amendment) expires then. The Doha Round has limped along, missing self-imposed deadline after self-imposed deadline. In the end, the only option, short of complete failure of the Round, may be for Congress to authorize an extension of the President’s negotiating authority. This will be a non-trivial exercise, given the combination of a lame-duck President and a Democratic majority in Congress with concerns about the impact of existing trade agreements on US workers.

Lamy is clear about the three areas where movement is critical so the rest of the items under negotiation can be constructively addressed: the European Union must reduce the level of agricultural tariffs; the United States must reduce agricultural subsidies; and the group of key developing countries (also somewhat confusingly known as the G-20) must reduce industrial tariffs. Lamy is also clear in his view of who will suffer if the trade round fails – developing countries, and ultimately the WTO itself.9

The impact of a failed Doha Round on poorer countries was a major concern for Paul Wolfowitz, the former Bush aide subsequently appointed President of the World Bank. In his view, the existing trading system was itself one of the biggest obstacles to fighting poverty and improving living standards in developing countries.10 Wolfowitz had a major task of his own, to rebuild the credibility of the World Bank itself. After an initial focus on rooting out corruption, he responded positively to a review committee’s recommendation that IMF/World Bank cooperation be improved, and he added the Bank to the lengthening list of organizations pledged to support a transition to a low-carbon economy.11 The re-imagining of the World Bank’s mandate remains a work in progress, however (and this effort will not be led by Mr. Wolfowitz, who resigned at the end of June, 2007).

It could be argued that any large multilateral organization is, or should be, in a more or less constant state of adjustment as rapidly shifting international conditions warrant. There seems little doubt, however, that mid-way through 2007, both the leadership of the key international institutions and informed outside observers agree that developments associated with globalization have outstripped the ability of those organizations to adapt effectively and remake their mandates so as to meet these new challenges.

What Do Leaders Do Anyway?

A second major underlying assumption associated with the project concerns the role of the government leaders themselves. The assumption is that in the sphere of international relations national leaders can accomplish what nobody else can. Moreover, this line of argument suggests that leaders not only have the capacity to act, but the will to do so.

The early Smith/Carin paper took some time to demonstrate that leaders were both important and effective. They reviewed the record of the G-7/8 and found it good. They pointed to the constructive part leaders played in some unlikely international enterprises such as the establishment of a common European currency and the ASEAN group of nations. They stressed the ways in which leaders were able to address complex issues and make common cause to break deadlocks. Noting the blurring of lines between international and domestic policies, they emphasized leaders’ capacity to mobilize political muscle and commit political capital to complicated packages freighted with domestic dangers. Only leaders could crush sectoral “siloes” and drive solutions reflecting national interests as a whole. Only leaders could make the necessary “grand political bargains”.12

The pivotal role of leaders was established at the beginning of the project and never really challenged – which is not to say that there were not some reservations voiced. Project participants pointed to the problems of continuity caused by turnover. Electorates might intervene awkwardly to remove leaders from the table at odd times. It was suggested that leaders might often choose to allow domestic pressures to trump international progress and, indeed, that on occasion leaders had been known to use international negotiations as an opportunity to prove their steadfastness in the face of the dreaded foreigner. Certainly, few leaders would have much incentive in engaging in an international activity which might give their domestic opponents a chance to charge them with incompetence in the event of failure. In addition, there was no guarantee that leaders, especially in a group larger and less homogeneous than the original G-7, would have sufficient in common to be able to reach mutual understanding. Finally, the spectre of summit fatigue was evoked, especially if the business of a summit was more ceremonial than substantive.13

Perhaps the most interesting points raised early in the project (and repeated throughout) concerned the presumed personal characteristics of national leaders. On the one hand, there was the view that leaders were ordinary, well-intentioned folks who, if left alone by bureaucrats and interest groups, could have rational conversations and reach amicable agreements.14 Paul Martin voiced this in a November 2001 interview in which he stressed the usefulness of informality and personal contact – the opportunity “to argue back and forth across the table”.15 In an August 2006 interview, he elaborated by noting that within a small group of leaders, peer pressure to achieve a positive result could only work if the participants knew each other very well.16

On the other hand, some participants maintained virtually the opposite – that leaders are different, and certainly not just like ordinary people. One element of this “differentness” was an apparent willingness to embrace risks (at least on those occasions when leaders wanted to do the right thing). Martin captured this aspect at a February 2004 meeting with project participants when he emphasized the importance of leadership qualities and, in particular, the willingness of leaders to take risks and make leaps of faith. Participants suggested leaders were “different” because they were more conscious of their places in history and because they were more likely than mere Ministers to live up to their promises (admittedly under peer pressure from fellow leaders).17 Closely related, but less reliant on personal qualities than on the structural realities of government, were the views that leaders were both better placed and more inclined to follow through on commitments in the longer term, and better equipped intellectually to address complex “cross-cutting” problems.

How to reconcile the picture of the leader as the “ordinary Joe (or Josephine)” as opposed to the leader as the supremely talented embodiment of international virtue? The answer may lie in the nature of many of the project’s participants, a significant number of whom have had direct experience in government. Whether as a politician (in the case of Martin and others) or as a senior official responsible for preparing for and following up from summits, these individuals had seen leaders succeed in circumstances where others had failed – not on every occasion to be sure, but sufficiently frequently to make the personal interventions of leaders a rational choice for meeting critical global challenges or resolving serious international disputes.

The “great man” theory may no longer be fashionable in academic circles as an explanation for change, but clearly for practitioners, the everyday workings of intergovernmental relations require a central role for the leader of governments in order to function productively. As a building block in the re-furbishing of the international architecture, mobilization of the collective political will of government leaders is a necessary, if not sufficient, condition precedent.


1 See Rosenau’s Introduction in James N. Rosenau, Ernst-Otto Czempiel (eds) Governance without Government: Order and Change in World Politics. Cambridge University Press, NY, 1992, pp. 1–29, and his definition in James N. Rosenau, Governance in the Twenty-first Century. Global Governance 1:1, 1995, pp. 13–14 – “global governance refers to more than the formal institutions and organizations through which the management of international affairs is or is not sustained …. It is conceived to include systems of rule at all levels of human activity – from the family to the international organization – in which the pursuit of goals through the exercise of control has transnational repercussions.”

2 Barry Carin, Gordon Smith, Making Change Happen at the Global Level. L-20 project paper, 2003,, pp. 4–6.

3 Kofi Annan, Statement of the Secretary-General to the General Assembly, March 7, 2006, p. 1. Retrieved May 2, 2006 from

4 Delivering as One, Report of the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on UN Systemwide Coherence in the Areas of Development, Humanitarian Assistance, and the Environment, p. 1. Retrieved February 28, 2007 from

5 Lecture by David Dodge, Governor of the Bank of Canada, to the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton, NJ, March 30, 2006, p. 7. Retrieved May 3, 2006 from

6 Raghuram Rajam, The Ebbing Spirit of Internationalism and the International Monetary Fund: the 2006 Krasnoff Lecture, March 8, 2006, p. 4. Retrieved May 3, 2006 from

7 As reported in the Globe and Mail, Canada emerges as IMF reformer, April 20, 2006. Retrieved May 3, 2006 from See also de Rato’s speech to the Institute for International Economics, April 20, 2006, in which he lists proposals for reforming the IMF. Retrieved May 3, 2006 from

8 RN Cooper, EM Truman, The IMF Quota Formula: Linchpin of Fund Reform. Policy Briefs in International Economics, February, 2007, Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics, p. 1. This article provides a useful summary of the background to the IMF quota issues, as well as some practical recommendations. Retrieved February 28, 2007 from

9 Pascal Lamy, “The WTO and the Doha Round: The Way Forward”, April 6, 2006, p. 9. Retrieved May 5, 2006 from As of spring 2007, prospects for a successful Doha Round were negligible.

10 See Wolfowitz’s remarks to the press on April 20, 2006. Retrieved May 5, 2006 from

11 See the joint IMF/World Bank press release dated February 27, 2007, welcoming the External Review Committee’s report (retrieved March 1, 2007 from and Mr. Wolfowitz’s February 14, 2007 speech to the Washington Legislators Forum on Climate Change (retrieved March 1, 2007 from

12 Carin and Smith, op cit., pp. 12–16, 19–20.

13 Waterloo, p. 3; Bellagio, p. 2; Ottawa I, p. 21. The records of the various meetings and workshops in the L-20 project will be referred to or quoted from throughout this text. For ease of reference, these reports have been listed in Appendix A, each with a short-form identifier based on the location of the meeting. Citations refer to these identifiers, e.g. “Bellagio, p. 3”. The full text of all meeting reports can be found at

14 Of course, more often than not, those officials will have taken an issue as far as they could, before passing it on for resolution to the politicians.

15 Carin and Smith, op cit., footnote 9.

16 Paul Martin personal interview, August 30, 2006.

17 Ottawa I, pp. 16, 22, 24.

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Chapter 3
Taking Aim – Focusing the Project

Early Meetings

The journey to project definition began with an October 26–27, 2003, meeting at the University of Waterloo. The purpose of that meeting was to have an initial discussion with a group of authors who had been commissioned to put flesh on the bones of the ideas put forward by Paul Martin (who began the session with some informal remarks). The meeting was attended by a diverse group of 45 academics, policy professionals, and sitting officials from national and international organizations.1

As a goad to debate, participants had before them the Smith/Carin paper already mentioned. Apart from making the case for the uniquely valuable role of government leaders, the paper quickly reviewed some of the more obvious global challenges (trade negotiations, climate change) which needed addressing and which the current institutional architecture seemed incapable of moving forward. The paper then opened discussion on organizational aspects of the L-20 idea, including questions such as which states should be represented and how the new group might operate. The last topic was “how to get there from here?” – in other words, even if the proposal for a new L-20 gained general acceptance, what steps would be required to implement it?2

The Waterloo meeting proved to be a useful first step in defining the problem and sketching out its different dimensions. It quickly became evident that there was general support (if not unanimous enthusiasm) for the notion of establishing a leaders-level grouping based roughly on the dimensions of the existing G-20 Finance Ministers. The concern at the performance of existing institutions (the United Nations system, the Bretton Woods bodies, the G-7/8) was pervasive. The sense was that these organizations were ineffective, ill-designed for dealing with contemporary issues and, perhaps most importantly, illegitimate. The accelerated, freer movement of capital, goods and services across national boundaries known as globalization would be untenable if the institutions purporting to make global-scale decisions remained a rich-nations “club”. Leaving aside ethical considerations, the rapid emergence of countries such as China, India and Brazil made maintaining the status quo impractical.

After an inconclusive discussion of the possible impact of a new L-20 on the old G-7/8 or G-20 Finance Ministers, there was an equally wide-ranging but open-ended debate around the composition and mandate of an L-20. Clearly, the emerging critical question was the focus of this new group’s work. Who was at the table, how they got there and how frequently they returned, all largely depended on which topic was tackled first.

Six weeks later, a similar somewhat smaller meeting occurred in the salubrious surroundings of Bellagio, in Italy. With a new cast of characters, this meeting took up the threads of the discussion begun in Waterloo. Many of the same points were canvassed, with particular emphasis on the need for transparency and accountability if the new body was to acquire credibility. The paradox inherent in seeking to enfranchise the global South while not co-opting its separable interests prompted debate. Participants surveyed the possible impacts of an L-20 on existing arrangements and bodies (such as an already debilitated UN system). This led in turn back to pragmatic concerns over how to launch the initiative, what criteria to use to select L-20 members and what their initial agenda should be.

The Bellagio meeting ended with agreement on materials to be prepared for a “go/no go” meeting scheduled for the end of February 2004. In addition to the series of background papers already commissioned, it was agreed that six short scenario papers would be drafted to focus the February discussion on the specifics of issue areas where a potential L-20 could break deadlocks or improve global governance.3 The stage was set for a session which would determine whether this project deserved to survive.

Project Launch

The sun was bright, the air was crisp and cold, and the skaters were gliding along the Rideau Canal on February 29, 2004, when 44 assorted experts and practitioners from around the world met at the brown bunker which houses the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa. The task at hand was to establish whether the L-20 proposal merited more detailed study – and incidentally to report to the proposal’s conceptual godfather, Paul Martin, who was now housed in the Prime Minister’s residence, a few blocks farther down Sussex Drive.

The session began with a discussion of six subject areas which a group of 20 leaders might potentially discuss,4 and went on to explore ways in which an L-20 might be brought into existence. [The full text of all background papers prepared for the L-20 project can be found on the project website at] At the end of the day, the participants dined with the Prime Minister.

The first scenario paper, Agriculture Subsidies and the Doha Round: A Role for the G20, was prepared by Diana Tussey, Director of the Latin American Trade Network, FLACSO (Facultad Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales), Argentina. She suggested that the North/South membership of an L-20 might make it an ideal instrument for breaking the Doha trade negotiations round deadlock centred on agricultural protectionism. She also saw the group as a useful forum for linking debt and trade subsidies issues. This view was countered by those who felt that, at this stage, the agricultural trade issues were too highly charged in terms of domestic politics (and probably too technical) for leaders to be able to make much progress.

The second scenario paper, The Orderly Resolution of Financial Crises, by Ngaire Woods, Director of the Global Economic Governance Program and Fellow in Politics and International Relations at University College, Oxford, examined the ways in which an L-20 meeting would add value to global policy affecting the resolution of debt crises and whether this should occur at the ministerial or the leaders level. The paper leaned towards involving leaders directly. In responding to the scenario Woods canvassed, participants agreed that inclusion of Southern countries would shift the centre of gravity of discussion away from the single-minded concerns of the sovereign debt creditor nations. Progress by Finance Ministers was sufficiently slow that leaders needed to become engaged.

The third scenario paper was prepared by David Victor, Director, Program on Energy and Sustainable Development, at Stanford University. It was entitled Roles for a G20 in Addressing the Threats of Climate Change? Victor argued that an L-20 could deal with one of the critical deficiencies in the climate treaty system – that it is too inclusive (it involves too many countries) and has spawned unmanageable complexity. He suggested that a smaller group of nations could move the whole process along by focusing debate and innovation, by becoming a crucible for new ideas which could eventually be applied more broadly. Participants expressed concerns about the impact of this approach on existing processes, and about whether the US could be brought to take part in the wake of their rejection of the Kyoto framework. There was debate over whether climate change issues were either too technical or too political to be dealt with by leaders at this juncture, and some questioned the ability of the Northern and Southern leaders at an L-20 to reconcile their very different interests and experiences on this subject.

The fourth paper was by Tim Evans, the Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization, and covered The G20 and Global Public Health. He suggested three ways in which an L-20 could contribute in the health field: redressing errors of omission (including failures of leadership); promoting scale efficiencies in cooperation (especially with regard to medications and vaccines); and catalyzing complementary action beyond the health sector. Despite some doubts about an L-20’s ability to make decisions which would affect many countries not at the table, the majority of participants felt that global health issues would benefit from the group’s attention.

The fifth area to be addressed with a scenario paper was security. Paul James’ piece (James is Professor of Globalization at RMIT University, Australia), The G20 as a Summit Process: Including New Agenda items such as “Human Security”, argued in favour of broadening the definition of security to include such “human security” issues as health, development and debt as well as military clashes. He also suggested including in L-20 deliberations in a regular fashion non-state actors, transnational bodies and international institutions. Some participants doubted whether leaders could productively engage on issues of good international citizenship and questioned whether much had been learned since the genocide in Rwanda. Others worried about the potential impact on the authority of the United Nations, and about the practical ability of the group to react constructively to emergencies.

The final topic was global financial problems. The scenario paper, Would the Outcomes of a G20 Process Differ from those of the G7?, was written by Ariel Buira, the Secretary-General of the Intergovernmental Group of 24 on International Monetary Affairs and Development (known as the G-24), a group of developing countries who work together on monetary and development finance issues. Buira concluded that the addition of major developing countries to the G-7 would broaden the leaders’ agenda and lead to improvements in the workings of the international economy. Among the topics which the L-20 could address were global payments imbalances, counter-cyclical policies, managing financial market volatility, international liquidity and Special Drawing Rights allocations, and commodity shocks. There was disagreement among participants over the likelihood of overcoming the strong Northern bias of existing international financial institutions, but some saw hope that an expanded leaders’ group would bring more accountability and greater representativeness to deliberations over the key issues Buira enumerated.

Coming out of the review of the six scenario papers and of an additional series of background papers on the interests and concerns of specific countries, three potential agenda items seemed likely to reward L-20 consideration:

Image health,

Image climate change, and

Image safe drinking water and sanitation.

Interestingly, the last topic emerged spontaneously from the general debate and was not the subject of a paper.

The meeting moved on to considering how to bring the L-20 idea to actual fruition.5 Matters such as group composition, relationships with existing bodies (for example, if an L-20 is established, what happens to the G-7/8?), and ways of managing the process leading to the first L-20 meeting were canvassed, with few definitive conclusions reached. Underlying the “celestial mechanics” required to move the concept forward, however, was the primordial issue of legitimacy.

The consensus was clear that the existing G-7/8 simply was not sufficiently representative to ensure that developing countries and the broader public would regard their decisions as reflecting global interests as a whole. Similar concerns of Northern domination attached to the Bretton Woods institutions, especially the International Monetary Fund. At the other end of the scale of inclusiveness, the United Nations and its subsidiary bodies were simply too large and diverse to allow for credible analysis and meaningful action. The hope, in the words of Paul Heinbecker, former Canadian Ambassador to the UN, was that for the new L-20, “…its legitimacy in the eyes of both its members and others not formally part of the group would derive from its effectiveness in bringing about change”.6

In light of the concerns over legitimacy, it was perhaps not surprising that one of the most pointed debates revolved around the question of civil society participation. Put plainly, a sizeable contingent believed that global issues were fundamentally the responsibility of national governments, that those governments had the task of ensuring that they credibly represented the full range of opinion within their countries, and that the addition of special interest groups to an L-20 process would inevitably lead to a bureaucratic nightmare. Countering this deep skepticism about the civil society role were those who believed that the “democratic deficit” in international governance mechanisms was so great that it needed to be redressed promptly. A related area of interest was the suggestion that national parliamentarians might have a role to play and that a network of think-tanks from L-20 countries might be established to support the new group’s work.7

The February 2004 meeting served its purpose. The L-20 proposal survived a searching preliminary examination, and the determination was made that a series of regional meetings should follow. These workshops would focus on a succession of problems which shared the characteristics of being globally important, requiring more or less immediate action, and being currently deadlocked in their existing institutional settings. In order to identify which topics would be practically and politically attractive for inclusion on an initial L-20 agenda, the subjects for the regional workshops would have to meet a number of criteria. They would need to be capable of generating a value-added initiative which other bodies would not likely be able to produce. This initiative would include a workable solution composed of a forward-looking suite of actions and undertakings offering a win-win-win outcome for L-20 countries and others. These tangible results would be characterized by substantive, broad-based benefits, realistic and acceptable financial mechanisms and organizational feasibility. Legitimacy would be conferred through adequate representation, particularly by the presence and buy-in from the United States and the major developing countries.

The First Round of Workshops

Following on from the discussion in February, CFGS and CIGI organized an initial set of workshops over the next six months (see Table 3.1). The workshop subjects corresponded fairly closely to the six topics for which scenario papers were originally prepared. The only alteration was that the financial issues were addressed in one workshop and, on the basis of the exchanges at the February meeting, a new topic, “Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation”, was given a workshop of its own.

Table 3.1 L-20 meetings – phase 1




June, 2004

Oxford, UK

Agricultural Subsidies & the WTO

September, 2004

New York, USA

Post-Kyoto Architecture: Climate Policy [later reframed as Energy Security]

November, 2004

San Jose, Costa Rica

Infectious Diseases & Global Health [later reframed as Pandemics]

December, 2004

Alexandria, Egypt

Safe Drinking Water & Sanitation

December, 2004

Princeton, USA

Nexus of Terrorism & WMD – Developing a Consensus

January, 2005

Mexico City, Mexico

Financial Crises [reframed as Global Economic Security and Prosperity]

The pattern for these workshops (and for the ten which eventually followed) was standard. Prior to each meeting, background research was conducted to clarify the “problem”, to better understand the effects at international level, and to identify the various and potentially divergent national interests that have made the issue intractable. A group of experts (academics, policy professionals, and officials from national governments and international organizations) was then formed, with consideration to geographical and gender representation. The meetings were deliberately kept to a manageable size (20–35 participants) to encourage easy exchanges and constructive debate. The “Chatham House rule” (no attribution of remarks outside the meeting) was adopted to ensure frankness.

For each meeting, a background paper was commissioned from a leading expert briefly summarizing the issue status, diagnosing the obstacles to and opportunities for progress, and highlighting core challenges and priorities from the perspectives of both developing and industrialized nations. This analysis set the framework for several other authors to write briefing notes in the form of “conjectural communiqués” on specific aspects of the issue and to point the way to a package of initiatives which L-20 leaders might adopt. All these papers included a political assessment of the necessary scope of a package deal. At the end of the day or day and a half meeting, conclusions were agreed to, and in the following days a meeting summary was prepared. All these summaries appear on the project website at

These detailed examinations generated a range of outcomes in terms of the possibility of a potential focus for L-20 activity. Some issues were adjudged to be inappropriate for L-20 consideration, some seemed more likely and others needed “re-framing” to work.

The Oxford meeting in June 2004 on agricultural subsidies concluded that an L-20 could act to push for a liberalization of agricultural trade, enhance the capacity of the poorest countries to benefit from trade, and monitor how trade is affecting the poorest people and countries. It was determined, however, that this topic was not suitable for an inaugural L-20 meeting. An agenda item on this subject was deemed premature because the failure of the Doha Round had not yet been acknowledged and the issues remain bedeviled by a morass of technical information.8

By comparison, participants in New York in September 2004 were enthusiastic about the possibilities of an L-20 meeting on climate change. In the interests of “marketing” considerations, however, it was decided that reframing “Climate Change” to “Energy Security” would lend itself more favorably to global buy-in and cooperation.

Energy security was deemed an actionable and effective L-20 topic for three reasons.

Image First, energy security cuts across the normal responsibilities of line ministries and requires package deals to emerge above the level of individual ministers – deals only heads of state can forge.

Image Second, existing international institutions do not lend themselves well to tackling issues of energy security.

Image Third, energy security offers significant high-profile possibilities for progress which would allow the L-20 to demonstrate its significance and effectiveness.

For example, many cross-cutting issues can be addressed under the larger rubric of energy security of supply. “Hard security” issues, such as territorial protection and supply of vital fuels, can be linked to “soft security” issues, such as protection of the environment generally, and specifically the limitation of the emissions that lead to global climate change. In fact, the demonstrable need to reduce emissions can be uncoupled from the larger (and divisive) climate change debate because countries have an obvious immediate self-interest to act (for example, related to health). An L-20 could also articulate long-term goals and strategies, set targets to control rises in temperatures, emissions and concentrations of green house gasses, and focus on practical and flexible actions to be implemented by countries working unilaterally but also in coordination with others.9

Similarly, the management of infectious diseases was determined by the San Jose, Costa Rica, meeting in November 2004 to be a suitable and urgent L-20 topic, with a rich and robust likelihood of success.10 Participants agreed that, since health is at the top of national and international agendas, leadership from the top is required to tackle broad and diverse issues, drive inputs from across hitherto uncoordinated sectors, and forge alliances to realize scale efficiencies. Coordination and cooperation across nations is necessary to tackle a problem which transcends borders and continents.

The key finding was that there was a lack of communication and coordination channels and mechanisms between the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This deficiency is especially of concern with respect to dealing with avian influenza. New mechanisms needed to be built between public health authorities and veterinary/animal health authorities at all levels. An L-20 decision would be the most effective way to prompt action to fill this gap. Plans for a follow-up conference were initiated, an event which led in turn to the meeting of international Health Ministers in the fall of 2005, hosted by Canada.

The next workshop, in Alexandria, Egypt, in December 2004, concerned safe drinking water and sanitation, the subject which had emerged unbidden earlier in the year. This meeting produced ideas of how an L-20 could catalyze action, mobilize global public opinion, facilitate the upgrade of capacity and technology, provide affordable financing, and lead, coordinate and monitor progress. There was strong agreement that on its merits this topic justified a leaders’ summit. Specific elements for a win-win-win L-20 package were delineated but, mainly because of issues of timing and related political factors, it was determined that water is not an immediate prospect for an L-20 meeting. The main structural concern was that, while the problems and many of the solutions are universal, the responsibilities are highly decentralized and largely localized. Leaders would have a hard time gaining purchase on water and sanitation issues in a group setting.11

At Princeton later in December, issues related to terrorism and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were addressed in more detail. This constellation of problems is a threat recognized by all nations, and one of the biggest issues facing the United States. Participants noted that, although countries might disagree with respect to the magnitude of the danger and how best to deal with it, all countries agreed that addressing WMD proliferation was unavoidable. Participants suggested that an L-20 might develop a series of practical recommendations to unite developed and developing countries and sectors within them. A workshop was scheduled in the project’s next phase to refine an approach along these lines.12

The original title for the next workshop, held in Mexico City in January 2005, was “financial crises”. Participants ultimately concluded that a better title for this potential L-20 agenda item was “global economic security and prosperity”. The notion was that the L-20 could help focus on social issues and broader policy directives, and give ideas on how better to manage global economic systems. Although this subject might perhaps not be best suited for a first L-20 meeting, an L-20 group might eventually take up the task of giving guidance and direction on a set of issues related to global economic security and stability. Many technical aspects would properly be left to other actors (i.e. ministers and senior officials), but political pronouncement on roles and goals may be necessary to give the required impetus. On balance, the likely reflex of Finance Ministers to defend their own policy “turf” made the issue an unlikely item for a first meeting of L-20 leaders.13


1 Waterloo, pp. 1–2.

2 Barry Carin, Gordon Smith, Making Change Happen at the Global Level. L-20 project paper, 2003,, p. 28.

3 Bellagio, pp. 6–7.

4 Ottawa I, pp. 5–9, for the discussion of the six scenario papers.

5 Ottawa I, pp. 26–33.

6 Ottawa I, p. 26.

7 Ottawa I, pp. 30–32.

8 Oxford, p. 10.

9 New York, p. 5.

10 San Jose, p. 8.

11 Alexandria, p. 8.

12 Princeton I, pp. 1–2.

13 Mexico City, p. 5.

Chapter 4
Adjusting the Trajectory

Gathering International Support

By early 2005, the L-20 idea was gaining momentum. The initial series of six subject-focused workshops had narrowed the field of likely topics for consideration at a first L-20 summit. Although no conclusions had been reached about possible L-20 composition and procedures, the ground had been cleared for a more detailed discussion.

The world outside the L-20 project was not standing still, however. Others recognized the need for international institutional reform. Late in 2003, Klaus Schwab, the President of the World Economic Forum (the organizers of the annual Davos meetings of international movers and shakers) had called for a new global group composed of ten developed nations, ten developing nations and the Secretary General of the UN to address twenty-first century challenges. This “P21” (Partnership 21) idea resembled, in simplified form, the L-20 approach.1 In June 2004, Jim O’Neill and Robert Hormats (the latter a Sherpa or Sous-Sherpa for the first eight G-7 summits) published an analysis in the Goldman Sachs series of Global Economics Papers in which they specifically endorsed Prime Minister Martin’s suggestions for a G-20 at leaders level.2

Then on January 27, 2005, the Helsinki Process on Globalization and Democracy published a report called “Governing Globalization – Globalizing Governance”. This unusual Process was created jointly by the Finnish and Tanzanian Governments in December 2002 to promote the involvement of Southern and civil society perspectives on global policies “…in search of novel and empowering solutions to the dilemmas of global governance”. Clearly, the Helsinki Process was based on a rather different worldview than that of the worthies at Davos and Goldman Sachs.

Nonetheless, the outcome had familiar elements. The January 2005 report reflected one track of the Process and featured a proposal for a “representative summit for economic stewardship”. Specifically, the report recommended:

…the replacement of the G-7/8 with a broader grouping, a G-20 (or thereabouts) annual summit of the heads of leading governments from the North and the South. This informal leader-level group should assume a sense of responsibility for the functioning of the world economy and its principal institutions.3

The report went on to suggest that the group be supported by a troika of past, present and future chairs, a systematic “sherpa” process for preparing meetings, and an extensive prior dialogue to develop membership criteria. Apparently, wherever one stood on the ideological spectrum, the mechanics of international leadership were badly in need of renovation.

In the meantime, in December 2004, from the centre of the multilateral world, the Report of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change weighed in.

There still remains a need for a body that brings together the key developed and developing countries to address the critical interlinkages between trade, finance, the environment, the handling of pandemic diseases and economic and social development. To be effective, such a body must operate at the level of national leaders…. One way of moving forward may be to transform into a leaders’ group the G-20 group of finance ministers…4

Mindful of all this context, L-20 project organizers scheduled a stocktaking meeting for February 19 and 20, 2005. The program included an informal “report back” to Prime Minister Martin, part of which consisted of an innovative package of briefing videos in which six potential L-20 agenda items were described and assessed.5 The stocktaking session itself reviewed the results of the six project workshops and concluded that a second round – in some cases delving deeper into topics already canvassed; in other cases examining new potential agenda items – was warranted.

In the wake of the meeting, Paul Martin published an article in the May/June edition of Foreign Affairs entitled “A Global Answer to Global Problems”. The article laid out the case for an L-20, particularly stressing the personal role of government leaders –

An L-20 should get political leaders doing what they alone can do – making tough choices among competing interests and priorities.6

Drawing on the discussions at the workshops, the article cited development issues, the threat of terrorism, and international public health concerns as potential subjects for L-20 action. The Prime Minister undertook to continue talking about the approach in his ongoing meetings with counterpart heads of state and government.

The Second Round

As part of the gradual winnowing down of potential L-20 topics which characterized the project, the February 2005 stocktaking meeting took agricultural trade and financial crises off the table, concluded that no further work was required on water and sanitation issues, but left open the possibility of additional discussion of climate change (re-framed as energy security), infectious diseases (refocused on pandemics) and WMDs.

Table 4.1 L-20 meetings – phase 2




May, 2005

Brussels, Belgium

New Multilateralism

May, 2005

Geneva, Switzerland


May, 2005

Berlin, Germany

Fragile States

May, 2005

Tokyo, Japan

UN Reform

October, 2005

Stanford, USA

Energy Security

October, 2005

Victoria, Canada

International Fisheries Governance

November, 2005

Petra, Jordan

Improving Official Development Assistance

January, 2006

Livermore, USA

New Perspectives on Regimes to Control WMD

February, 2006

Princeton, USA

Financing Global Public Goods

March 2006

Maastricht, The Netherlands

Furthering Science and Technology for Development

May, 2006

Washington, DC, USA

International Institutional Reform

The next set of workshops began with a flurry of four in May, 2005 (see Table 4.1 for a list of the second phase workshops). Two of these concerned reform of the United Nations system. This subject was particularly current because the UN was deep into self-examination (not to say self-doubt) as the “oil-for-food” scandal unwound messily and preparations moved ahead for a major summit in September 2005 to review progress five years after the establishment of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs). In keeping with the organization’s primordial vocation of producing paper, a number of major UN reports appeared late in 2004 and early the next year.

In December 2004, the Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change issued a report entitled A more secure world: our shared responsibility. This report set out a vision for collective security in the new conditions of the twenty-first century and included a proposed working definition of terrorism.7 Then in January 2005, the UN Millenium Project Report appeared – Investing in development, a practical plan to achieve the Millenium Development Goals. In this report, a team led by Jeffrey Sachs catalogued a series of specific steps to reach the MDGs by the designated target date of 2015.8

Building on this work, and with an eye to the coming UN World Summit in September, Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued in March 2005 In Larger Freedom: Towards development, security and human rights for all.9 This document attempted to synthesize the key security, human rights and development issues addressed in earlier reports and recommended institutional reforms which would reinvigorate the UN system. The Secretary-General set out a four-part, detailed plan which he hoped the Summit would accept as a package. In his statement delivering the report to the General Assembly, he ended with a plea for action which betrayed as much frustration as it did hope.

This hall has heard enough high-sounding declarations to last us for some decades to come. We all know what the problems are, and we all know what we have promised to achieve. What is needed now is not more declarations or promises, but action to fulfil the promises already made.10

The first two L-20 events in May, in Brussels and Tokyo, took as their background paper a conference report from a meeting of current practitioners, leading academics, civil society representatives and United Nations officials which CIGI had organized at Waterloo at the beginning of April.11 The Waterloo meeting focused on the Secretary-General’s report, and canvassed ways of bringing his recommendations to reality. The L-20 workshops continued the debate with two more mixed groups of academics and practitioners. Although many participants raised the possibility of an L-20 acting as a catalyst to UN reform, realistically, the likelihood was never high that the group would even exist prior to the key UN summit in September. In the event, the Brussels meeting issued a joint statement endorsed by CFGS, CIGI, the European Policy Centre and the International Crisis Group, calling for a package of eight of the Secretary-General’s recommendations to be adopted by the UN summit.12

Just to finish the story, the World Summit duly occurred on September 14–16, 2005, after a prolonged wrangle over the wording of the commitments to be adopted. US concerns were so great that they offered alternative wording in late August which essentially gutted the document. Eventually, a statement was agreed to which either “offered nothing new” or “gave new momentum to the MDGs”, depending on one’s view. The overall assessment seemed to be that the Summit produced few tangible results compared to the original intent, but at least generated continued support for the MDGs themselves. One major achievement from a Canadian perspective was the acceptance of the “responsibility to protect”, a concept which Canada has played a key role in developing and promoting. So the UN survived to fight another day, but disappointment was in the air, and the mechanics of global decision-making seemed as ineffectual as ever.

Following up from discussion at the stocktaking meeting, two more workshops were held in May 2005 – one on pandemics (Geneva) and the other on fragile states (Berlin).

The pandemics workshop built on the earlier infectious diseases workshop in November 2004, and participants were categorical in their conclusions. They believed that authorities were generally unprepared – there were huge gaps in what should be a seamless web of surveillance activities, vaccine stocks were inadequate, and there were drastic medical personnel shortages. Participants confirmed that no bridges existed between public health and agricultural veterinarian personnel. Institutional barriers between them needed to be removed, and agricultural veterinarians must be included in an upgraded early warning system. Only leaders could jolt the system into building bridges and pooling risks and efforts. Leaders must catalyze action across health, agriculture, trade and finance ministries domestically and across the WHO, FAO, WTO and the Bretton Woods institutions internationally. In short, participants agreed that pandemic disease was a safe issue for a first L-20 meeting, given the dimensions of the underappreciated threat, the inadequate infrastructure and response capacity, and the risk of very high personal and economic loss occasioned by border closings and quarantines.13

The Berlin workshop produced a different sort of result. The general topic of fragile states had come up as a possible L-20 agenda item at the February 2004 launch meeting in Ottawa (mostly in the context of conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction). At Berlin, there was consensus about the importance of that particular set of problems (i.e. how to deal with fragile states) and about the need for more to be done in a more comprehensive fashion. On the other hand, there was no consensus on what had to be done. Some participants felt that there was a potential role for an L-20, at least in prompting a dialogue between developed and developing states or in bringing together experts as a resource for international and regional organizations dealing with fragile states. Overall, however, the conclusion was that this was too complex a topic for an inaugural or early L-20 leaders meeting – there were too many pitfalls. If ever an L-20 were well established, aspects of the issue might be brought up for consideration.14

The final series of L-20 workshops generated similar mixed results. The six subjects they addressed were undoubtedly important to the international community but, for a variety of reasons, and to varying degrees, they were “not ready for primetime” in terms of how an L-20 might operate. In particular, with the possible exception of energy security and WMDs, they did not seem likely to generate agenda items suitable for achieving the kind of high profile “quick win” which a new body would need early in its life to justify its continued existence.

In October, 2005, a workshop convened at Stanford University in Palo Alto to discuss climate change issues, reframed as “energy security”. The group found that energy security was an elastic concept, but one with great potential for generating collective international action. It offered the prospect of linking “hard security” issues (such as territorial protection and supply of vital fuels) in mutually reinforcing ways with “soft security” issues (such as protection of the environment generally and, specifically, the limitation of the emissions that lead to global climate change). Such linkages, which could notionally engage a large number of countries and diverse interests, seemed to make energy security a good prospect for early consideration by the L-20. Moreover, security of energy supply was once again high on the agenda of most governments because of the current high prices for energy, notably oil. Politically, action was needed not only because consumers demanded it but also because a large and growing fraction of the world oil supply was under the direct control of governments who make supply decisions primarily on the basis of political factors.

All of which being said, participants emerged with some doubts about how (or whether) to accommodate the long list of energy issues they had considered on an L-20 agenda. A package deal on energy security would be immensely complex and, to a degree, subject to the vagaries of the moment (e.g. the security situation in the Middle East). Many energy and climate change-related issues entailed very long time horizons, a characteristic which made them uncomfortable for politicians to deal with. Out of the list of issues considered, it proved impossible to provide a clear picture of priorities, or even clarity, on the continuing role for an L-20. For the moment, while promising in terms of importance and timeliness, the energy security field needed more work before either a package of elements or a single overriding concern could be put forward as a credible agenda item for leaders to “crunch”.15

Later in October, a workshop on international fisheries governance took place in Victoria, Canada. The conference examined the prospects for an L-20 to address the issues surrounding global over-fishing. In this regard, the main governance problem was the emergence of “illegal, unreported and unregulated” fishing. Political will to act was constrained by the over-capacity in many fleets (not only limited to OECD countries), the lack of domestic incentives to restrain capacity, the failure of national management systems, and the existence of subsidies. In brief, governments were faced with short-term political pain in confronting the issue of too many fishers chasing too few fish.

The conference revealed a tension between two approaches. One view was that fisheries management should be viewed as an issue of fisheries governance, and that countries should simply get on with better implementation. The competing view was that it was fruitless to push for implementation within the framework of existing regimes and declarations. Instead, catalytic action would be provided only by widening the frame and pursuing over-arching environmental regulation. Bold steps were required to apply a new standard of rights and ethical obligations to the oceans and their resources. In the end, participants concluded that an L-20 Leaders forum could make significant headway by committing to a laundry list of activities (e.g. pursuing implementation of existing commitments; promoting the use of trade and market measures to improve enforcement and promote compliance; improving the effectiveness of regional fisheries management organizations, and reducing domestic over-capacity in fishing fleets and technologies) which were undoubtedly useful but hardly the stuff of headlines. Certainly, fisheries governance was not a first generation L-20 agenda item.16

The next workshop took place in circumstances which linked the discussions directly to the “real world”. The meeting in Petra, Jordan, in November 2005 took place on the day after the hotel bombings in Amman. The tragedy underlined the immediacy of the concern to address the roots of such actions. Participants discussed the problem of the competing objectives for official development assistance (ODA), reviewed the criteria for a successful L-20 discussion of ODA, and identified options for framing the question for L-20 consideration.

Participants agreed that, from the perspective of leaders, ODA was a means to other ends, beyond the general goals of poverty alleviation and economic growth. For action by government leaders, the debate should be reframed to focus on the most appropriate specific global problem (e.g. pandemics, climate change, trade negotiations) to which to apply a reoriented approach to “development cooperation”. Leaders were likely only to be interested in development assistance as a key potential contributor to resolving a particular priority issue they are faced with. Within this context, the staff work leading to a possible L-20 session must sharpen the incremental contribution leaders could make to harnessing development aid to particular global objectives and to increasing the effectiveness of cooperation. One option was to pitch the meeting as a stocktaking, where leaders reviewed deadlocks and failures in several of these global issue areas and sug­gested an appropriate reorientation of development cooperation aimed at breaking the impasse.

Participants discussed the various criteria for selecting among the possible issues of interest to leaders. The value proposition was that leaders would examine coherent options of using ODA very differently, packaged with other measures, to make substantive progress on a global scale. This being said, however, and even as integrated into discussions of specific global issues, ODA was not a topic which would fit easily on the agenda of an initial L-20 meeting.17

The January 2006 workshop following Petra had a similar sense of immediacy, since it picked up on an earlier meeting (Princeton, December 2004) on terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The 2006 meeting was held at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Centre for Global Strategic Research in California and focused more on international regimes to control proliferation.

Participants noted there was no question that technology rendered the proliferation of WMD easier, but the rate at which this happened was not as rapid as many thought. Nuclear weapons in particular remain technologically challenging and, unless turned over by a state in a manner in which they could be used, were unlikely to be in the arsenal of non-state actors anytime soon. There were, however, fewer secrets and more accessible technology in the biological and chemical fields.

It was important to distinguish between state and non-state actors. Different regimes needed to apply, even though there is a link, as states could supply non-state actors. States inevitably want to survive, including the persons in the regimes that rule them. Non-state actors could be nihilists as well as indifferent to their own death. The response to an attack from terrorists was problematic. Retaliation on a specific target or set of targets could often be impossible; hence, deterrence does not work.

With regards to the concept of the L-20, some viewed the creation of another institution as unnecessary; however, the view was also expressed that the proposal was less for an institution and more for a high level network. A discussion ensued about the relative merits of the Security Council compared to an L-20. Most agreed that, with membership reform and changes in the criteria for setting the agenda, the Council could be effective (issues of representation, performance, and legitimacy needed to be addressed together). Leaders do have crucial roles with all WMD issues and serve to connect emotionally and politically with various audiences. Many of the failures in handling WMD issues are linked to a failure of leadership. The conclusion agreed by all was that better networks were needed. The need for the highest level political leadership was also stressed. Those closest to Washington DC made clear, however, that this would not lead inevitably to creation of an L-20.18

In February, the project returned to Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs to explore potential future arrangements to finance “global public goods” and, specifically, whether an L-20 could produce value-added action in this regard.

As described in the background paper prepared by Inge Kaul and Pedro Conceicao,19 international cooperation on financing global public goods is beset by a “twin deficit”: first, the implementation deficit, that is, the disjuncture between the forging and the implementation of international agreements; and second, the participation deficit, which at present keeps key state and non-state actors away from both the negotiating table and the operational implementation of international cooperation. Participants reviewed the trends leading to a reduction in these two “deficits”.

It was argued that the international system needs a new approach that treats financing cooperation as an investment and provides a stimulus to innovative financing technologies.20 Operationally, this approach would generate a body that could package global policies and encourage cross-bargaining across issue areas. Also required were an issues manager to provide coordination and an issue custodian to provide the requisite continuity. The question was whether an L-20 could meet some or all of these challenges.

Among the reasons to be skeptical of an L-20 process were: the likelihood that most problems would solve themselves without the intervention of leaders; the great difficulty of bringing the US to an L-20 table (unless a significant element of the group’s work was of specific American interest, e.g. reconstruction of Iraq); the fact that investments in most global public goods projects have amortization periods of 10–25 years, while governments find it very hard to look much beyond 2–3 years; and the concern that there would be no legal basis for the L-20 as there is, by contrast, for the Security Council. By conference end, it was clear that innovative though this focus on global public goods was, the subject did not lend itself to a first-round L-20 agenda.21

The final workshop centred on a specific subject was held at Maastricht in the Netherlands in March 2006 and concerned exploiting science and technology (S&T) for development. The aspirations and interests of developing countries were foremost, as they were at most of the second round workshops. Participants addressed the questions of the importance of S&T for development relative to other potential agenda items and why leaders should be involved. The challenge was the opportunity cost – to explain why funds should be diverted to S&T from direct approaches to provide current needed services or from the core agenda of fighting poverty. The counterargument was that most serious poverty problems have a serious S&T component, while only a small proportion of global R&D is directed towards the concerns of the poor.

Action at an L-20 level might help achieve positive outcomes in clarifying and endorsing new directions to be taken, plus providing encouragement to the local actors who must pursue them. L-20 action might reinforce implementation of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness – in particular, harmonizing donor approaches to supporting key areas of S&T-related action at the country level. Nevertheless, participants thought it difficult to “embed” S&T into a leaders meeting agenda – it was hard to envision the prior process needed to inject specific S&T issues. The case for S&T was complicated by its crosscutting nature; S&T was a means to achieve the whole spectrum of Millennium Development Goal outcomes. The role of S&T was subsumed into discussion of many topical issues of interest, such as avian flu and land degradation/desertification which have higher profiles. Participants observed that, while highlighting S&T as an important element in resolving development issues was possible, “S&T for development” as a topic in itself would not sell.22

With the Maastricht meeting completed, much energy and time had been devoted to the subjects which an L-20 Leaders group might usefully address. With one or two exceptions (notably energy security and controlling WMDs), few of the second round workshops resulted in consensus on items which could credibly be placed on an initial L-20 agenda.

In the course of this survey of potential agenda items, however, two major themes kept recurring, and these deserve separate examination. The first of them concerned the question of how the United States might be brought to engage in this enterprise in the first place. The second concerned issues of global fairness.


1For a slightly later account of the Schwab proposal, see the report in Business Line of a February 10, 2004 speech in India. Retrieved May 10, 2006 from

2 Jim O’Neill, Robert Hormats, The G8: Time for a Change. Global Economics Paper No: 112, 2004, Goldman Sachs, p. 9.

3 Helsinki Process on Globalization and Democracy, Governing Globalization – Globalizing Governance: New Approaches to Global Problem Solving. Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2005, pp. 16–20.

4 United Nations, A more secure world: our shared responsibility. Report of the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, United Nations, New York, 2004, A/59/565, p. 73. It is of interest that Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor to Presidents Ford and George H.W. Bush, was a member of this panel.

5 The videos can be found on the L-20 website,

6 Paul Martin, A Global Answer to Global Problems. Foreign Affairs, May/June, 2005,

7 United Nations Report (2004), op cit.

8 United Nations, The Millenium Development Goals Report, 2005. United Nations Department of Public Information, New York, 2005, DPI/23990.

9 United Nations Secretary-General’s Report, In larger freedom: Towards security, development and human rights for all. United Nations Department of Public Information, New York, 2005.

10 Secretary-General’s Statement to the General Assembly, New York, March 21, 2005. Retrieved May 11, 2006 from freedom/sg-statement.html.

11 Waterloo II.

12 Brussels.

13 Geneva.

14 Berlin.

15 Stanford.

16 Victoria. Although fisheries would not seem an obvious candidate for action by leaders, Paul Martin reported that in the course of talking to counterparts about the L-20 concept, he found that every single leader thought fisheries issues were important. He suggested that this was another way in which the world looked different to leaders than to Ministers or officials. Paul Martin personal interview, August 30, 2006.

17 Petra. As a consideration in this regard, Paul Martin observed subsequently that in his experience leaders tended to place greater emphasis than other players in the development assistance field on the importance of establishing and maintaining local order and security. Paul Martin personal interview, August 30, 2006.

18 Livermore.

19 Inge Kaul, Pedro Conceicao, The L-20: an Important Beginning of a New Era of International Cooperation? L-20 project paper, 2006,

20 Kaul and Conceicao, op cit., p. 6 notes the following with respect to these new financial techniques.

“While a wide range of new policy approaches and financing instruments for international cooperation have become available, many of these new and often quite innovative tools require further testing as well as advocacy. For example, it would be desirable to explore—and evaluate—more systematically such instruments as global public-private partnerships that could act as implementing agencies for particular issues and employ instruments like securitization or differential patenting that the conventional intergovernmental organizations are typically not able to use. Similarly, innovative financing technologies may have to be encouraged either by making supportive statements (in the way that the G-7 have done with collective action clauses and, more recently, with advanced purchase commitments) or by stimulating the development of pilot projects (such as the UK-led International Finance Facility for Immunization).”

21 Princeton II.

22 Maastricht.

Chapter 5
Engaging the United States – The Central Puzzle
of Global Governance

From the first scoping meeting in October 2003 to the last workshop in May 2006, a recurrent concern of project participants was the role of the United States. The questions raised were fairly simple to state, but definitive answers were hard to come by.

Was the United States likely to support the proposal that a group of approximately twenty world leaders from both developed and developing countries (including their own President) should meet to take action on critical global issues? Assuming that the answer to this question was at best unclear, what steps needed to be taken to ensure that US support would be forthcoming? In the absence of US support, could the L-20 proposal be expected to proceed?

The context for this discussion lay in a volatile mix of recent history and American politics. After a dilatory and unfocussed first few months, the administration of George W. Bush was galvanized by the events of September 11, 2001. The President reacted to the tragedy at the World Trade Centre by declaring an all-out “war on terrorism”, with its initial target the Taliban regime in Afghanistan which had sheltered the main bases of the al-Qaeda network. At first, the President carried much of the world with him as he struck back at the organizers of 9/11 and their supporters. Sympathy for the victims in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC, was widespread, and the President was careful, after initial missteps, to specify that his target was a particular organization and not the followers of Islam. The war in Afghanistan was won (or at least the Taliban Government was ousted) with surprising speed.

And then the Bush Presidency began to unravel, at least from the perspective of many foreign observers. The new National Security Strategy issued by the Administration in September 2002 was understandably firm in the wake of 9/11 but, to many non-American ears, the religious, unilateralist tone was disquieting. The Strategy began with a triumphalist encapsulation of a century of history.

The great struggles of the twentieth century between liberty and totalitarianism ended with a decisive victory for the forces of freedom – and a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy, and free enterprise.1

The message was clear, that this “single sustainable model” was a gift to the rest of the world which other countries might find difficult to refuse. The Strategy’s repeated references to the virtues of “freedom” and its Manichean characterization of the world as a theatre within which the struggle between good and evil played itself out generated uncertainty in societies with a less developed sense of national destiny and a different set of cultural traditions. And on a purely practical level, the bald statement by the single remaining superpower of its right to take preemptive action to defend its national interests sent a shiver of doubt through the international community.2

The Bush Administration had already indicated an inclination to stand apart from international agreements or activities which might constrain its ability to act independently. It refused to accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, and it declined to submit itself to limitations imposed by the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. On the military side, Washington abandoned the negotiations of a verification mechanism for the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), and abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and stood aside from the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty. On the other hand, it maintained the nuclear testing moratorium and concluded the Treaty of Moscow on reducing nuclear weapons.

Then, in March 2003, the United States, in company with a rather sparse “coalition of the willing”, and without Security Council sanction, invaded Iraq. American forces remain in occupation (and under pressure) four years later, with little prospect of withdrawal before the next Presidential election.

President Bush’s Second Inaugural Address in January 2005 confirmed the Administration’s commitment to spreading freedom, in messianic terms which few other world leaders would choose.3 And by the time of the updated National Security Strategy issued in March 2006, that pledge remained intact.4 In President Bush’s accompanying letter, he laid out in the first sentence what had become the recurring theme for his entire Presidency.

America is at war. This is a wartime national security strategy required by the grave challenge we face – the rise of terrorism fueled by an aggressive ideology of hatred and murder, fully revealed to the American people on September 11, 2001. This strategy reflects our most solemn obligation: to protect the security of the American people.5

This was the American perspective of which project participants had to take account in their consideration of a potential US response to proposals for an L-20.

The initial debate in workshops revolved around the question of whether full US participation was needed if the L-20 notion was to succeed. As this point was discussed through the meeting series, the majority view was that early American involvement was critical and indeed that, without it, an L-20 made little sense.6 That being said, a minority view held that the concept should be pushed on with, whatever the American attitude, and eventually the US would come on board to safeguard its own interests.7

Opinions on the receptiveness of the Bush Administration were mixed. Some thought that the President and his closest advisors (notably Vice-President Cheney and then-Defense Secretary Rumsfeld) were constitutionally averse to accepting the tedious task of alliance building and the potential limits on American flexibility which multilateral institutions might impose.8 On the other hand, even the Second Inaugural contained language praising US allies9 and, in the second Bush term, Secretary of State Rice spent much time and effort traveling the world to explain, listen and cajole. Some workshop participants held that an L-20 approach would give the United States the chance to re-engage with the international community and that, given the multiple challenges facing the Administration, this opening might be welcomed.10

Over time, project participants suggested a range of characteristics which they felt might make an L-20 initiative attractive to the US. A common theme in this regard was that the initiative should take full account of US security concerns and avoid any appearance of “ganging up” to thwart US objectives. Others were of the view that American interest would be higher if an L-20 were fairly simple in structure and process, avoiding a heavy bureaucratic “tail”. At the workshop on safe drinking water and sanitation, it was proposed that this topic would have advantages for the US in the L-20 context if it allowed for full private sector involvement, as well as opportunities for faith-based groups to contribute. The intention was to afford the US full visibility and the possibility of amassing public credit.11 Finally, a recurrent concern was that an L-20 should not result in constraints being placed on the US and, on the contrary, that such an approach would have to demonstrate a capacity to be more effective from a US point of view than straightforward bilateralism (to say nothing of preemptive, unilateral action).

Among the strategies discussed for “bringing the US back into the tent” was the suggestion that security concerns be grafted onto proposals in specific issue areas. One such field concerned infectious diseases. In this case, the surveillance and rapid response systems needed to manage disease outbreaks could be attractive to the US as tools for combating bioterrorism.12 Similarly, in the process of making Official Development Assistance (ODA) more effective, allowance could be made for US geo-political concerns so as to gain American support.13 On the other hand, in both instances, participants warned against the danger of having substantive or collective objectives overridden or distorted by US security priorities.

The most thoroughgoing suggestion for “reframing” the L-20 proposal to take into account US antipathy towards multilateral processes came during the February 2006 workshop in Princeton on financing global public goods.14 The approach put forward was to make the small-“c” conservative case for increasing ODA and financing global public goods. This might include deleting references to international “taxes” from the public discourse, emphasizing the benefits of encouraging stability and predictability in the international economic and financial systems, emphasizing the risk management aspects of an L-20’s work, and endorsing the promotion of new, market-based tools and private initiatives where previously government interventions had dominated. Even more directly, the L-20 agenda might be cast as focusing on a series of specific US foreign policy goals – for example, dealing with avian flu, containing and defeating terrorism, supervising and reforming existing international organizations, and enforcing intellectual property rights. Some or all of these elements might be included in a “grand bargain” among governments on the basis of which the L-20 could be established.

Perhaps not surprisingly, no consensus emerged on the efficacy or advisability of this kind of packaging, but a consistent theme throughout the workshops was the desire not to leave the United States in an isolated position. Even if the current Administration was not enthusiastic, the next two years could be used to develop and disseminate the L-20 concept, seeding the idea among the next generation of US politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike.

Implicit in these conversations about the United States over two and a half years was the recognition of American dominance in military and economic terms. The one remaining superpower casts a long shadow; arguably the L-20 proposal itself represents an attempt to provide a mechanism within which the US can exercise its power in a more orderly fashion. Project participants acknowledged that “9/11 changed everything”,15 certainly strengthening those elements in American politics which already saw the outside world as an uncertain and threatening place. Non-Americans at the workshops were caught between concerns over US unilateralism and worry over the potential for a disastrous US retreat to a form of pre-World War II isolationism. American participants sought to explain the mysteries of US politics and noted the range of views which went under-reported in the face of a determined, ideologically-driven Administration.

Ironically, many of the international institutions which now seem ineffective in the face of new circumstances were originally established during the last great period of American ascendancy, immediately after the Second World War. The United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the instruments of collective security such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization all gained much of their initial impetus and legitimacy from US support. In a novel approach to the exercise of power on a global scale, the United States acted for several decades through this international apparatus, notionally constrained but in practice with great effect. A common thread in participants’ discussion of US intentions was that a similar approach would probably serve the US well again. As one of the participants in a later workshop observed, “…the US will not keep power unless it shares it”.16

One major difference between the American experience in the immediate post-War period and their current situation may lie in the very different nature of their actual or potential partners. In the late nineteen forties, the US worked to build international institutions with a relatively small group of allies (and former adversaries) who generally shared a set of cultural values and a history of earlier (if not always friendly) relations. The institution designers worked from a common vocabulary and, coming out of the maelstrom of two world wars and a catastrophic depression, a desperate desire for peace, stability, and steady economic growth.

By contrast, some workshop participants doubted the level of awareness among current American leaders of the concerns and aspirations of many other countries, notably in the developing and Islamic worlds.17 The task of refurbishing international institutions already fractured along North/South lines may be more difficult for an America increasingly turned inward, and isolated from the rest of the world by the glare of its own dominant media. Even the democratization born of the communications and internet revolutions may present problems for the US policymakers. Sixty years ago, it might have been sufficient to convince a fairly limited foreign policy establishment in the major universities and on Capitol Hill of the advisability of an initiative. Carrying the viewership of the Fox News channel along in a given direction, however, especially if that direction involves apparent constraints on US power, calls for a higher (or perhaps different) order of persuasion.

To return, then, to the questions originally posed about the likely US reaction to the L-20 approach, American support is certainly not guaranteed although, if the circumstances were propitious (for example, if a crisis of global dimensions was looming), even an Administration wedded to unilateralism might see it in its interest to collaborate. As for whether the L-20 proposal could proceed without meaningful US involvement, the short answer is – probably not.


1 The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, 2002. Washington DC, 2002, p. iv.

2 “The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive action to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction – and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively.” The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, 2002, op cit., p. 15.

3 “So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” The Address concluded – “When the Declaration of Independence was first read in public and the Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration, a witness said, ‘It rang as if it meant something.’ In our time it means something still. America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength – tested, but not weary – we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom.” President George W Bush, Second Inaugural Address, 2005. Washington DC, 2005. Retrieved May 30, 2006 from

4 The updated strategy began with the following sentence – “It is the policy of the United States to seek and support democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, 2006. Washington, DC, 2006, p. 1.

5 The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, 2006, op cit., p. i.

6 Bellagio, p. 7; Ottawa I, pp. 12, 27–28; New York, p. 3; San Jose, p. 1; Alexandria, p. 1.

7 Ottawa I, p. 12.

8 Waterloo, p. 7.

9 “And all the allies of the United States can know: we honor your friendship, we rely on your counsel, and we depend on your help. Division among free nations is a primary goal of freedom’s enemies. The concerted effort of free nations to promote democracy is a prelude to our enemies’ defeat.” Bush, op cit. Retrieved May 30, 2006 from

10 New York, p. 5.

11 Alexandria, p. 8.

12 San Jose, pp. 3–4.

13 Petra, p. 3.

14 Princeton II, pp. 3–4.

15 Livermore, p. 1.

16 Washington, author’s personal notes.

17 Livermore, pp. 3–4.

Chapter 6
Global Fairness and the Search for Legitimacy

In addition to the recurring question of how best to engage the United States, another set of inter-connected issues wove through the workshop debates, no matter what the nominal focus of the discussion was. This collection of issues concerned the nature of globalization, the variable impact which globalization was having on people around the world, and the related question of how fair this was, especially to those in the global South. Invariably this led, in turn, to consideration of how best to ensure that global decision-makers (and/or international institutions) had a degree of legitimacy and, eventually, to reflections on the potential for injecting more effective democratic elements into the evolving pattern of global governance.

Globalization and Fairness

It will be recalled that the impetus for the L-20 project came from the often maligned world of politics and government, the realm of interminable meetings, over-simplified briefing notes and electoral calculation. So it seems fair to begin with a glance at the context in which at least one politician, Paul Martin, thought he was operating. In his 2005 Foreign Affairs article, Martin gave as his main justification for advocating the L-20 approach the simple fact that the boundaries between countries were growing fainter. Martin’s view was that globalization was not a process which could be “turned on and off at will”, whether it was manifested in deepening economic interdependence, political cooperation to end weapons proliferation and combat terrorism, or collaborative action on environmental or health problems. He still saw the nation-state as the principal actor on the international stage (a traditional stance which others might question1), but he saw the existing institutions and standard ways of doing business as inadequate to the challenges posed by globalization.2

Martin’s view of the world was shared by another North American politician, Bill Clinton. Somewhat earlier, during a speech at Yale University, Clinton posed the issue similarly:

My basic premise is this: the interdependent world, for all of its promise, is inevitably unsustainable, because it is unstable. We cannot continue to live in a world where we grow more and more interdependent, and we have no over-arching system to have the positive elements of interdependence outweigh the negative ones.

He went on to specify his conviction that “…the great mission of the twenty-first century world is to make it a genuine global community”, which would move from “mere” interdependence to integration, based on the characteristics of shared responsibilities, shared benefits and shared values.3

A Canadian leader might express the commitment differently, but the Martin and Clinton visions are fundamentally the same. The most important and pressing problems we face are global in scale, and the international institutions we are asking to deal with these challenges are not up to the task. At the same time, notwithstanding the strength and reach of globalization, both Martin and Clinton were firmly convinced that this phenomenon could be shaped.4 In that conviction, they were joined by the vast majority of the participants in the L-20 workshops.

The original Smith/Carin paper which helped focus early discussions explicitly embraced the activist notion that global change could be managed, and those attending the Waterloo, Bellagio and Ottawa meetings bought in, driven by the concern that an unacceptable level of unfairness needed to be redressed.5 This general sense was given specific point in many of the subsequent workshops.

At Oxford, no-one contested the argument in the background paper prepared for the session that the existing agricultural trade regime seriously disadvantaged the poor and the vulnerable, although there was much (inconclusive) debate over how to remedy the situation.6 In New York, there was extensive discussion of how best to engage developing countries in an international system of emissions control. The puzzle was how to encourage meaningful policy change while not stunting economic development or, conversely, exposing vulnerable economies to the impact of rapid climate change in the event of a collective failure to act.7

During the discussion of safe drinking water and sanitation (SDS) in Alexandria, the point was made – when allocating SDS services, remember that the poorest of the poor have no access, period.8 In the Mexico City workshop, participants were reminded that, far from being a bloodless accounting exercise, international financial crises resulted in unemployment, poverty, inequality and human misery, a disproportionate amount of which occurred in the developing countries least able to cushion the blow.9

In the Geneva workshop on pandemics, the level of unfairness between rich and poor translated directly into premature death among the latter. The meeting’s background paper reminded participants that, contrary to expectation, the life expectancy gap between the richest and the poorest nations had widened dramatically following the end of the Cold War. Today the gap between the society with the greatest life expectancy (Japan) and the shortest (Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone and a short list of African countries) is nearly 50 years. More people died of tuberculosis, malaria and HIV in 2003 than in any year in history, and this despite some well publicized international funding drives.10

In Victoria, the effects of unfairness in the fisheries field were identified as intergenerational as well as inter-regional. Simply put, if measures were not taken to halt over-fishing of the oceans, there would be few if any fish left for the next generations to catch. For some developing countries this raised subsistence issues, not matters of dietary preference.11

This litany of inequality (mirrored in almost every workshop in one form or another) brought with it some nagging questions about how to develop international institutions which people in poor countries (and, for that matter, poor people within richer countries) could recognize as being prepared to act in the interest of the full range of the world’s societies – in other words, institutions which held some form of legitimacy.

Concepts of Legitimacy

Issues related to legitimacy entered the debate early in the L-20 project. Throughout the Waterloo meeting, for example, there were references to the “crisis of legitimacy” which affected existing international institutions. By and large this phrase was shorthand for the reality that the rich, developed countries dominated decision-making, and usually this privileged position was built into the structure of organizations (particularly noticeable in the case of the IMF and the World Bank, but also evident in the UN, with the veto-wielding Permanent Members on the Security Council). In some settings, such as the World Trade Organization, the advantage for developed countries derived from their greater capacity to master and manage an extremely complex and technical process. In other settings, notably the G-7/8, the rich countries simply established a members-only club to help them bring stability to international economic and financial relations (on their own terms, of course).

However it was accomplished, the two-tier nature of international processes seemed clear, and the situation was becoming increasingly untenable as the effects of globalization meant that these organizations were dealing more and more with issues which previously had been decided within national boundaries. Moreover, these institutions were conspicuously impervious to input from anyone except representatives of national governments. So not only was the full range of countries, big and small, rich and poor, unequally represented at all the international “high tables”, the citizens of those countries had very few ways of directly affecting the conversations at those tables. In the words of one of the background papers for the February 2004 launch meeting in Ottawa:

It is no longer accepted that executives draw up international policies, to a great extent prejudicing national policies, behind closed doors, but still in the name of the people.12

For the most part, the emphasis in the preliminary meetings and subsequent workshops was on addressing legitimacy through broadening the membership of an L-20 to include the main emerging economies or regional powers.13 Certainly, the practical problem in the economic field was that the growing clout of China and India (and, to a lesser extent, Brazil) meant that excluding them from deliberations on key issues made no sense. Throughout the L-20 project, the need to include the major developing countries went largely unchallenged, although the question of precisely which countries should be included occasioned an unresolved debate.

Simple expansion of the existing G-7/8 might generate criticism, however. In a 2001 paper, for example, Gerry Helleiner questioned the validity of establishing the G-20 Ministers of Finance group. He pointed out that this grouping was unilaterally created by the G-7, ignoring the efforts of developing countries since 1994 through their G-24 to initiate serious dialogue with industrial countries over international financial reforms. He suggested that the G-20 was “severely flawed” because it contained no representatives either of the poorest and smallest developing countries or of European countries (the Nordics and the Dutch) who might speak on their behalf. He noted that the G-20 did not possess procedures for reporting to the broader international community nor did it provide for non-governmental inputs or systematic transparency. Overall, Helleiner’s judgment on the G-20 was negative (although many observers would say that the group has, in fact, served a useful purpose in recent years).14

How, then, might this critique be applied to the L-20 proposal, which after all originated partially in Paul Martin’s G-20 experience? In their original background paper, Smith and Carin suggested that the issue of G-20 paternity (i.e. ignoring the G-24) made no substantive difference. The mechanical joining of the G-7 and the G-24 would result an unwieldy body of thirty-one which would be too large to be effective. Some new “executive committee” would probably have to be devised, which would result, in the end, in something approximating the G-20. Smith and Carin expected that, over time, the G-20 might institute some sort of “constituency” system to ensure full reporting and a sense of ownership among non-members, and might make discussion papers and reports publicly available. That being said, they accepted the desirability of a more open process, and certainly agreed with Helleiner that a larger group broaden its agenda beyond technical financial issues.15

At its heart, the Helleiner critique turns on the nature of a possible L-20 and the scope of its activities. A lengthy discussion on this aspect occurred at the May 2006 workshop in Washington, D.C.16 On one side were participants who saw the L-20 as a pragmatic response to a requirement for more effective international problem-solving, and who maintained that the decision on group composition was inherently political. No proposed composition would evade criticism from some quarter or another, but the need for an L-20 was manifest. The perfect should not be allowed to be the enemy of the good. Generally, these participants did not claim for the L-20 the status of a world governing body (or even an international directoire), and were prepared to accept the charge that, even with the inclusion of the emerging economies, the group would be unrepresentative. From this standpoint, the ultimate proof of the L-20’s legitimacy would be its effectiveness, not its universality.17

On the other side were participants who worried that in effect an L-20 would be a pivotal (even if informally constituted) organ of global governance, the political and symbolic importance of which would be great. As such, the origins and processes of the body would be critical since its decisions would affect many not at the table. For significant numbers of people and countries to feel excluded from the decisions of an L-20 which operated largely behind closed doors would be a fatal flaw. One participant mused that setting up an L-20 amounted to forming a global executive without a corresponding global parliament and judiciary. Of course, if the L-20 was nothing more than a powerless caucus which discussed but did not act (or cause others to act), then the argument was moot, and perhaps institutions should be left as they were. At this point, the debate had gone full circle, since the general view, in this and in the other workshops, was precisely that the status quo was unacceptable.

The Role of Civil Society

If discussions about enhancing the legitimacy of the L-20 by including developing countries in the mix recurred frequently in the workshops, the corresponding debate over increasing its credibility through democratization was much more episodic – although no less lively for that. The starting point in the Waterloo meeting was that the principals in the L-20 would be leaders, and that the issue of accountability would be dealt with through the mechanisms of the governments they represented. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) could contribute to agenda setting, but governments would decide. The L-20 was not an all-encompassing state-societal forum.18 So much for engagement with civil society.19

Two months later at Bellagio, the emphasis shifted slightly to a concern that an L-20 deal with global issues in an open and transparent way. The possibility of outreach to civil society organizations was raised, possibly by establishing an L-20 advisory group.20 By the time of the Ottawa launch meeting in February 2004, the question of how to involve civil society became, in the words of the meeting report, “a highly divisive issue”. Some participants felt strongly that civil society would become part of the L-20 process, and this was desirable. By welcoming civil society, the L-20 would be reducing the international democratic deficit and building constituencies of support for its work. Others worried that too much engagement would erode the informality of proceedings, undermine established democratic structures, and open meetings up to a “cacophony of millions of voices”. The organizational challenges would be formidable, including the task of delineating criteria for which elements of civil society to consult.21 In the end, there was a strong consensus that, if there was to be a role for civil society organizations at the L-20, government should resist the “tyranny of the loudest”, and not exclude voices from the South.22 Beyond that, the two conflicting views went unreconciled.

At the Oxford workshop on agricultural trade, participants noted the role of civil society representatives in pushing for reforms from the bottom up. The sense was that incorporating these elements of society somehow in the L-20 process would be a good idea.23 In the San Jose workshop on infectious diseases, there was concern that the views of civil society organizations be built into analyses of international health problems and that a paternalistic approach be avoided.24 At the Alexandria workshop on safe drinking water and sanitation, the emphasis was different. There, the competence of NGOs was called into question, and they were urged to work in partnership with local governments instead of tending to bypass them.25

At the Princeton discussion of global public goods, participants addressed the “twin deficit” which inhibited cooperation in financing those goods. As described in the background paper for the workshop, the second of these two deficits was a “participation deficit”, which meant that key state and non-state actors were kept away from both the negotiation table and the operational implementation of international cooperation. Much of the subsequent discussion concerned the potentially increased role for private finance, but participants also recognized that civil society organizations were among the growing number of “transnational actors” becoming involved in international cooperation (and pressing their views on governments).26

By the end of the project, the role of civil society remained unresolved. One of the project’s abiding images was that of a fairly small group of leaders grappling earnestly with global issues, untrammeled by the usual coterie of officials and advisors, and developing meaningful personal relationships which would make significant breakthroughs possible. Somehow, this approach was difficult to reconcile with worthy but incessant interjections from the full panoply of nongovernmental organizations, faith-based or otherwise. On the other hand, as Michael Zurn would point out, the days of “executive multilateralism” are probably numbered, as globalization wears away at the membranes separating the international from the national from the local. Accordingly, if it is ever to succeed, the L-20 will need to find some way of letting in the rest of the world.

In fact, there are a number of operating models for facilitating input from “outside”. One is the GLOBE/COM+ dialogue on environmental issues which shadows the G-8 meetings. This process is described in more detail in Chapter 8. The second is of older provenance and concerns the deliberations of the UN Security Council.

The Arria Formula is an informal arrangement that allows the Council greater flexibility to be briefed about international peace and security issues. It has been used frequently and has assumed growing prominence since it was first implemented in March, 1992.27

The Arria Formula assumed special importance because, under long-standing Council practice, only delegations, high government officials (of Council members) and United Nations officials could speak at regular Council meetings and consultations. The Arria Formula enables a member of the Council to invite other Council members to an informal meeting, held outside of the Council chambers, and chaired by the inviting member. The meeting is called for the purpose of a briefing given by one or more persons, considered as expert in a matter of concern to the Council.

Today, Arria Formula meetings take place virtually every month, sometimes more than once. Attendance is typically at a very high level – the permanent representative or deputy. Only rarely do individual members fail to attend. The meetings are announced by the Council President at the beginning of each month or whenever organized, as part of the regular Council schedule. The meetings are provided with full interpretation by the Secretariat. No Council meetings or consultations are ever scheduled at a time when the Arria Formula meetings take place. So the Arria system is an interesting mixture of informality and formality. It allows the Council to sidestep its conservative Rules of Procedure and open itself in a very limited way to the outside world. A similar procedure could be adapted for the use of the L-20.

New Approaches to Old Problems

As the workshop series addressed a succession of potential agenda items for an L-20, issues of global fairness surfaced repeatedly, and the emphasis moved gradually in the direction of problems of development. Three of those later meetings – Petra in November 2005 on improving official development assistance, Princeton in February 2006 on financing global public goods, and Maastricht in March 2006 on furthering science and technology for development – dealt with traditional issues in this field in innovative ways.

The Petra meeting generated an interesting discussion about the objectives of official development assistance (ODA), and how to make the subject of potential interest to Leaders.28 Reflecting on decades of often painful experience, participants emphasized that ODA should be a means to other ends, beyond the standard goals of poverty alleviation and economic growth. These other objectives needed to be considered more explicitly so that the debate could be re-framed to focus on the most appropriate problem on which to apply a reoriented approach to “development cooperation”. In other words, ODA would be just one of the tools deployed to address specific issues in areas such as health, climate change, agricultural trade or the particular challenges facing low-income countries under stress (LICUS).

The emergence of new donors, foundations and global funds calls for new institutional arrangements to ensure coordination and harmonization. ODA is currently fractured; there are too many ODA providers with a multiplicity of objectives, doing too many things, in too many countries. Given the likelihood that ODA levels will remain flat or even decline, government funding needs increasingly to be leveraged to partner with private funds, with a balance being struck between performance- and need-based approaches to allocation.

Participants noted that ODA is the biggest pool of discretionary resources spent by many donor countries, which makes it vulnerable to appropriation for other purposes. The most obvious example is the extent to which the security dimension has become central in the development agenda. Security is a justification for ODA and vice versa, in the context of the squeeze on ODA funds. Furthermore, conventional ODA criteria often do not apply in failing and fragile states. Perhaps most disturbingly, there is a sense of mutual “corruption” in the existing ODA system. Recipients do not have an empowered voice – they can’t say “no” – while donors have no incentive to tailor their efforts to meet local needs and sensitivities. Recipient and donor alike “enable” each other’s bad behaviour.

Although the thrust of this discussion was to explore how best to re-frame ODA to make it more attractive to leaders as a potential field of action, it had the added benefit of laying bare some of the more striking pathologies shaping global development issues.

The Princeton meeting on financing global public goods examined in more detail a specific (and quite trendy) aspect of the development conundrum. Aptly enough, the conversation began with matters of definition. The basic question was whether having a clear conceptual sense of the nature of global public goods would make them easier to deal with, thereby adding to the toolkit which could be used to build effective development assistance.

The notion of “global” public goods builds on the definitions of public good developed by the economist Paul Samuelson in the early 1950s.29 Samuelson suggested that the essential characteristics which differentiated a private good from a “pure” public good were non-excludability (once the good has been produced, its benefits or harm accrue to all) and non-rivalry (any one person’s consumption of the public good has no effect on the amount of it available for others). Other concepts also linked to the idea of public goods are externalities (situations where the costs or benefits of any good or action are not reflected in the price of the good itself, and the cost of impacts is transferred from the actors directly responsible to others) and free riders (users who derive benefit from but do not finance the supply of goods). Since Samuelson’s original work, the debate over the “purity” of public goods in the real world has led to the recognition that factors such as government intervention or agreements between private agents are usually involved in their production or use, and merit active policy consideration.

The application of the notion of public goods to the international context brings with it even more definitional anguish. Without venturing further into the thickets of economic theory, and to provide a somewhat clearer sense of what global public goods might be in practice, however, the following list of five examples of different sorts of global public goods might help:

Image the conservation of biodiversity,

Image mitigation of climate change,

Image the generation of knowledge for the production of HIV/AIDS vaccines,

Image operational prevention of violent conflicts (otherwise characterized as peace and security), and

Image the maintenance of international financial security.30

Within the last decade, academics and policymakers have shown rapidly accelerating interest in applying public goods theory to these and similar activities, especially with a view to developing new ways of financing them.

The Princeton workshop focused on this financial aspect and the potential for leaders to play a role in advancing the cause of providing global public goods. As mentioned in Chapter 4, participants concluded that financing global public goods probably should not appear on an initial L-20 agenda, but that related questions could usefully be tackled by leaders later in the process, assuming it took hold. The value of the Princeton discussion, however, lay in the attempts to apply a fairly formal conceptual framework to a messy world. In the end, the background piece for the meeting struck a hopeful note. It suggested that the implementation and participation “deficits” afflicting the current system of international cooperation were subject to trends which may result in their being overcome. These trends should be built upon through a new cooperative system based on: investment thinking; fairness; competition in service delivery; clear responsibility and accountability; and continuity of effort so as to allow cooperation initiatives to mature.31 All participants in the workshop may not have shared this perspective, but the intellectual rigour promoted by the debate around financing global public goods materially enrichened their exchanges.32

The Maastricht workshop on science and technology for development also broke new ground because it assembled in the same room an unusual combination of “hard scientists” and international relations policy experts. The very nature of the subject matter ensured a wide-ranging, somewhat unfocussed discussion, a characteristic which led eventually to the conclusion that leaders would find it difficult to deal with. In the course of this exploration of the “knowledge divide”, however, several interesting points were raised about what might be termed the structural aspects of international science and technology.

First, participants noted that one of the impacts of accelerating globalization has been to blur the distinctions between North and South. Outsourcing from developed economies is leading to growth in S&T employment in the developing world. Brazil, India and China have adopted directive national policies similar to those of developed countries 30 years ago, but are doing so in the context of a much more integrated, market-driven world economy. Although the most evident capability gap remains between developed and developing countries, South/South alliances are being built in the S&T field, and this trend holds great promise.33

Second, participants were concerned to encourage clarity of purpose in terms of the rationale for investing in the S&T area in developing countries. The first choice to be made was the relative effort to be devoted to building capacity to increase productivity versus directing resources to solving specific problems. Another manifestation of this choice was whether to fund systemic improvements to the education system in developing countries as opposed to providing support for “big science” projects. Generally, participants cast doubt on the advisability of contributing to scientific monumentalism, but recognized that both capacity building and specific S&T-related problem-solving should be taken on at the same time.34 This conclusion mirrored the conclusions reached in the project workshops on health and pandemic management. In that field as well, the choice sometimes seemed to be between supporting specific initiatives (e.g. vaccine development) rather than improving the health care system as a whole in developing countries, and the conclusion was that both approaches need to be sustained. Another similarity was the discussion of how to maintain the presence of qualified personnel in the South. Although no definitive answers were forthcoming, the human resource challenge in both S&T and health fields was undeniable.

A third structural element was the current international regime governing trade and intellectual property. The Southern view is that the World Trade Organization and its agreement on the trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS) put them in a frustrating legal box. Intellectual property rights issues run through all of the steps on the S&T spectrum – research and development, design, manufacturing and production – and insufficient allowance has been made for the specific concerns of developing countries. The drive to expand protection of intellectual property rights across many sectors (e.g. agriculture, pharmaceuticals and software) has significant implications for the South, many of them adverse. Some participants called for a new international agency or vehicle to focus on intellectual property rights in the development context. For these participants, the World Intellectual Property Organization is a conservative barrier; it promotes the status quo, not the active use of intellectual property.35

Finally, the concept of “re-framing” surfaced once more. Just as with “development” as an over-arching concern, so “the furthering of science and technology” as an end in itself was difficult to market. Participants generally agreed that emphasis needed to be put on the S&T components of global issues such as avian flu, energy security and climate change. In a world where the competition for financial support was intense and the public (and political) attention span was small and shrinking, scientific concerns will be more influential if they are placed in the context of specific global challenges.


1 See for example Rosenau’s much more expansive conception of effective world players – “Viewed in the context of proliferating centres of authority, the global stage is thus dense with actors, large and small, formal and informal, economic and social, political and cultural, national and transnational, international and subnational, aggressive and peaceful, liberal and authoritarian, who collectively form a highly complex system of global governance.” James N. Rosenau, Governance in a New Global Order. In: David Held, Anthony McGrew, Governing Globalization: Power, Authority and Global Governance, Polity Press, 2002, p. 73.

2 Paul Martin, A Global Answer to Global Problems. Foreign Affairs, May/June, 2005,, p. 2.

3 Text adapted from a speech given on October 31, 2003, reprinted by YaleGlobal Online. Retrieved June 5, 2006 from

4 For a comprehensive text on the definition, history, elements and future prospects of globalization, see David Held, Anthony McGrew, David Goldblatt, Jonathan Perraton, Global Transformations. Stanford University Press, 1999. Interestingly, the authors conclude their extensive survey optimistic about the future for democracy and even for the role of the nation state.

5 Barry Carin, Gordon Smith, Making Change Happen at the Global Level. L-20 project paper, 2003,, p. 3; Waterloo, p. 1; Bellagio, p. 2; Ottawa I, p. 18.

6 Oxford, p. 2.

7 New York, p. 4.

8 Alexandria, p. 6.

9 Mexico City, p. 1.

10 Laurie Garrett, Leaders Summit on Global Infectious Disease: Toward an L-20? L-20 project paper, 2005,, pp. 1 and 2.

11 Victoria, p. 6.

12 Michael Zurn, Global Governance and Legitimacy Problems. L-20 project paper, 2004,, p. 27. Zurn suggests (op cit., p. 19) – “The fur­ther international institutions intervene in formerly national issues, the more they will be confronted with questions regarding their legitimacy”. He also notes (op cit., p. 29) – “The more intrusive these international institutions become, the more justified and intense the demands will be for their democratization”.

13 For example, Bellagio, p. 3; Ottawa I, p. 14; Ottawa II, p. 4.

14 “The G-20’s initial processes have been all wrong. Its origins in the G-7 reduce its legitimacy; its membership is not fully representative; its mandate is much too narrow; and its procedures lack provisions for non-governmental participation, accountability or transparency. As at present constituted, it is unlikely to lead anywhere. Its very existence deflects energies from more appropriate and hopeful processes and agendas.” Gerry Helleiner, Developing Countries, Global Financial Governance and the Group of Twenty: A Note, 2001, retrieved June 7, 2006 from On the other hand, see the G-20 website for the group’s accomplishments,

15 Carin and Smith, op cit., p. 7.

16 Washington, DC, p. 6.

17 The idea that an L-20 would gain legitimacy through its effectiveness was repeated throughout the workshops, strongly in the Ottawa launch meeting (Ottawa I, p. 26), but then frequently thereafter.

18 Waterloo, p. 6.

19 The term “civil society” is subject to considerable debate, although many use it as a synonym for “non-governmental organizations”. Most project participants seem to have meant NGOs when they used the phrase “civil society”. The London School of Economics Centre for Civil Society’s working definition illustrates the sprawly nature of the idea. “Civil society refers to the arena of uncoerced collective action around shared interests, purposes and values. In theory, its institutional forms are distinct from those of the state, family and market, though in practice, the boundaries between state, civil society, family and market are often complex, blurred and negotiated. Civil society commonly embraces a diversity of spaces, actors and institutional forms, varying in their degree of formality, autonomy and power. Civil societies are often populated by organisations such as registered charities, development nongovernmental organisations, community groups, women’s organisations, faith-based organisations, professional associations, trade unions, self-help groups, social movements, business associations, coalitions and advocacy groups." For a useful account of the evolution of the concept of “global civil society”, see Helmut Anheier, Marlies Glasius, Mary Kaldor (eds) Global Civil Society 2001. Oxford University Press, 2001, especially Chapter 1.

20 Bellagio, pp. 2, 3.

21 Ottawa I, p. 15.

22 Ottawa I, p. 31.

23 Oxford, p. 9.

24 San Jose, p. 6.

25 Alexandria, p. 5.

26 Princeton II, p. 1; Inge Kaul, Pedro Conceicao, The L-20: an Important Beginning of a New Era of International Cooperation? L-20 project paper, 2006,, pp. 1, 3, 4.

27 The following description of the Arria Formula is taken from a useful summary by James Paul which can be found on the website of the Global Policy Forum – retrieved July 4, 2006 from Paul’s description of the “birth” of the Formula is instructive because it arose from a practical Security Council requirement for information. “The formula is named for Amb. Diego Arria of Venezuela who devised it. In 1992, during the crisis in former Yugoslavia, a Bosnian priest came to New York and asked to meet with various Council members individually. Only Ambassador Arria agreed to meet him. Ambassador Arria was so impressed with the priest’s story that he felt all Council members should hear it too. Obviously, it was impossible to get the Council to agree to hear this testimony in its official sessions. So Arria simply invited Council members to gather over coffee in the Delegates’ Lounge. Many attended, the meeting was a great success and the Arria Formula was born.”

28 Petra, pp. 1, 2.

29 The following description of the theoretical background to GPGs is taken from Francisco Sagasti, Keith Bezanson, Financing and Providing Global Goods: Expectations and Prospects. Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, 2001, pp. ii–ix.

30 See the case studies on these five GPGs in Sagasti and Bezanson, op cit., pp. 67 et seq.

31 Kaul and Conceicao, op cit., pp. 8–9. For a more lengthy and detailed discussion, see Inge Kaul, Pedro Conceicao (eds), The New Public Finance: Responding to Global Challenges. Oxford University Press, 2006.

32 The discussion also included interesting exchanges on the role of the private sector, similar to those which arose at the Alexandria workshop on safe drinking water and sanitation and the San Jose workshop on infectious diseases. In all three cases, participants divided over the extent to which the private sector should engage in activities traditionally left to governments.

33 Maastricht, p. 4.

34 Maastricht, p. 3.

35 Maastricht, pp. 4, 5. For an account of the current negotiations in the TRIPS area, see the WTO website at

Chapter 7
Lessons Large and Small

Distilling the wisdom accumulated through 21 meetings attended by hundreds of expert and opinionated participants is necessarily an arbitrary process. Consensus was neither sought nor attained from this disparate group, but what follows are some of the main points around which there was a degree of agreement, together with some of the issues where disagreement was notable.

Role of Leaders

To begin with, participants recognized that the activities of national leaders on the international stage differed considerably from their behaviour domestically.1 In both spheres, the leader’s role was key. At home, as the head of a government, a leader could direct, order, and generally cause things to occur (despite the great variation of constitutional frameworks across the L-20). Leaders could reasonably expect that their directions would be acted upon; in the event of non-compliance, they had recourse to a variety of sanctions.

Obviously, the situation internationally was different. In that setting leaders could seek to convince, ask for cooperation from their peers, make commitments (often of a fairly broad nature) on behalf of their country, or delegate tasks to Ministers, officials or organizations. Especially in smaller gatherings, the personal characteristics of the leader sometimes counted for as much as the size or power of the nation they represented. Participants generally agreed with Paul Martin that the personal relationships among leaders, established and nurtured over time, could make a material difference to the outcome of events.2

The nature of the work which leaders might undertake at an L-20 table occasioned a range of responses from participants. On the one hand, there seemed little appetite for a new Bretton Woods-like round of institution building.3 On the other, especially in some specific fields such as health, there was an urgent sense that leaders should mobilize to fill institutional gaps.4 In particular, notwithstanding the existence of the United Nations and all its emanations, participants consistently decried the lack of an effective forum within which to address the differing interests of North and South. Generally, participants observed that leaders should not be asked to develop complex legal instruments – this was the wrong sort of forum for negotiating detail. It was also noted that the tradeoffs which leaders might make would often be implicit and difficult to codify, but none the less real for that.5 Overall, there was a disposition to encourage Ministers and officials to get on with the institutional reform which they could accomplish at their own levels6 and, in fields such as safe drinking water and sanitation, there was major support for devolution of decision-making to the local level, provided that community funding and capacity development made this decentralist approach meaningful.7

The list of what leaders should not attempt was fairly lengthy. Although many participants stressed the importance of capacity building in specific fields such as health and science and technology,8 others expressed doubts, both in terms of leaders’ ability to connect effectively at the local level and in terms of their willingness to commit to this kind of support over an extended period of time. Capacity-building was seen as vital, but not politically attractive. Another disagreement arose around the extent to which leaders should be attempting to mobilize the private sector. In the Princeton discussions on global public goods, the question of engaging private finance was extensively discussed, essentially in a positive vein. On some subjects (especially water and health), however, participants split over the extent to which governments should enter into partnerships with corporate interests.9

Finally, participants frequently addressed ways in which leaders could be given substantive support when dealing with issues which were often fairly technical. In the economic field, the support systems were clear (e.g. as required, the OECD for the G-8); in others, such as the environment, the matter was less obvious.10 The related question of the extent to which an L-20 should have or would need a dedicated secretariat (and its possible size) prompted debate between those who wanted the leaders to have a minimal administrative footprint and those who were especially concerned that leaders should be properly prepared and sufficiently well staffed to allow for ongoing implementation of their decisions.

On a more personal level, participants in the Ottawa stocktaking meeting midway through the workshop series stressed the importance of informality to foster open discussion and to reduce the need for intensive preparation. Human dynamics were key considerations. Leaders had to enter the room feeling that a successful outcome was possible. Barriers of language and culture needed to be taken into account to ensure symmetry of developed/developing country engagement so that leaders could connect personally and have free-flowing discussions.11

Overall, the extensive workshop discussions served to highlight the critical role leaders play and the extent to which personal relations amongst them often drive events.

L-20 Composition

The vexed question of exactly which countries should be members of an L-20 came up most frequently at the beginning of the meeting series and then to a degree at the end. After an initial breaking of lances, it was recognized that there was probably no magic number of countries which would add up to twenty and be perfectly “representative” of the 192 members of the United Nations. The initial sug­gestion was that the 20 countries arbitrarily chosen as the G-20 Finance Ministers group should be the starting point, although it could be argued that both African and Islamic countries would be under-represented. Moreover, selecting the largest (in population or GDP terms) countries in each region raised the matter of how well the leaders of large countries could represent the (probably quite different) interests of their smaller neighbours.

Once launched into the workshops on specific subjects, participants often “punted” the question of membership as being too hard although, for some topics, the presence or absence of a particular country or type of country prompted a substantive discussion.12 Procedurally, it was recognized that, if membership were allowed to become the primary focus early in the effort to gain support for the concept, the initiative would become a negotiating nightmare.13

Inclusion in some form of L-20 “top table” would mean different things for different countries. For major emerging economies (Brazil, India), membership would amount to recognition of their new global status. If several African countries took part (South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt), they would assume that that continent’s priorities would receive a better hearing. If key Islamic countries were included (Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey), the “Christian” monopoly will have been broken and greater respect conferred. For China, there would be the opportunity to help initiate a new, important process rather than contemplate being a simple “add-on” to the existing G-8. By the same token, Russia would be unlikely to welcome a body which might eventually supplant a group (the G-8) which it had finally managed to join.

For the established G-8 members, a larger group would inevitably mean the dilution of their influence, perhaps with growing pressure on European Union members to consolidate their representation.14 For Canada, the incentive to be a founder member would be high since, by many measures, its claim on a “top table” space is diminishing. And for the United States, no amount of institutional tinkering would reduce its predominant position in the short term, but the broader representation in a new body with the ability to make a fresh start on key global issues would provide the Americans with an avenue for re-engaging with a world community which has become suspicious and uncooperative. At the same time, the US would have no interest in simply affording a select group of countries the privilege of lecturing it at close range on its foreign policy shortcomings.

Given the pivotal role which the United States might play, a recurring debate in the workshops concerned whether to concentrate as a first step on convincing the US to embrace the L-20 approach or whether to gather support elsewhere in the hopes that the US would want to join in the end (a variant of the “if you build it, they will come” philosophy). On balance, by the end of the workshop series, the judgment seemed to be that the latter made more sense.15

Finally, by the last workshop in Washington DC, active consideration was being given to options apart from an expanded summit at leaders level based on the G-20 Finance Ministers. Alternative formulations were presented including chairs for smaller, poorer countries, using regions as a vehicle for representation, and using the existing or adapted constituencies in the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund as channels for summit input. Also mentioned was the idea of an enlarged core group of countries composed of the G-8 plus a selected number of emerging market economies (China, India, Brazil and South Africa being the most obvious choices), followed by a “variable geometry” consisting of a half a dozen countries chosen on the basis of the issue or challenge under consideration at a given meeting. This idea merged with another version whereby health ministers might meet in an H-20 (the group of the most critical countries in health governance), and an E-20 might meet on environmental issues composed of a different configuration of countries, and so on. If and when these ministerial forums developed proposals with which only leaders could deal, then summits would be convened with the H-20 or E-20 countries to resolve the outstanding issues.16

Not surprisingly, no agreement emerged from the Washington workshop, and the sense was that issues related to composition would only be clarified when the discussion moved closer to operational reality, at which point a collection of arbitrary, political decisions would be made.17

Possible Agenda Items

By the end of the workshop series, it had become clear that, if an L-20 approach was to proceed, one of the most important factors would be the choice of agenda items for the initial meeting. To a degree, that agenda would be driven by events, but workshop participants generated a number of characteristics which might apply to candidate items.

Participants generally agreed that the topic should be neither too technical (e.g. breaking the agriculture trade impasse or managing financial crises) nor too complex (e.g. reconstructing fragile states). Although issues already being dealt with in other established forums or organizations might in the right circumstances be given impetus, the inclination was not to recommend that leaders take them over. This would probably apply, for example, to the current efforts to reform the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions.

Topics might need to be re-framed to make them as attractive as possible to a broad range of countries (e.g. shifting the emphasis from climate change to energy security) and should be cast as specifically as possible so as to make clear the leaders’ key contribution. Asking leaders to take on large, amorphous subjects such as development assistance or global health would be unhelpful, and the same would apply to long-term problems with few immediate deliverables or solutions. Bringing leaders together to be demonstrably ineffective was unacceptable.

Some workshops came up with long lists of potential undertakings by leaders (e.g. in the climate change, energy security and water fields), but catalogues of this kind would present operational hurdles in terms of effective implementation.18 Others discussed the linking of their subjects to security concerns, usually in an attempt to encourage buy-in by the United States.19 Another, perhaps more benign, form of linkage was the reminder that many potential agenda items could be placed in the context of one or more of the Millennium Development Goals (especially in such areas as science and technology, health, and safe drinking water and sanitation).

At the beginning of the workshop series, in order to identify what topics would make socially and politically attractive agenda items for an L-20 meeting, it was agreed that they should be rated against their ability to meet or provide the following:

Image a value-added initiative that could be agreed upon in a way not likely through other forums or organizations (e.g., G-8 or UN or Bretton Woods agencies);

Image a workable solution – a forward looking, focused suite of actions and promises that offered a win-win-win outcome for L-20 countries;

Image legitimacy through adequate representation, particularly by the United States and the major developing countries; and

Image tangible results with substantial, broad-based benefits, realistic and acceptable financing mechanisms and organizational feasibility.

Once the workshops began, the criteria indicating the “ripeness” and relevance for L-20 engagement were sharpened.

Image Cross-cutting problems. The problem must cut across the traditional “vertical” structures of government. National governments may have invented new organizational structures to address issues that do not fit neatly into monoministerial silos. A high-level governance structure might be valuable in overriding and unblocking bureaucratic obstacles to effective links across these divisions at both national and international levels.

Image The dimensions of other international negotiations. Important related issues are often embedded in high level international negotiations. For example, concerns about national and global security or about global climate change run into questions about poor countries’ access to dual-use or clean technologies owned by rich countries. Also, negotiations about trade in agricultural and food products run into poor countries’ perceptions of their vulnerability to trade barriers arising from stringent technological standards imposed by rich countries.

Image Sustained follow-through. Given the common shortfall between announced aspirations (even commitments) and delivery, there may be a strong case for an L-20 mechanism that would put high-level “weight” behind efforts to achieve concrete action on these plans and proposals.

In the end, after an exhaustive review of possible topics for consideration by an L-20 group, the list of realistic agenda items was quite short:

1. a specific element of international health, possibly management of the avian flu or another pandemic;

2. climate change/energy security; and

3. some aspect of nuclear proliferation.

The rationale for this narrowing down to three possible agenda items (or, more precisely, areas from which agenda items could be drawn) will be described in the next chapter.

Skepticism and Doubt

In an uncertain world, only the naïve and the dangerous lack doubt. The people invited to the project meetings were neither of these, and they brought with them an array of questions and misgivings about the L-20 approach which enlivened the debate and enriched the outcome. Although it is probably fair to say that the majority of participants came away believing that some version of an L-20 could fill a demonstrable gap in the current structure of international institutions, not all did so. It would be misleading not to include some of the more common concerns which arose in the course of the twenty-one meetings.20

Image If the L-20 idea is intended to address issues of legitimacy by including representatives of developing countries at the “top table”, expanding the size of the “oligarchy” only makes it larger, not more legitimate. Smaller, poorer countries will still not be adequately represented.

Image Attempting to deal with “horizontal” aspects of legitimacy by broadening geographic representativeness still leaves the “vertical” concerns unmet. Solving global problems requires a significant degree of democratization, coupled with principled efforts to increase meaningful local decision-making.

Image No matter how cleverly structured, it is very difficult to arrange meetings which allow leaders to “get past” protocol and set piece speeches. Moreover, protocol exists, after all, to level the playing field between principals – not all leaders are equally well endowed intellectually, and some may find a small summit setting threatening.

Image Twenty people are still too many for a sensible conversation.

Image Under current circumstances, it is difficult to imagine enticing the United States to the table and, without the United States, the effort would be pointless.

Image The L-20 would have no legal basis, unlike for example the Security Council. Even if it is true that many, if not most, international institutions are to some degree broken, an L-20 would have no basis on which to attempt to replace them. In the end, the L-20 would be a self-selected club.

To round out this survey of skepticism, it is worth quoting at length the doubts expressed at the Stanford workshop on energy and security, because this thorough listing, although focused on a particular issue area, gives a good sense of the complexities involved in any approach as ambitious as the L-20 project.

Throughout our deliberations we were also mindful that there are many reasons to be skeptical of the L-20 process. Among them:

Image L-20 should not be convened to solve problems that may solve themselves. For example, efforts to counteract the workings of OPEC must realize that OPEC’s effectiveness as a cartel is prone to over-statement, and arguably the price run up in recent years is largely unrelated to OPEC’s work.

Image Governments find it very difficult to look and invest beyond 2–3 years, but investments in most energy projects have amortization periods of 10–25 years.

Image It may be particularly difficult for governments to engage in meaningful coordinated action on oil supply because the decisions at their disposal lead to multiple possible strategies, and depending on the strategy the composition of the L-20 may need to be varied. A strategy to boost investment in spare capacity requires Saudi Arabia’s participation; a strategy to boost investment in alternative supplies would be hampered by Saudi Arabia and other core low-cost oil suppliers.

Image It is difficult for governments to promote and coordinate large R&D projects without them becoming patronage-ridden (e.g., Synfuels). Such problems may particularly hamper efforts to pursue such programs in a coordinated global fashion.

Image Ambitious international R&D programs involve intellectual property issues, which, historically, have proven difficult to resolve. The L-20 could initiate such programs only to find them stalled by such obstacles.

Image The L-20’s role in nuclear power is unclear. The area of greatest potential leverage is proliferation. However, perhaps proliferation is already beyond control, given events in Iran and Korea and likely responses by their neighbors. Moreover, internationalization of the fuel cycle (a topic that has already been floated by others and met much resistance) may be too hard for the L-20. Perhaps a smaller group, if any at all, could make progress.

Image A long list of possible issues—as done earlier this report—does not provide a clear picture of priorities, or clarity on the continuing role the L-20 might play. There are too many areas where the L-20 needs substantive analysis to decide, and where the pros and cons are not fully listed or apparent. 21

Interestingly, despite these concerns, the Stanford workshop concluded that the L-20 approach retained great promise.

The New World of Networks

In addition to doubt, of course, project participants brought ideas to the table, and among the most interesting and potentially transformative was the work on government networks provided by Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Dr. Slaughter prepared one of the background papers for the first project meeting, “Government Networks, World Order, and the G20”. In it she suggested that a fundamental conceptual shift should be contemplated.

Stop imagining the international system as a system of states – unitary entities like billiard balls or black boxes – subject to rules created byinternational institutions that are “apart from” and “above” these states. Start thinking about a world of governments, with all the different institutions that perform the basic functions of governments – legislation, adjudication, implementation – interacting both with each other domestically and also with their foreign and supranational counterparts.22

Slaughter maintains that the crucial actors would remain nation states, but they would be “disaggregated”, relating to each other on a multiplicity of levels. The primary authority would still rest at the national level, except where explicitly delegated. Government officials would participate in many different types of networks, within the country, with counterparts in other countries, and with officials in international organizations.

Much of this “dense web” of networks already exists, improving compliance with international rules, increasing international cooperation and generally acting as “global transmission belts for information”. Slaughter maintains that, if this trend were recognized and reinforced, the networks could improve national institutions through the rapid propagation of best practices, raise standards across the board and act as extremely efficient conduits for technical assistance aimed at capacity-building. She also suggests that networks are well suited to encouraging the kind of inclusive discussion and argument which helps generate high-quality solutions to complex problems, an important aspect of which involves the need for active “buy-in” by the various affected interest groups. Although government networks would still have recourse to state-centred “hard power”, they would also be in a position to mobilize the various components of “soft power” – the power of information, socialization, persuasion and discussion.

On the basis of this analysis, Slaughter proposed that project participants re-imagine the L-20.

It could be a global think tank, a caucus in many existing institutions, a catalyst for networked global governance operating through national government officials. It is a genuinely representative global institution that is small enough and flexible enough to be effective. It could become the steering committee of many of the world’s networks.23

She recognized the potential for the network approach to lead to over-centralized power, a lack of transparency and a reduction in direct accountability. She called for the L-20 to meet these concerns head-on, however, while continuing to focus its efforts on the production of genuine results.

What was striking about the Slaughter thesis was not so much that it was adopted in its entirety, but that it kept re-appearing as the various workshops examined specific subjects as potential L-20 agenda items.24 The network model clearly applied somewhat differently, depending on the issue under discussion, but this alternative way of looking at the world helped re-orient thinking and start new modes of discourse. For this alone, it was a valuable contribution to the ongoing debate.


1 New York, p. 2; San Jose, p. 2.

2 A fine illustration can be found in Margaret MacMillan’s definitive account of the interplay of personalities (especially those of Woodrow Wilson, Georges Clemenceau and David Lloyd George) at the negotiations leading to the Treaty of Versailles in Margaret MacMillan, Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World. Random House, 2002.

3 Alexandria, p. 4.

4 Geneva.

5 New York, p. 4.

6 Maastricht, p. 6; Washington, p. 6.

7 Alexandria, p. 5.

8 See for example San Jose, p. 6.

9 See for example the debate over the possible role of the private sector in providing water services, Alexandria, p. 4.

10 New York, p. 2.

11 Ottawa II, p. 2.

12 For example the question raised at the New York climate change workshop about whether the European Union should be allotted only one seat – given the EU strong support for Kyoto, the number Europeans at the table would obviously skew the discussion of climate change issues. New York, p. 5.

13 A somewhat puzzling sample of the potential misery was the reported French position that they would only be interested in joining if Algeria were a member too.

14 See the chart in Appendix B.

15 At the Princeton workshop on financing global public goods, there was an interesting discussion of the alternative of deliberately tailoring an L-20 agenda to meet the aspirations of a conservative American administration (Princeton II, pp. 3–4) and a related canvassing of “grand bargain” agenda-setting which might result in a trio of subjects appealing to a range of countries, but especially the US. This agenda might include, for example, Iraq reconstruction, over-fishing, and climate change (Princeton II, p. 5).

16 Washington, p. 6.

17 For another version of the idea, see British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s May 26, 2006 article in the “The Globe and Mail” newspaper calling for the G-8 to meet as a matter of course as the “G-8 plus 5”.

18 New York, p. 4; Stanford, p. 6; Alexandria, pp. 6, 7.

19 For example in the health field (San Jose, pp. 4, 5) and during the discussion of financing global public goods (Princeton II, p. 2).

20 See also the list of reasons compiled at the Ottawa “launch meeting” of why an L-20 would not work, Ottawa I, pp. 20–21. These ranged from the impact of domestic politics to simple summit fatigue and the unwillingness of leaders to run the risk of public failure.

21 Stanford, pp. 5–6.

22 Anne-Marie Slaughter, Government Networks, World Order, and the G20. L-20 project paper, 2003,, p. 5.

23 Slaughter op cit., p. 17.

24 See for example the reference to the work of Slaughter and Jean-Francois Rischard, Global Issues Networks: Desperate Times Deserve Innovative Measures, The Washington Quarterly, Winter 2002–03, 26: pp. 17–33, during the discussion of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction at the Livermore workshop (Livermore, p. 3).

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Chapter 8
Making the L-20 a Reality

The L-20 project was always operationally oriented. The consistent motivating factor was a desire to make changes in an international situation which most project participants considered to be increasingly dysfunctional, if not dangerous. To re-state that underlying premise, the world-scale problems facing the global community are outstripping the ability of existing institutions (in many cases, more than 50 years old) to manage them effectively. Moreover, the most important problems no longer fit tidily into Ministerial mandates, issues are increasingly complex and multi-dimensional, and the response-time permitted to governments is shrinking annually. The L-20 approach is based on the conviction that devising ways for government leaders to intervene collectively and personally will make a significant difference in how those issues are addressed and resolved.

As previously stated, project organizers brought together a mix of practitioners, university-based experts and representatives of civil society to clear away the intellectual undergrowth and seek agreement on how and when to proceed with the idea originally given public shape by Paul Martin. During the initial organizing meetings and the subsequent workshop series, participants considered not just possible L-20 configurations and agenda items but also the elements which might be needed to launch the initiative.

The original Smith/Carin paper envisaged two scenarios for initiating an L-20. The first would involve having the sitting G-8 chair invite the G-20 Finance Ministers group to meet at the leaders’ level for a full day as part of a standard G-8 meeting. The second would see a group of countries from inside and outside the G-8 agree to “found” an L-20 independent of the G-8. The composition of this L-20 would not necessarily mirror the G-20 membership, although that might be the simplest way to skirt a dispute over who was entitled to a seat at the table. The paper went on to note that, if the L-20 was to meet more than once, there would be a need for an early harvest of success.1

At the Waterloo meeting in October 2003, the view seemed to be that an incremental approach should be taken, with the G-8 being expanded by the addition of China, India and Brazil.2 Several months later at Bellagio, however, the sense was that the expansion of the G-8 to an L-20 should be even slower, largely because there seemed to be no crisis on the horizon which might justify the establishment of a new, larger group of leaders.3

At the Ottawa launch meeting in February 2004, there was an extended debate between the proponents of moving straight to an L-20 and those who felt that incremental growth based on the G-8 was more practical.4 There was also a related discussion about whether the first L-20 meeting should be planned as a “one-off” event or whether a series of L-20 meetings should be assumed. The conclusion seemed to be that the approach should be event-driven rather than calendar-driven, to take advantage of circumstances as they arose.

At the stocktaking meeting in Ottawa a year later, one such opportunity was actively contemplated. The suggestion was made that the first L-20 meeting should be a low-key affair scheduled around the UN summit in September 2005. The notion was that the agenda should focus on UN reform plus disaster preparedness and a health question (perhaps supplemented by a breaking issue if one was current). This meeting would be informal and minimalist, albeit with a pre-arranged agenda. Despite this target of opportunity in terms of timing, most participants saw the process as driving the topic, not the other way around. In other words, L-20 supporters should not wait for a crisis and then build a body to address it.5

By the end of the workshop series, this view had been adjusted somewhat, although the emphasis on strategic timing remained strong. At the Princeton meeting on global public goods in February 2006, participants stressed the need to have the appropriate homework done so that the L-20 approach could be mobilized in the event of a future crisis.6 Similarly, the next month at Maastricht, participants thought that the key was to have preparatory work available to pull from the inventory and capture the moment.7 So, even though it remained difficult to gauge the precise timing of an L-20 launch (in the event, for example, the UN Summit passed without an L-20 side-bar meeting), the need still seemed clear, and the investment devoted to crafting the elements to be put in place for a successful launch still seemed worthwhile.

Overall, two models for initiating the run-up to the first L-20 meeting emerged from the workshops.

Option 1 – Managing a Crisis

This first model assumed that convincing a collection of 20 or so heads of government that they should add yet another summit meeting to their already crowded calendars simply because of a concern over the state of international decision-making is probably a non-starter. Unless there is a very pressing and immediate reason, the level of interest will be low.

Project participants pointed out that it took the oil crisis following the October 1973 Yom Kippur war and the subsequent recession to convince Finance Ministers from the United States, Germany, Britain, France and later Japan to meet periodically to review international economic and financial developments.8 The next year, French President Valery Giscard-d’Estaing proposed that the “Five” meet at head of state/government level, and the first meeting of what became the G-8 took place at Rambouillet in November 1975.9 Not dissimilarly, as already described, the G-20 Finance Ministers’ group came into existence on the heels of a series of financial crises around the world. The record seems fairly clear that significant institution-building tends to be a response to major events or threats (certainly this was the case in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War).

This evaluation, therefore, suggests that the most likely set of circumstances under which an attempt to convene an initial L-20 meeting would succeed would be in response to a development which has global dimensions and potentially significant economic or social impact. From the beginning of the project, the subject area which seemed to fit most comfortably into this category was health. And, under this general heading, concerns about the ways in which national and international authorities dealt with infectious diseases struck an especially resonant chord.

In his scenario piece prepared for the February 2004 launch meeting, Tim Evans, Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization, outlined three possible areas of L-20 engagement: country or regional health crises; neglected global health priorities; and leadership lacunae. Under the second heading he listed preparedness for infectious epidemics.10 Health emerged from the launch meeting as a probable L-20 agenda item.11 On this basis, the San Jose workshop in November 2004 examined global infectious diseases and adjudged them a very promising topic for leaders to discuss (although participants wanted a balance to be struck between the focus on infectious disease and the broader public health approach to addressing them).12 The February 2005 stocktaking meeting confirmed that the emphasis should be on preventing and/or managing pandemics.13

By the time of the May 2005 workshop in Geneva specifically dealing with pandemics, the focus had been sharpened and the level of alarm ratcheted up. The world had undergone the alarums associated with the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, as the disease originated in Asia and quickly spread to the West, causing hospitals to be quarantined in places as normally “safe” as Toronto. In addition, the threat of avian flu now loomed large.

The potential economic impact of a more serious influenza outbreak was staggering. One of the background papers for the Geneva meeting estimated that even a relatively “minor” influenza pandemic, infecting just 0.5–1.0% of the world population (up to 65 million people), would probably see economic losses run to $1 to 2 trillion per year over a period of 2–3 years (based on current GDP data). This would represent some 5–6% of world GDP. The authors added that even a “small” Asian flu pandemic could lead to losses in Asia’s annual GDP of $150– 200 billion.14

The Geneva workshop concluded that, in general, authorities around the world were unprepared – there were huge gaps in surveillance activities, vaccine stocks were inadequate, and there were drastic medical personnel shortages. Specifically with respect to the avian flu, where the concern centred on the movement of disease from an animal to a human host, participants confirmed that there were no “bridges” between public health and agricultural veterinarian experts, and that veterinarians tended not to be included in surveillance systems.15

So it would seem on the merits of the substance that at least one of the agenda items for an initial L-20 meeting should be “pandemics”, or perhaps more precisely “avian flu”. Moreover, the timing seemed right, with political pressure building on leaders to be seen to be fully engaged with the (apparently) imminent threat of epidemic disease. And even the occasion for an informal first attempt was presenting itself, with all the world leaders scheduled to travel to New York in September for the United Nations’ World Summit. Surely, around the margins of this event, the embryonic L-20 could stir into life.

The story of why this did not occur bears telling, because it illustrates some of the practical difficulties of making change in international practice (especially from the “outside”).

The May 2005 workshop in Geneva was already unusual in terms of who was in the room. In addition to senior officials from the World Health Organization (WHO), a senior official from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) attended. This was a real accomplishment because WHO and FAO officials rarely met, although, to deal with avian flu, a high degree of coordination between officials dealing with animal and human health was clearly called for. Also present were an American Assistant Secretary of Health plus his staff, a senior official from the Indian Council for Medical Research, two senior representatives from the Chinese health ministry (plus the number two from their Geneva mission), and one of the Canada’s Assistant Deputy Ministers of Health. This was a group which, in theory, could make things happen.

At the conclusion of the Geneva workshop, it was agreed that Canada and WHO would jointly draft a paper on the state of global preparedness to deal with the avian flu. The paper would be circulated internationally. The WHO/Canada paper would include options, recommendations and a number of concrete actions which leaders could take. Assuming broad acceptance, the paper might serve as the basis for a breakfast meeting of twenty leaders on the margins of the September UN World Summit in New York. At this stage, the non-governmental organizers of the Geneva meeting, CFGS and CIGI, withdrew.

Canadian authorities considered this proposal, which at one point included a suggestion from WHO that Canada demonstrate its commitment by publicly committing a significant sum to the global effort. At the same time, officials in international organizations and national governments (including Canada’s) continued their consultations on how best to respond to the avian flu threat.

In the end, other standard intergovernmental processes produced sufficient momentum that the L-20 alternative was not seen to be necessary. This, in turn, meant that, from the perspective of the L-20 project, the appropriateness of avian flu as a potential initial agenda item obviously fell away, since the most critical criterion confirmed throughout the workshop discussions was that issues should not be brought to leaders which could be resolved successfully elsewhere.

Instead, on September 14, 2005, in the course of an address to the UN Summit, President Bush announced an “International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza”, which sought to pull together the somewhat scattered initiatives in this field. The next day, Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, chaired a press conference held to elaborate on the various aspects of the Partnership. Reflecting its role in strongly encouraging international coordination, Canada was prominently represented at the event by David Malone, Assistant Deputy Minister for Global Affairs in the Department of Foreign Affairs. He announced that Canada would host a ministerial meeting within the month to discuss the risks of an avian flu epidemic.

On October 24–25, 2005, the Government of Canada duly hosted this meeting, with Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh as the Chair.16 The meeting included delegations from thirty countries and representatives of nine international organizations (the heads of the WHO, the FAO and the World Organization of Animal Health all attended). The outcome was a comprehensive “Ottawa Statement” which catalogued “…key policy priorities and actions that must guide international efforts to prevent, prepare for, and respond to an influenza pandemic”.17 Prime Minister Martin welcomed the delegates, noting that this was the first time that a global gathering of political and technical leaders had been convened to discuss the avian flu threat at the Ministerial level. He went on to state that

… this gathering reflects, in my view, the imperative for a new multilateralism, the collaboration of developed and developing countries with a common interest, to work together toward urgent goals which no one nation can accomplish alone.18

So the specific L-20 mechanism may not have been utilized, but the underlying requirement for effective international coordination which motivated the L-20 approach in the first place was met through other means.

The initiative begun in May in Geneva was only one of many efforts at this time precipitated by the evident and growing avian flu threat. It may not have led to a meeting of world leaders, but it contributed materially to the collective international response to a new and important problem (it was especially useful in bringing together senior WHO and FAO officials at a critical juncture). From that point on, however, the established links among national officials were always going to be decisive in securing government decisions and driving government action.19

The episode points to the limitations of so-called “track two” exercises such as the L-20 project. Traditional, or “track one”, diplomatic initiatives assume an encounter between accredited representatives of sovereign states of the sort which has been practiced by the members of the international community for centuries. It is in this, the formal arena, such as the United Nations General Assembly, where official emissaries engage one another on behalf of their respective states.

Track two diplomacy, on the other hand, has no official standing. While participants in track two initiatives may be government officials, they do not represent any state or government and thus engage one another in their personal capacities. Any conclusions or recommendations emerging from such meetings are in no way binding upon governments, nor are the proceedings of the meetings representative of the position of any state. Governments are, therefore, in the happy position of being able to dismiss conclusions or recommendations they do not like, but free to adopt anything useful which may transpire. Track two diplomacy fills the holes in the long road of formal dialogue by providing a forum for discourse between players and on issues that simply cannot take place at the formal level, but which are needed to advance co-operation and mutual understanding.20

A major challenge for the non-governmental sponsors of track two initiatives is the calculation of when and how to inject their findings and views into the “official” debate over a given issue. In the case of the aftermath of the Geneva workshop, CFGS and CIGI had established effective connections among a broad range of academics, experts, and national and international officials. Moreover, the timing of the workshop was propitious because public pressure for concrete action was rising. In the end, however, there was no guarantee that the workshop’s conclusions would prompt an immediate positive response from government (especially when the issue was pressing and governments were jockeying for position to demonstrate leadership). And, indeed, no L-20 meeting materialized. On the other hand, the ideas from the workshop gained more currency and began to be accepted as part of the standard international discourse on global decision-making. In the business of influencing governments (as in many other human activities), the long view is often the most realistic.

To complete the picture of the possible first model for an L-20 launch, one or two other potential agenda items surfaced in the course of the workshop series. The first of these was the general area of weapons of mass destruction and, particularly, measures to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The second was climate change, reframed to emphasize energy security. Both these topics were very current and conceivably might appeal to a broad range of countries (developed and developing) as being critical. In addition, both (plus pandemics, for that matter) were issues which the U.S. would consider to be priorities.21 In the end, however, participants gravitated towards infectious disease as the most likely trigger for an initial L-20 meeting.

Option 2 – Building a Package

The second model for prompting an L-20 start-up was based on President Eisenhower’s dictum – “if a problem cannot be solved, enlarge it”. Rather than focusing attention on a single agenda item, the approach would be to generate a package of issues for the leaders to deal with. An individual issue might have a zero-sum outcome with outright winners and losers, but the combination of a variety of issues might produce a collection of results, some aspect of which each leader could point to as a “win”. The elements of the package would still depend on circumstances to a degree, but the intention would be deliberately to develop a balance within the suite of measures which would broaden its political appeal.

When workshop participants first started talking about packages, for the most part they were referring to collections of decisions, sometimes quite lengthy, which leaders might take within a given field (for example, agricultural trade, health, climate change, safe drinking water, energy security, or science and technology). As the series went on, participants began discussing the links between issue areas, such as the obvious connection between health and safe drinking water and sanitation.22 The security dimension of various subjects came up, notably with respect to health matters (specifically the bioterrorism/infectious disease link).23 This connection was usually made in the context of a discussion of how best to engage the United States.24

In fact, from the beginning of the project, the notion had been floated of a “grand bargain” across issues which would bring the US back into the tent.25 The issues which might make up the elements of the bargain varied over time as the project moved ahead. In 2003, the speculation was that the combination of the financial area (IMF reform), trade (the Doha Round), and environment might be attractive.26 By 2004, the favoured trio was health, a post-Kyoto climate change regime and water.27 At the February 2005 stocktaking meeting, looking ahead to the September UN World Summit, as mentioned earlier, participants thought that an L-20 timed to coincide with that event in New York might focus on UN reform, disaster response or health, plus whatever breaking issue might surface.28

By the time of the Princeton workshop on financing global public goods (February 2006), the conversation had taken on a decidedly real politik tone, perhaps reflecting the failure of the UN Summit, among other discouraging developments. At that session, there was discussion of re-orienting the agenda of a first L-20 meeting to so as to be congruent with US objectives. The argument was made that only if the Americans saw their national interests directly in play would they be at all interested in coming to the table.29 Accordingly, one suggested agenda formulation included the three issues: global over-fishing, climate change (slanted towards energy security), and collaboration on Iraq reconstruction.30 Later in the workshop, a slightly more generalized approach was floated: to include in the package one “hot button” issue – the avian flu; one issue demonstrating the leaders’ ability to negotiate successfully – a new emissions regime or a breakthrough on agricultural subsidies; and one activity involving long-term cooperation – improvement in the quality of migration statistics.31

The very variety of these putative packages reflected a lack of agreement, even in the abstract, and the size and complexity of the suggested issue areas called into question the practicality of trying to bring three pots to a boil simultaneously. The participants in the last workshop, in Washington, DC in May 2006 were fairly hard-eyed about the prospects for a “grand bargain”, deeming it elusive and unlikely. One of the more experienced practitioners at the table pointed to the reality that, in any event, issues shifted constantly and consequently agendas would have to be pulled together late in the game.32

Perhaps instructively, however, that individual did not then go on to state that the L-20 approach, or indeed the launch model of a “grand bargain/package deal”, should be abandoned. On the contrary, he urged that supporters of the idea work to find a Northern and a Southern leader to act as sponsors, develop materials on key issues so that they were decision-ready, schedule the meeting, and get on with it. In his view, the need for an L-20 or some version of it was manifest – it was the political will which was, for the moment, missing.


1 Barry Carin, Gordon Smith, Making Change Happen at the Global Level. L-20 project paper, 2003,, pp. 29–30.

2 Waterloo, p. 6.

3 Bellagio, p. 4.

4 Ottawa I, p. 13.

5 Ottawa II, p. 2.

6 Princeton II, p. 6.

7 Maastricht, p. 8.

8 The gathering became known as the “Library Group” because its first meeting occurred in the White House Library.

9 For a brief account of the origins of the G-7/8, see Peter I. Hajnal, The G-7 and its Documents. Government Information in Canada, 1:.3.3, 1995, retrieved June 20, 2006 from

10 Tim Evans, The G-20 and Global Public Health. L-20 project paper, 2004,, p. 4.

11 Ottawa I, pp. 7, 24.

12 San Jose, p. 8.

13 Ottawa II, pp. 3, 5.

14 Vanessa Rossi, John Walker, Assessing the Economic Impact and Costs of Flu Pandemics Originating in Asia. L-20 project paper, 2005,, p. 21.

15 Geneva, p. 1.

16 See press release retrieved June 26, 2006 at

17Text retrieved June 26, 2006 from

18 Text retrieved August 4, 2006 from

19 The account of the follow-up to the Geneva workshop is based on personal interviews with workshop organizers and senior WHO and Canadian officials.

20 These descriptions of track one and two diplomacy are taken from material generated as part of the University of British Columbia Faculty of Law’s project on “Managing Potential Conflict in the South China Sea”. Text retrieved June 14, 2006 from

21 Ottawa II, p. 1.

22 Alexandria, p. 8.

23 San Jose, p. 4.

24 Although in the Berlin workshop on fragile states, there was general agreement that the social agenda should definitely not be “securitized”. Berlin, p. 2.

25 Carin and Smith, op cit., p. 21.

26 Carin and Smith, op cit., p. 31.

27 Ottawa I, pp. 24–25.

28 Ottawa II, p. 5.

29 Princeton II, p. 4.

30 Princeton II, p. 5.

31 Princeton II, p. 6.

32 Washington, p. 6.

Chapter 9
L-20 Nuts and Bolts

Given these two models for initiating the run-up to the first L-20 meeting, what would some of the practicalities associated with this new body look like?

Composition – One More Time

The original proposal discussed prior to the workshop series was to invite the countries represented on the existing G-20 Ministers of Finance group (see the chart in Appendix B). This combination brought on board most of the large and economically significant developing countries. Working from an established list had the merit of avoiding a prolonged wrangle over who should be invited. Countries left out might be upset, but at least there was an explanation for who was included.

Once workshops began examining individual subject areas, however, participants had differing views about composition, depending on the subject matter. Participants at the Oxford workshop on agricultural trade thought that the agenda should dictate the make-up and size of the leaders group, and entertained notions of having regional organizations (e.g. ASEAN or the African Union) nominate countries.1 At the Alexandria meeting on safe drinking water, the view was that the L-20 should include the G-20 membership plus Nigeria and Egypt. The Petra workshop also noted that the G-20 under-represented Africa.2 The concept of “flexible geometry” re-surfaced at the Princeton workshop on global public goods and was re-visited at the Washington DC discussion of international institutional reform and global governance. In both cases, the approach was that there should be a core group of 12 (the existing G-8 plus China, India, Brazil and South Africa), which would be supplemented by six or eight other countries, depending on the topic to be discussed.3 It should be noted, however, that in both meetings there were those who thought that having a fixed membership was important, in order to foster the personal relationships which would allow for compromise and encourage breakthroughs.4

Typically, while L-20 project participants laboured away in their workshops, the real world was providing an example of the shape of things to come. Great Britain was the host for the July 2005 Gleneagles Summit of the G-8, and Prime Minister Blair took advantage of the privilege of the Chair to broaden the meeting by inviting five key developing countries – Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa. Not only did the “Five” issue a Joint Declaration at the beginning of the Summit5 but, prior to it, they had worked with the “Eight” to establish a Dialogue on Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainable Development, a commitment to which was enshrined in the Gleneagles Communique.6

In fact, the “G8+5” had been the moving spirit behind a meeting of Energy and Environment Ministers from 20 countries (note the magic number!) in March 2005, as part of the preparations for the Gleneagles Summit. This Energy and Environment Ministerial Roundtable produced the impetus for the Dialogue which Gleneagles itself eventually launched. Just to confirm that “20” does not mean the same thing on all occasions, it is worth noting that the Ministerial Roundtable included Spain, Poland, Nigeria and Iran, while Russia, Argentina, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, all members of the Finance G-20, were left out. The precise membership, of course, is less important than the fact that it was thought useful to bring together a representative group of about twenty countries from North and South to deal with a critical set of issues. In this case, at least, “variable geometry”, complete with a “core group”, seems alive and well.7

By comparison with the view generally held at the beginning of the L-20 project, when the notion was to attempt to establish a twenty-member group from the start, the current consensus seems to have gathered around the idea of starting with a smaller group championed by key sponsoring countries (for example, China and the United States),8 and building on that to address specific issues. In practice, assuming the first meeting is successful, the make-up of the “20” at the following summits may vary considerably, as the subject matter dictates.

Linkages to Existing Institutions

The fact that the G8+5 assumes the expansion of an existing body (the G-8) raises the general question of how an L-20, whether it starts life as a smaller group or moves straight to its larger conformation, manages its linkages with international organizations which already exist. Workshop participants had a range of views.

At Oxford, there was no desire for an L-20 to take over the complicated technical task of managing the Doha Trade Round directly. Instead the idea was that the leaders would provide an impetus to negotiations.9 A similar purely catalytic role for the L-20 was envisaged at Mexico City and Washington DC (with respect to reform of the Bretton Woods institutions), Geneva (with respect to the full panoply of health-related issues dealt with by the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Trade Organization and the IMF/World Bank), Maastricht (with respect to the various international organizations dealing with development assistance), and Victoria (with respect to the Regional Fisheries Management Organizations).10

It is indicative of the prevailing mood that the Gleneagles Communique makes very clear that the newly minted Dialogue on Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainable Development was not designed as a substitute for negotiations on future action in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In the wake of that Summit, the Gleneagles Dialogue Core Script circulated by the UK Government categorically stated –

The UNFCCC is the only place where agreement can be reached on future action.11

For a variety of reasons (notably the generalized unwillingness to spend more taxpayer money on international bureaucrats and the suspicion that institutions have no incentive to solve problems and do themselves out of business), institution-building of the heavy duty kind is not currently fashionable. For most L-20 project participants, the main job for an L-20 would be to make existing institutions work better, not to invent new ones.

All of which being said, at some workshops, including the Alexandria meeting on safe drinking water and sanitation, there was a willingness to contemplate new institutions, specifically, in Alexandria’s case, establishment of a Global Water Agency.12 By comparison, however, and probably more characteristically of the workshop series as a whole, participants discussing fragile states in Berlin maintained emphatically that no new institutions be invented for the purpose of meeting the special needs of those states.13

The body most directly threatened by the L-20 concept, of course, is the G-8 itself. Project participants never reached agreement on whether the L-20 was a useful adjunct to the G-8 (which would continue meeting and developing its own agendas even after the L-20 sprang into being), or its logical successor. As a practical matter, this is probably not a question which requires definitive resolution prior to an initial L-20 meeting, assuming one ever occurs. Prime Minister Blair’s attempt to institutionalize the G8+5 approach, however, gives a noteworthy signal that, as presently constituted, the G-8 simply does not have the representativeness to address global issues in a credible fashion.14

Launch Options and Operating Procedures

When it came to contemplating the circumstances under which the L-20 might be launched, project participants considered both the idea of billing the first meeting as a one-off attempt to deal with a pressing global problem, or as the first of a series. By the end of the workshop series, the former approach had won out, essentially for pragmatic reasons. Even if a series was actually planned, the organization of a single summit was a high enough hurdle in itself. With effectiveness would come the demand for more L-20 meetings. It was noted that even the Rambouillet Summit in 1975 was intended by the French as a unique occasion, and only President Ford’s enthusiasm resulted in the Puerto Rico Summit in 1976, which was followed by the run of annual leaders’ meetings which even now continues as the G-8.15

The assumption throughout the project (perhaps because so many former Sherpas were involved) was that, for an L-20 to come to pass, the good offices of a collection of personal emissaries from the leaders would have to work together to finalize arrangements, including the critical matter of an agenda. With respect to whether the L-20 should have a secretariat, and, if so, of what size and permanence, the overall verdict seemed to be that the administrative overhang should be kept to a minimum.16 In particular, participants (and Paul Martin) wanted leaders to be able to discuss issues directly and frankly with each other, free from programmed position statements. The recurrent (partial) exception to this was the concern that enough organizational memory be generated to ensure that the commitments made by leaders were actually implemented. The report-back function and the attendant benefits of continuity were seen as critical to the usefulness of the L-20.17

Outside Consultation

As discussed in Chapter 5, project participants reached no definitive conclusions about the role of outsiders with respect to L-20 deliberations. Although there was sensitivity about this new grouping being seen to be inward-looking, nontransparent and elitist (and, indeed, according to the Helleiner critique, illegitimate), many participants were wary of opening the L-20 too directly to public pulling and hauling from civil society. Certainly there was no particular appetite to transform the L-20 into some sort of quasi-constituent assembly.

Once more, however, practitioners have moved the discussion ahead by developing a working model for outside consultation, a version of which might eventually be applied to the L-20. On February 24, 2006, an announcement was made in London by GLOBE (Global Legislators Organization for a Balanced Environment) and COM+ (The Alliance for Communicators for Sustainable Development), jointly launching a 3-year dialogue on “Climate change: Looking beyond 2012”, focused on agreeing to alternatives beyond the Kyoto Protocol.18 This dialogue will “shadow” the Gleneagles Dialogue up to the Tokyo Summit in 2008. The first forum of this parallel group met on July 7 and 8, 2006, and its conclusions were conveyed to the G-8 Summit at St. Petersburg later in July.

The Globe/COM+ dialogue draws together legislators from the G-8 countries plus India, China, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Spain and Australia and international business leaders, civil society and opinion leaders. In addition to having the personal endorsement of Tony Blair, this effort is supported by the World Bank, whose Vice-President for Sustainable Development sees the dialogue as “…contributing to the generation of a new space of interaction which will complement the intergovernmental process”. Some of this “space” will consist of at least two annual international forums, as well as specific country forums in China, India and the US. An International Advisory Board will meet twice yearly. The Dialogue Series aims to provide a venue outside international structures for legislators, senior business leaders, civil society, and opinion leaders “…to discuss post-2012 scenarios (when the Kyoto Protocol expires) without the restraint of a formal government negotiating position”. It also expects to generate greater understanding of different country priorities and “…how any future political accommodation could be reached”.

Leaving aside the rather daunting verbiage of the press release, and the exhausting prospect of yet more international meetings, this sort of well-intentioned but elaborate consultative machinery could be adapted to the uses of an L-20. This being said, it might be fairer to all concerned (including the summit leaders) if the pretence of broad inclusion were dropped in favour of the usual forms of civil society input via national governments. The last thing a new L-20 needs is to generate another layer of public cynicism about the “democratic” nature of summits.

Network of Think Tanks

At the beginning of the L-20 process, consideration was given to how best to generate the innovative ideas which a group of leaders might find useful as they tried to break deadlocks and animate moribund international institutions. Building to a degree on Anne-Marie Slaughter’s scenario paper about the importance of networks, the proposal was floated that a network of think tanks from the L-20 countries might provide this kind of policy research capacity for leaders.

At the launch meeting in Ottawa, creation of such a network was proposed; it would contribute to the process without necessarily attending summits.19 This notion reappeared from time to time during the workshop series, including at the Petra meeting in November 2005 on improving official development assistance. There, the suggestion was that, in the event of a successful first L-20 meeting, a small coordinating office would be established. Among other functions, this office could have a pot of resources to commission studies by an L-20 network of think tanks.20

As it turns out, that think tank network has already been set up de facto. CFGS and CIGI were fortunate to have distinguished partners for each of the workshops around the world (see Appendix C) and, as the project has evolved, so have the connections within this group of institutions – from the Global Economic Governance Programme at Oxford University for the first workshop to the Brookings Institution for the last. As the project moves forward to its next incarnation, the embryonic L-20 network of think tanks can be called upon to continue the creative process of proposal, counter-proposal and debate which has animated this search for new ideas in global governance.


1 Oxford, p. 9.

2 Alexandria, p. 8; Petra, p. 5.

3 Princeton II, p. 2; Washington, p. 5.

4 There would of course be a degree of “natural” turnover due to elections and other forms of regime change.

5 Joint Declaration of the Heads of State and/or Government of Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa participating in the G8 Gleneagles Summit Introduction. Retrieved June 24, 2006 from

6 The Gleneagles Communique. Retrieved June 24, 2006 from

7 Judging by his op-ed piece in the May 27, 2006 Globe and Mail newspaper, Prime Minister Blair now believes that the G-8 should meet as the G8+5 on a regular basis as “the norm”.

8 Fairly early in the process, Chinese authorities indicated to Paul Martin that if the U.S. were willing to join an L-20, they (the Chinese) would be prepared to co-host the first meeting with them. Certainly the Chinese have been adamant throughout that they are completely uninterested in being yet another add-on to the G-8. Helping to co-found a new global gathering, however, seems more to their taste.

9 Oxford, p. 10.

10 Mexico City, p. 4; Washington, p. 6; Geneva, p. 1; Maastricht, p. 6; Victoria, p. 5.

11 Gleneagles Dialogue Core Script, September 21, 2005; retrieved June 25, 2006 from

12 Alexandria, p. 5.

13 Berlin, p. 2.

14 The one country which will continue to defend the “unique” character of the G-8 is Russia, which has only just made it into the club. On the other hand, the EU may eventually see the larger L-20 as the only way in which Europe can continue to be over-represented. Finally, the G8 +5 may simply not go far enough because it does not contain a single Islamic country.

15 Only President Ford’s personal friendship with Prime Minister Trudeau (and the former’s desire to lessen the European monopoly of the table) led to Canada’s inclusion at Puerto Rico.

16 An interesting variation on this theme was the outcome of the Alexandria workshop on safe drinking water and sanitation, which envisioned a graduated approach, depending on the scale of the leaders’ plans. At one end there would be a fairly simple secretariat, but at the other end would be the foundation of a free-standing Global Water Agency. Alexandria, p. 11.

17 Princeton II, p. 4, where the precision was made that the L-20 Chair should have a 2 year term, and the past, present and future Chairs should manage the L-20’s business (as a Troika). It should be noted that in the wake of the Halifax Summit in 1995, Canada pioneered the practice of chairing the first post-summit Sherpa meeting as a way of ensuring follow-up. This procedure has been followed ever since.

18 For the text of the press release, retrieved June 26, 2006, see “GLOBE is a network of individual legislators around the world that seeks to educate parliamentarians on environmental issues and promote policies supporting sustainable development.” “The COM+ Alliance is a partnership of international organizations and communications professionals from diverse sectors committed to using communications to advance a vision of sustainable development that integrates its three pillars: economic, social and environmental. By offering a platform to share expertise, develop best practice, and create synergies, COM+ hopes to actively support creative and inspiring communications across the world to bring sustainable development closer to the public.”

19 Ottawa I, p. 32.

20 Petra, p. 6.

Chapter 10
Next Steps

As those engaged in the L-20 project continued their exploration of the possible, the outside world moved inexorably onwards. From 2003, when the project was first designed to respond to Paul Martin’s ideas, to the present (mid-2007), the international context shifted, often in ways directly relevant to the project’s objective of testing a new approach to energizing international decision-making. To try to gauge the impact of these developments and to provide a kind of progress report on the project as a whole, organizers canvassed a panel of sixteen participants to seek their overall judgment on outcomes and prospects.1 This unscientific but instructive sampling provides a logical transition to the final section of this account, which briefly outlines plans for future work.

L-20 in a Changing World

The overriding impression left by the interviews conducted after the conclusion of the workshop series was that the international situation had worsened since 2003. John Sewell2 provided a list of problems to illustrate this trend, including the possible collapse of the Doha Trade Round (now probably a reality), the spread of avian flu, the threat of global financial imbalances triggering a global recession, and the difficult situations involving Iraq and Iran. Mukesh Kapila3 pointed to a very divided world, where business as usual was increasingly unacceptable. Paul Heinbecker4 picked up on the theme of division, particularly in the case of the United Nations, where he thought the atmosphere had never been more sour. Ralph Daley’s view5 was that UN reform had collapsed and, in that regard, he noted the divide between developed and developing countries. Tim Evans6 agreed that the UN had not adapted sufficiently and that a more nimble, capable world body was required. On the other hand, he did not see any serious competitors for the role which the UN should be playing. In organizational terms, Anne-Marie Slaughter7 saw growing recognition that international institutions were broken across the board, while Francisco Sagasti8 characterized existing international structures as cumbersome, flawed and not up to the task. In the specific field of water, Daley reported that global players were claiming that progress was being made, whereas he disagreed and thought that water issues needed to be reenergized. Andres Rozental9 noted as the great imponderable the impact which energy prices might have on the global economy. More generally, Catherine Day10 noted that it was never easier for a single person to cause huge destruction.

On a more positive note, Adil Najam11 reported that the Millenium Development Goals had, somewhat unexpectedly, taken on a life of their own. He and John English12 surmised that a number of world leaders were “in legacy mode”. Maureen O’Neil13 noted the expansion of Chinese and Indian interest in the poorer developing countries, and the overall impact of the emerging economies. A number of the interviewees emphasized the importance of the rise of China. Catherine Day saw the European Union as a body with huge potential power, quite different from that of other international organizations – she suggested that the L-20 might build on the regard in which the EU was held.

Finally, there were mixed views over the role of the United States. Ralph Daley found the evolution of US foreign policy more and more alarming. Paul Heinbecker stated that the invasion of Iraq changed everything, in particular, greatly reducing the willingness of many countries to cooperate with the US. At the same time, David Victor14 thought that the US was somewhat less allergic to multilateralism (largely because it had no choice), and Francisco Sagasti saw a paradoxical situation for the Americans – they were still strongly unilateralist by inclination, but were faced with weaknesses emerging on many fronts which might necessitate more collaborative tactics.

Turning to the project itself, the large majority continued to believe that the L-20 approach had merit and should be moved ahead (not very surprising; most had tended to be supportive from the beginning). Richard Cooper15 remained skeptical, however, in part because he saw it as “… too large a group for real dialogue, building significant personal rapport”. Anne-Marie Slaughter still saw a need for an L-20, but in a somewhat altered form from the original concept (i.e. probably a different group of countries for each meeting, depending on the subject matter). Tim Evans agreed that the number of twenty was not sacred and suggested that the group’s catalytic abilities were potentially its greatest strength. Geoffrey Oldham16 continued to be positive, but with the firm caveat that a good deal of homework was done beforehand. For some (Daley, Kapila, Rozental, Najam, Hein-becker, Sagasti, Victor, Kaul), developments in the last few years have made the idea more relevant than ever.

The panel’s views on the topics which might appear on the first L-20 agenda mirrored those of the workshop participants as a whole. High on the list were health issues (especially avian flu) and energy security, with many suggesting that nuclear proliferation issues might also work. Panelists emphasized, however, that the precise agenda would depend very much on events. Francisco Sagasti provided a useful typology for the three sorts of topics which might be on an initial L-20 agenda. The first set of issues would be of direct interest to the global community, including both developed and developing countries (for example, coping with pandemics or managing natural disasters). From these items would come concrete agreements to take action. The second sort of agenda item would tackle more contentious issues, about which there would be a good exchange of views but probably no specific agreement (for example, energy security, climate change). The third type of agenda item would involve the leaders agreeing that more infor­mation should be generated, possibly by a sub-group of interested countries (for example, impact of the transition to knowledge societies, capacity-building in developing countries).

On the vexed question of how to engage the Americans, the group was divided along fairly standard lines. A number suggested that little progress could be expected for the moment, and most of them saw no reason not to push ahead with an L-20 in any event. Under the circumstances, Inge Kaul17 suggested that former President Clinton be recruited as a “prime mover” in support of the project. Several panelists thought that, with the US running into such difficulties internationally, a properly structured agenda (i.e. one which included an item or two of direct American strategic interest) had a chance of attracting President Bush’s support. As Anne-Marie Slaughter pointed out, however, the exercise would have to be strictly results-oriented to appeal. For many, a group along the lines of an L-20 was probably inevitable, and the US would eventually decide to join in, however grudgingly.18

To sum up, the participants surveyed after the workshop series ending in May 2006 confirmed a number of key points that had already emerged as a result of examining the L-20 proposal in detail.

1. The gaps in global governance which generated the L-20 approach in the first place still exist and are, if anything, worse than in 2003.

2. The L-20 approach, i.e. bringing together a group of world leaders more representative than the G-8 to deal directly with key global issues, is valid and deserves to be acted upon.

3. The workshop series successfully narrowed the focus of the project’s exploration of the approach, both in terms of the possible subjects which leaders might usefully address and in terms of the operational challenges facing L-20 proponents.

4. The time for research and review is over, and the emphasis must shift to practical efforts to launch the first meeting of an L-20 (or an L-20-like body) within the next three years.

The Next Stage – Breaking Global Deadlocks

The Centre for Global Studies is continuing the work necessary to make a broader representative group of leaders a reality. This new phase is concentrating on a limited set of topics (climate change/energy security) and a smaller group of countries (fourteen). This “L-14” is composed of the existing G-8, plus the “Gleneagles 5” mentioned in the previous chapter (Brazil, India, China, South Africa, Mexico), plus a major mid-Eastern country, Egypt.19

The purpose is to investigate whether a well-prepared L-14 meeting could identify a package of potential win-win initiatives in a global problem area that is currently characterized as intractable. The technique employed is to involve former government officials, subject experts, opinion leaders and former senior political figures in a “mock” summit process in order to demonstrate the merits of the approach and encourage those in power to implement it. The intent is to develop an array of pragmatic solutions to the global warming deadlock, using a preparatory process modeled on that which now supports the G-8. This process includes multiple meetings during which political “sherpas” (leaders’ personal representatives from each country) refine the problem being addressed and debate possible solutions. The sherpas’ draft communiqué is in effect a draft “grand bargain”, which forms the basis for eventual discussion and decision by heads of government.

In this case, the Breaking Global Deadlocks summit exercise involves seven preparatory meetings, modeled in part on the G-8 process, leading to a high-profile final wrap-up. The role of the political sherpas is filled by representatives from prestigious and influential think tanks and universities, many of whom actually functioned as sherpas earlier in their careers. CFGS’ partners include CIGI, the Brookings Institution, Tsinghua University, the OECD Secretariat and the Leaders Project (the Gilman Foundation).

The first meeting in the series took place at Tsinghua University in Beijing on December 5–6, 2006. CFGS convened representatives from prestigious and influential think tanks and universities in the L-14 countries. The background material included three notes provided by the OECD Secretariat (on climate change, energy security, and the Doha Round), and papers by Dr. David Victor and Dr. Ted Parson suggesting a framework and elements for a “grand bargain”. The symposium explored the global context, the requisite process characteristics (in this case, process is substance), and the criteria and structure for constructing a global “package deal” around international efforts to mitigate global warming.20

The second meeting took place at Langdon Hall, near Toronto, Canada on January 28–30, 2007. This session, attended by retired G-8 sherpas and their counterparts from other countries in the L-14, focused on a draft “non chair non text” outlining an inventory of potential elements for the grand bargain package. The agenda replicated the proceedings at a summit sherpa meeting – background materials and “national interest” position papers (from the 14 countries) were available as the basis for debating options for inclusion on a summit agenda.

The third meeting occurred in Paris on March 12–13, 2007, hosted by the OECD and chaired by Angel Gurria, OECD Secretary-General. This meeting was conducted under the Chatham House rule; serving officials joined with selected participants from the preceding two meetings to prepare the agenda and briefing materials for a possible Leaders Forum. The meeting narrowed down further the elements for a practicable “grand bargain” package.

Four more preparatory meetings will culminate in the wrap-up meeting in the spring of 2008. Interestingly, even as the focus of the exercise narrows in terms of subject matter and countries participating, several additional factors have emerged (or, more accurately, re-emerged) which must be taken into account if this initiative is to be productive in a real-world setting.

The first of these – the question of how best to ensure that an L-14 leaders group receives credible, consistent intellectual support (apart, of course, from the briefings leaders receive from their own government officials) – was canvassed at a retreat on September 5–6, 2007. A recurrent suggestion (see Chapter 8 above) is that a network of think tanks be established to generate cutting edge research, and even more importantly, to develop a common information base for leaders from very different backgrounds. Leaders need the collective ability to assimilate new information and recognize emerging international patterns of policy and practice, inside and outside government. To ensure a level playing field of facts, policy analysis and differing points of view, this intellectual “value added” must be brought to bear.21

Knowledge mobilization on this scale and for this specific sort of purpose has not yet been systematically attempted, but especially in the climate change field there are several efforts underway to bring expert knowledge and political pragmatism together. These include the ongoing Dialogue on Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainable Development established at the 2005 Gleneagles Summit,22 a scenario building exercise involving both experts and decision-makers being developed by the World Conservation Union,23 a High-Level Task Force to seek a new climate change framework recently organized jointly by the United Nations Foundation and the Club of Madrid,24 and an International/China Economic Forum on Climate Change jointly established by the Stockholm Environment Institute and the Chinese Economists 50 Forum.25 Representatives from all four of these initiatives were included in the September 5–6 meeting.

Another recurring theme, the need to engage with civil society, was also considered at this meeting. To develop practical solutions to real-life problems, the number of people at the decision-making table must be restricted to a number that encourages a meaningful informal conversation. Concerns have repeatedly been expressed, however, about the potentially undemocratic characteristics of any “exclusive” format (see Chapter 5 above), and the credibility of an L-14 probably requires an openness to receiving the views of civil society representatives.26 As a step towards addressing this issue, representatives of prominent non-governmental organizations with a proven research capacity (e.g. the World Conservation Union/IUCN) attended.

The Chair of the September 5–6 meeting discerned the following consensus emerging from the discussion.

Image Dealing with the complex and inter-related climate and energy sets of issues requires decisions that only heads of government can make.

Image It is clear that the G-8 is insufficiently representative to negotiate a deal.

Image But nor will the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change process on its own be sufficient.

Image Therefore, the world needs a leader-driven process more representative and well prepared to deal with the currently effectively deadlocked negotiations.

Image A network of think tanks (and individuals) could be helpful, particularly if it was plugged into, but not a creature of, official climate change negotiations.

Image The network should result in the creation of a “safe space” to push the envelope of the possible.

The second meeting, on September 25, 2007 in New York, is scheduled to coincide with the third international session of the Clinton Global Initiative. At the invitation of former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and former President of Brazil, Fernando Enrique Cardoso, 20–25 international opinion leaders will focus on the unique role that leaders can play in breaking global deadlocks and the need to develop an expanded, more representative international architecture to go beyond the existing G-8 summits.

The third meeting will occur on October 25–26, 2007 and will have a dual focus – the question of how to ensure corporate input and the need for generating greater awareness of summit-related issues in the broader public. The corporate-driven nature of globalization strongly suggests that ignoring the interests and potential contributions of business is simply unrealistic. This is especially the case when attempting to come to grips with climate change/energy security issues.27 At the same time, the defining characteristic of the L-14 approach is that its key participants will be heads of government. The credibility and usefulness of an L-14 requires that corporate buy-in and private sector potential initiatives receive their due weight. Corporate champions must be enrolled while avoiding subservience to a “business agenda”. To address the “public education” aspect, an array of prominent opinion leaders from the broadcasting and print media in the L-14 countries will also participate in the October 2007 meeting. Their presence alone is calculated to give greater currency to the ideas generated by the project as a whole.

The final installment in this four meeting series will return to a subject repeatedly discussed in project workshops – the actual or probable role of the United States. More specifically, this meeting in spring 2008 will look at the matter from the perspective of the upcoming US Presidential election. The plan is to engage a group of knowledgeable American observers of and participants in the political scene (including advisors to the leading Presidential candidates), together with some prominent foreigners, in a debate over the options for US leadership in the international effort to re-make the key institutions of global governance. The timing for such an exchange is ideal. And the stakes are high. After all, the 2006 US National Security Strategy notes that America’s relations with “the main centers of global power”

must be supported by appropriate institutions, regional and global, to make cooperation more permanent, effective, and wide-reaching. Where existing institutions can be reformed to meet new challenges, we, along with our partners, must reform them. Where appropriate institutions do not exist, we, along with our partners, must create them.28

To summarize, the objective of this reality-based series of meetings is to provide a definitive “proof of concept”. The hope is that government officials involved in this exercise will leave it convinced of the merits of the approach and determined to apply it as soon as circumstances permit. At that point, the L-20 (now L-14) idea may finally begin to leave the realm of theory and acquire operational credibility as a technique which can be usefully applied to solving the shifting, complex challenges of global governance in the twenty-first century.

Final Thoughts

It has been some time since kings and queens led their forces into battle personally; George II in 1743 was the last English king to do so.29 More recently, the trend has been for the head of state (and government) to leave war and its less bellicose offshoot, diplomacy, to the professionals.

On occasion, however, circumstances have arisen which called for the direct involvement of government heads or their immediate representatives to resolve international disputes. On three famous occasions, government leaders and their emissaries have been closely engaged in efforts to re-shape the diplomatic map and to chart the route to more stable relations among states. In 1814 and 1815, the Congress of Vienna re-drew Europe’s boundaries in an attempt to establish stability in the wake of years of destructive wars with Napoleonic France. In Paris in 1919, the victors of the First World War met to perform a similar task after the defeat of imperial Germany. And emerging from the Second World War, the allies laid down the new institutional basis for international relations – the Bretton Woods institutions (International Monetary Fund and World Bank) in 1944, the United Nations in 1945, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1947.

Heads of government became personally involved with these three efforts because they concerned issues of the greatest importance to their respective countries. In all three cases, the objective was to re-construct or re-establish a world laid waste by war, famine and disease.

Central to the L-20 project is the contention that in the current circumstances, there are sets of key, deadlocked issues which require the personal intervention of a relatively small group of government leaders to resolve, or at least to move forward. Careful review of the international landscape has revealed that only a few of those issues would benefit from or merit the attention of a new leaders’ forum. Not surprisingly, much of the focus in this regard has turned to threats of potentially monumental proportions – those from climate change, nuclear proliferation, and pandemic disease.

This project represents an act of faith born of experience – that relations among nations have matured to the point that government leaders can come together to play a constructive role before and not just after global catastrophes.


1 The list of participants who agreed to these post-workshop interviews is in Appendix D, together with the six questions they were asked. Sound files containing the interviews are accessible via the L-20 website – remarks attributed to the interviewees are taken from these recordings.

2 Senior Scholar, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington, DC.

3 Senior Advisor, World Health Organization, Departments of Health Action in Crises and HIV/AIDS, Geneva.

4 Director, Centre for Global Relations, Governance and Policy at Wilfrid Laurier University and Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, Waterloo, Canada.

5 Director, United Nations University, International Network on Water, Environment and Health, Hamilton, Canada.

6 Assistant Director General, Evidence and Information for Policy, World Health Organization.

7 Dean, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

8 President, Agenda:PERU.

9 President, Mexican Council on Foreign Relations.

10 Desk Officer for European Union External Relations, Cabinet Office, UK Government.

11 Associate Professor, Tufts University, The Fletcher School.

12 Executive Director, CIGI, Waterloo, Canada.

13 President, International Development Research Centre.

14 Director, Stanford University, Program on Environment and Sustainable Development.

15 Maurits C. Boas Professor of International Economics, Harvard University.

16 Chair of Trustees, Science and Development Network (SciDev).

17 Director, Office of Development Studies, United Nations Development Programme.

18 It will be recalled that former Prime Minister Martin had the opportunity while in office to raise with well over a dozen counterpart heads of government his proposal for an L-20. In a personal interview on August 30, 2006, Mr. Martin confirmed that the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. This response seems to confirm the suspicion of many workshop participants that in the end the United States would see the advantages of joining an L-20 sort of initiative, if not at first, then certainly as it evolved.

19 It should be noted that questions of composition remain vexed. In the particular case of African representation, for example, the presence or absence of Nigeria is bound to occasion debate.

20 Conference materials are at

21Simon Maxwell, Director of the Overseas Development Institute, has written of the need for think tanks to work together across national boundaries if they are to influence policy-making internationally. ODI is helping to pioneer a new way of doing this, using a model known as “policy code-sharing”, following the model of an airline “Star Alliance”. (See

22 See Chapter 9 above.

23 The World Conservation Union is also known by its earlier name, the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources); for a description of its activities, see its website at

24 The Task Force will be chaired by Ricardo Lagos, President of the Club of Madrid (and formerly the President of Chile), and Timothy E. Wirth, President of the UN Foundation, and facilitated by Mohamed El-Ashry, former CEO and Chairman of the Global Environment Facility. The Club of Madrid is an independent organization dedicated to strengthening democracy around the world by drawing on the unique experience and resources of its Members – 66 democratic former heads of state and government (see website at The UN Foundation was created in 1998 to support UN causes and activities. The UN Foundation builds and implements public-private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems and also works to broaden support for the UN through advocacy and public outreach (see website at

25 See the SEI website at

26CFGS has undertaken a research activity aimed at increasing the effectiveness, accountability, inclusivity and credibility of decisions made in intergovernmental forums through more effective articulation of civil society information and positions. This research focuses on the means to enhance the influence of civil society, particularly in informal global decision-making forums, such as summits. A key question is how civil society can develop a process to form the largest possible coalition, reach a coordinated position and be represented by a single spokesperson. (See

27 Recall, for example, Dupont’s change in attitude which led to the success of the 1989 Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer.

28 The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, 2006 Washington DC, 2006. Retrieved April 3, 2007, from the White House website at

29 At the Battle of Dettingen during the War of the Spanish Succession.

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Chapter 11
Back to the Horsemen

Albrecht Durer produced his Apocalypse series of fifteen woodcuts at a time of significant change in Europe. The Spanish and the Portuguese were discovering new lands to the south and west. The Turks were invading Europe from the south and east. New ideas were erupting from the towns in northern Italy and the Lowlands. The comforting certainties of medieval life, with its celebration of order and Christian unity (however different the experience of reality might have been), were giving way to spiritual doubt and ultimately to schism and war. Martin Luther would not challenge the Church Universal until 1517 but, in northern Germany in 1498, the movement towards developing a personal relationship with God separate from the discipline of priest and bishop was well under way.

Durer’s series was originally published in both a Latin and a German edition, and the vivid woodcuts themselves delivered their message even to those who could not read. In a fascinating preview of later communications revolutions, “Durer was operating under the assumption that products of the printing press – reproducible statements – make the most profit by appealing to the largest cross-section: literate, semi-literate, and illiterate audiences.”1 In addition to faithfully reflecting the Millenarian panic sweeping northern Germany (many were convinced that the year 1500 would mark the end of the world), Durer was adapting quickly to the stirrings of capitalism. In fact, the Apocalypse was the first book to be published by an artist as an independent commercial project.

Durer’s Apocalypse was an artistic and commercial success. It tapped into some of the most deep-seated anxieties of a disordered time. His woodcuts gave form to nameless fears but ultimately provided reassurance in the face of apparent chaos.

The L-20 project’s ambitions were considerably less exalted than Durer’s, but sought to come to grips with many of the same concerns. It is not only the experts on international affairs who feel that events are running out of control and that the multilateral structures laboriously built up over the past 60 years are not up to the task of managing issues of war, famine, climate change and disease. Ordinary people all over the world sense the loss of normalcy, and too many have had direct experience of the results of systems breakdown.

And yet, the positive signs are there as well, and the L-20 project participants would hardly have undertaken their work over the past three years if they did not have a reasonable expectation of hope. The outcomes of the L-20 project represent only a step in seeking new answers to the puzzles of global governance, but enough progress has been made to warrant a further investment of ingenuity and hard work.

In the meantime, Durer’s Horsemen are still out there, circling – reminding the modern world that the chaos of earlier times is never all that far away.


1 Sandra Seekins, The Apocalypse. In: On the Eve of the Reformation: The Graphic Art of Albrecht Durer, Victoria, 1993, p. 34.

Globalization and Summit Reform:
A Leader’s View

The Right Honourable Paul Martin

As an early supporter of the global public policy development known as the L-20 project, I am pleased to have the opportunity to add my own comments based on personal experience.

As many readers may know (or guess), international meetings vary widely in terms of how well they function. Even the best organized Summits, especially those with multiple heads of government present, are difficult to launch on time. There are delegations to seat, papers to distribute and water jugs to fill. A busy hum usually fills the hall.

But for every meeting, there comes the moment when a hush falls over the room. That’s when the most important leader enters it. That hush can be most instructive. In this regard, no player is more important than the President of the United States, but increasingly the ability to create that hush is being shared. This is but symbolic of what we all instinctively know.

The simple fact is that great economic or military power begets proportionate international influence, and brings with it significant responsibility for the well-being of the global community. And in the highly interdependent circumstances of rapid globalization, the effective exercise of this responsibility by the most powerful countries directly affects not just them but all of us.

So my first reflection on the L-20 project as it has developed so far has to do with the nature of power, and the question of which countries are likely to wield it in the years to come. We stand at the brink of a period of significant change when it comes to the balance of global influence. The impetus for this change comes from a number of quarters.

First, since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the ascendancy of the United States and its allies, it has become apparent that military paramountcy alone is insufficient to ensure that a country’s foreign policy goals will be met.

Second, from an economic perspective, the number of key players is multiplying, especially given the startling and welcome progress by China and India. The phenomenon of globalization may have had its roots in the fertile commercial soil of a dynamic American economy, but its extension across the world has inevitably brought with it the development of significant partners and rivals. As international markets in trade and investment become freer, the less likely it is that a single country will dominate them.

All of which is to suggest strongly that within the next few decades the United States will be joined by others at the pinnacle of power. In addition to the Europeans and the Japanese, they will be joined by China, India, Russia and Brazil, with possibly a South-East Asian trading bloc close behind.

And even if only a partial transition to multi-polarity occurs, we face a significant institutional challenge, because for the moment there is no effective framework within which this broader distribution of power can be contained, managed and mobilized for the common good of humankind.

This is the fundamental reason why the L-20 is needed – we need a body that can form the consensus required to deal on a timely basis with issues of all kinds that have global repercussions.

In particular, the world needs to continuously round off the hard edges of globalization. We need to make globalization work for all. This is not simply the responsibility of the United Nations or its system of institutions. It is the responsibility of national governments – all of whom, one way or the other, despite their vast differences in circumstances, are dealing country by country with many of the same issues.

The practical reality is that issues of growth, trade and aid on the one hand, and environment and poverty on the other hand, require a level of international coordination that is fundamentally different today from any preceding period of history. And while successful international institutions are essential if the world is to work, national governments are the masters of those very institutions - not the other way around.

Which is where the L-20 comes in. Meetings of a select group of national leaders to deal with deadlocked global issues which only they have the ability to move forward would in my view represent an important first step in making the framework for international decision-making more effective, while not detracting from the strengths of existing bodies.

Indeed, given its potential to break deadlocks in contentious areas, I believe the L-20 would be an invaluable ally of the UN, for example. I am not alone in believing this. The High Level Panel of Eminent Persons appointed to advise members of the United Nations on necessary reforms in the lead-up to the Millennium +5 Summit specifically recommended that an informal caucus of leaders, styled in the character of an L-20, be created outside and independent of the UN to serve as its catalyst and conscience for achieving results.

In terms of most of the important questions today, answers will only be found if national capitals engage one another directly. Thus, the L-20 should be results-oriented, focusing only on those issues where core political leadership is needed to move the world forward.

My own conception of how an L-20 group might be constituted may differ somewhat from the views expressed by some participants in the course of the project workshops. The fundamental criteria for L-20 membership, I believe, are as follows: first, the countries chosen must include the G-8 and other leading economies; second, they must possess the requisite social and political stability; and fi­nally, the major regional powers regardless of economic ranking should be included. A group of this sort will be effective only if the most powerful countries on a regional basis are represented at the table.

To take a practical example in the case of Africa, this would probably mean that South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt would be members. Although it could be argued that countries in other parts of the world might deserve to come ahead of any one of them in terms of relative Gross Domestic Product, no others would match them in terms of relative geo-political clout within their own region. This would be even more true in the case of Egypt, which meets the added requirement of ensuring appropriate representation from Islamic countries.

The issue of who sits at an L-20 table brings with it, of course, concerns about legitimacy. An informal meeting of this sort is by definition self-selected. The heads of government represent only the key nation states on a region-by-region basis, and the whole enterprise is far from an exercise in direct democracy. Despite the heartfelt concerns of academics such as Gerry Helleiner and Michael Zurn, I believe that this approach is the only practical way forward. In this regard as in many others, the L-20 is a way station on the road to more effective global institutions. Keeping in mind the need to “test-fly” new international mechanisms, we cannot afford to make the perfect the enemy of the good.

In terms of numbers, the simple truth is that about twenty people in a room is probably a reasonable estimate for a group attempting to tackle highly political, cross-sectoral problems. Much larger, and a real conversation is impossible; very much smaller, and meaningful regional representation is difficult. In my view, however, exact adherence to the number twenty is much less important than achieving credible regional representativeness.

On the basis of my experience with the G-20 Finance Ministers and the G-8 Summits, a critical factor is the network of personal relationships which small groups of politicians can build up over time. The better you know the person across the table, the better you are able to make the accommodations needed for generating progress on a given set of issues.

Certainly the personal element is absolutely necessary if peer pressure is to be brought to bear and serious political risks taken – and make no mistake, the resolution of difficult problems requires the willingness to take a chance. After all, if the issues were straightforward, presumably they would not reach leaders for decision. Only leaders can take the leap of faith – the kind of calculated risk, the breaking of an established precedent – that can lead to real progress. Officials can bridge gaps, but only leaders can jump gaps.

Nor are leaders immune to the human tendency of failing to understand where the other side is coming from because of cultural differences – in English, the concept is described as “ships passing in the night”. The only answer to the misunderstandings that can occur because of this is for the differences to be put on the table. For leaders, that table can be set by the L-20.

For these reasons, I am not in favour of the “variable geometry” proposal, which calls for a different combination of leaders to deal with different topics. The elusive personal chemistry which will ultimately drive positive outcomes can only be conjured up if the same people meet repeatedly (subject, of course, to the exigencies of each country’s electoral system). Inviting countries for part of a meeting only, as is the case of the G8 +5, or on a rotation basis, may work in other fora or it may be good showmanship, but it won’t work in the context of leaders driving to a solution.

What is needed for successful international dialogue is the kind of familiarity, the recognition that only comes from people who have met often as a group, who know they will continue to meet in the future and who know the dynamics of the room. That’s what happens at the G-8; it’s what happens at the G-20; and it’s what should happen at the L-20.

As well, it is important to emphasize that an L-20 would not be any sort of “constituent assembly”, so the direct presence of civil society delegates is not the way to go. Each leader can and should be held accountable in this regard by way of the established processes for consultation which each government has developed with its own civil society.

Finally, I would like to address what I regard as a central conundrum which L-20 project participants tried to grapple with – the greater ambivalence of the United States to the concept as compared to other members of the G-20. Here I have one key point to make, based essentially on my earlier characterization of our era as one in which we are moving inexorably away from uni-polarity and towards an international order with multiple centres of economic power.

My view is that the United States will never have a better opportunity than the present to shape the institutional arrangements which will govern the future multi-polar world. The longer the U.S. delays its investment in new approaches to working with emerging regional powers, the more difficult the inevitable bargaining will be and the less influence it will have.

And specifically with respect to the L-20 project, my further view is that full American engagement in the work flowing from this project could provide them with important advantages in the collective task of laying the foundations for innovation and change in a rapidly evolving global environment. Based on the way in which the United States has always risen to meet its international responsibilities, I am confident that Americans will take on this challenge.

In this regard, I was pleased to see that there will in fact be a “next stage” which aims to enlist former government leaders in a “proof of concept” replication of how a leaders’ group might work in practice. In addition to this valuable initiative, I would hope that the network of experts and think tanks from around the world which has collaborated over the past three years will continue to work together on this and other key issues. As Anne-Marie Slaughter’s insightful observations suggest, it is the network form as reflected in the L-20 which is likely best suited to address the governance challenges of the twenty-first century.

In conclusion, let me simply emphasize my belief that it would be a serious mistake to delay significant reform of global decision-making any further. The problems of globalization are too immediate, its benefits too great, for us to wait. The world beyond the G-8 wants in. They are going to get their wish. The question is – are they going to get it in a way that is constructive, or will the transformation come about in a way that leaves lasting resentment?

I believe the L-20 is part of the positive answer to that question.

October 2, 2006

Appendix A
Project Meetings





October 26–27, 2003

Waterloo, Canada

Scoping meeting


December 9–11, 2003

Bellagio, Italy

Scoping meeting


February 29, 2004

Ottawa, Canada

Launch meeting

Ottawa I

June 8–9, 2004

Oxford, UK

Agricultural Subsidies & the WTO


September 20–21, 2004

New York, USA

Post-Kyoto Architecture: Climate Policy

New York

November 11–13, 2004

San Jose, Costa Rica

Infectious Diseases & Global Health

San Jose

December 1–2, 2004

Alexandria, Egypt

Safe Drinking Water & Sanitation


December 12–14, 2004

Princeton, USA

Nexus of Terrorism & WMD – Developing a Consensus

Princeton I

January 29–30, 2005

Mexico City, Mexico

Financial crises

Mexico City

February 20, 2005


Stocktaking meeting

Ottawa II

May 12, 2005

Brussels, Belgium

New Multilateralism


May 16, 2005

Geneva, Switzerland



May 18, 2005

Berlin, Germany

Fragile States


May 23, 2005

Tokyo, Japan

UN Reform


October 13–14, 2005

Stanford, USA

Energy Security


October 30–31, 2005

Victoria, Canada

International Fisheries Governance


November 10–11, 2005

Petra, Jordan

Improving Official Development Assistance


January 20–21, 2006

Livermore, USA

New Perspectives on Regimes to Control WMD


February 26–27, 2006

Princeton, USA

Financing Global Public Goods

Princeton II

March 7–8, 2006

Maastricht, The Netherlands

Furthering Science & Technology for Development


May 4–5, 2006

Washington, DC, USA

International Institutional Reform


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Appendix B
L-20 Composition Options


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Appendix C
Project Funders and Meeting Hosts


Image International Development Research Centre

Image Charles Stewart Mott Foundation

Image Centre for International Governance Innovation

Image Canadian International Development Agency

Image Environment Canada

Image Foreign Affairs Canada

Image Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Image United Nations University

Image Princeton University





Centre for International Governance Innovation


Centre for Global Studies


International Development Research Centre


The Global Economic Governance Program, Oxford University

New York

Council on Foreign Relations

San Jose, Costa Rica

University for Peace

Alexandria, Egypt

Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Affairs; United Nations University International Network on Water, Environment and Health


Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University

Mexico City

ITAM – Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo de Mexico


International Development Research Centre


Mission of Canada to the European Union


World Health Organization


Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik


United Nations University


Program on Energy and Sustainable Development, Stanford University


University of Victoria


United Nations University – International Leadership Institute

Livermore, USA

Center for Global Security Research


Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University


United Nations University Institute for New Technologies

Washington, DC

The Brookings Institution

Appendix D
Post-Workshop Interviews




Catherine Day

Desk Officer for European Union External Relations, Cabinet Office, UK Government

May 19, 2006

John Sewell

Senior Scholar, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington, DC

May 25, 2006

Geoffrey Oldham

Chair of Trustees, Science and Development Network (SciDev), UK

May 25, 2006

Inge Kaul

Director, Office of Development Studies, United Nations Development Programme

May 25, 2006

Mukesh Kapila

Senior Advisor, Crises and HIV/AIDS, Departments of Health Action in Crises & HIV/AIDS, World Health Organization

June 6, 2006

Ralph Daley

Director, United Nations University, International Network on Water, Environment & Health, Hamilton, Canada

June 6, 2006

Andres Rozental

President, Mexican Council on Foreign Relations

June 9, 2006

Adil Najam

Associate Professor, Tufts University, The Fletcher School

June 12, 2006

Richard Cooper

Maurits C Boas Professor of International Economics, Harvard University

June 13, 2006

Anne-Marie Slaughter

Dean, Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs, Princeton University

June 14, 2006

Paul Heinbecker

Director, Centre for Global Relations, Governance & Policy, Wilfrid Laurier University; Senior Research Fellow, Centre for International Governance Innovation, Waterloo, Canada

June 14, 2006

Maureen O’Neil

President, International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada

June 15, 2006

John English

Executive Director, Centre for International Governance Innovation, Waterloo, Canada

June 15, 2006

Francisco Sagasti

President, Agenda: Peru

June 16, 2006

David Victor

Director, Stanford University, Program on Environment and Sustainable Development

June 19, 2006

Tim Evans

Assistant Director General, Evidence & Information for Policy, World Health Organization

July 5, 2006

Interview Questions

Just by way of a quick reminder about the basis for the L-20 project, you will recall that the project rested on several premises. First, existing international institutions and processes have proven themselves incapable of making globalization more equitable or of resolving deadlocks over a series of critical issues closely related to globalization. Second, Government Leaders have a unique and indispensable role to play in addressing these pressing global issues. Third, a new Leaders-level forum based on the success of the existing G-20 Finance Ministers group could be the vehicle for making significant progress in resolving these problems.

With this background in mind, we would like you to reflect on the following questions.

1. In light of the discussions you participated in, do you believe that the L-20 approach or some variant of it (see attached chart for composition options) has value and should be attempted?

2. What operational steps should be taken to launch an L-20 group (e.g. beginning with a single meeting on a particular subject or committing to a regular series), and in what timeframe (e.g. as required or annual)? In particular, how should the United States be encouraged to participate in the L-20 approach?

3. What agenda item(s) should the first L-20 meeting(s) address?

4. What key international developments or trends have appeared during the period of the project (2003–2006) which might materially alter the usefulness or focus of an L-20 group?

Turning to the project itself, we would value your reaction to the following questions.

1. Was the general format for the project productive, both in terms of the range of participants and the subjects covered?

2. What suggestions would you have for future projects of this kind?



Association of South-East Asian Nations – established on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok by the five original Member Countries – Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Brunei Darussalam joined on 8 January 1984, Vietnam on 28 July 1995, Lao PDR and Myanmar on 23 July 1997, and Cambodia on 30 April 1999. The ASEAN region has a population of about 500 million, a total area of 4.5 million square kilometers, a combined gross domestic product of almost US$ 700 billion, and a total trade of about US$ 850 billion. The ASEAN Declaration states that the aims and purposes of the Association are: (1) to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region and (2) to promote regional peace and stability through abiding respect for justice and the rule of law in the relationship among countries in the region and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter.


Acronym for Brazil, India, China, South Africa, Mexico - the major regional economic powers outside the G-8 (see also Gleneagles 5).


European Union – a supranational and intergovernmental union of 27 European states; established in 1992 by the Maastricht Treaty, as the successor to the six-member European Economic Community founded in 1957. The EU is the largest economic entity and one of the largest political entities in the world, with 493 million people and a nominal GDP of US$ 13.5 trillion. The Union is a single market with a common trade policy. In 2002, it introduced a single currency, the euro, which has been adopted by 13 member states.


Food and Agriculture Organization – the UN agency which leads international efforts to defeat hunger. Serving both developed and developing countries, FAO acts as a neutral forum where all nations meet as equals to negotiate agreements and debate policy. FAO is also a source of knowledge and information. Since its founding in 1945, it has focused special attention on developing rural areas, home to 70 percent of the world’s poor and hungry people.


Group of Eight – France, USA, UK, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada, Russia – annual meetings of the government leaders of the leading industrial countries; began in 1975 as six, and were joined by Canada the next year; joined by Russia as full member in 2006; meetings also attended by the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council.

Gleneagles 5

Brazil, India, China, South Africa, Mexico – so-called because they were invited as a group to participate in the G-8 Summit in Gleneagles, Scotland in July 2005 (see also BRICSAM).


International Monetary Fund – international organization of 185 member countries. It was established in 1945 to promote international monetary cooperation, exchange stability, and orderly exchange arrangements; to foster economic growth and high levels of employment; and to provide temporary financial assistance to countries to help ease balance of payments adjustment.


North Atlantic Treaty Organisation – a military alliance of 26 countries from North America and Europe; established April 4, 1949 to counter the security threat from the USSR.


Official Development Assistance – flows of official financing administered with the promotion of the economic development and welfare of developing countries as the main objective, and which are concessional in character with a grant element of at least 25 percent (using a fixed 10 percent rate of discount). By convention, ODA flows comprise contributions of donor government agencies, at all levels, to developing countries (“bilateral ODA”) and to multilateral institutions. ODA receipts comprise disbursements by bilateral donors and multilateral institutions. Source: – OECD, Glossary of Statistical Terms.


Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – established in 1948, the OECD groups 30 member countries sharing a commitment to democratic government and the market economy. Best known for its publications and its statistics, its work covers economic and social issues from macroeconomics, to trade, education, development and science and innovation. It seeks to ensure the sustainable economic prosperity of its members and non-members through the advancement and dissemination of best market economic, social and democratic practices.


United Nations – The name “United Nations”, coined by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was first used in the “Declaration by United Nations” of 1 January 1942, during the Second World War, when representatives of 26 nations pledged their governments to continue fighting together against the Axis Powers. In 1945, representatives of 50 countries met in San Francisco at the United Nations Conference on International Organization to draw up the United Nations Charter. Those delegates deliberated on the basis of proposals worked out by the representatives of China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States at Dumbarton Oaks, United States, in August-October 1944. The Charter was signed on 26 June 1945 by the representatives of the 50 countries. Poland, which was not represented at the Conference, signed it later and became one of the original 51 member states. The United Nations officially came into existence on 24 October 1945, when the Charter had been ratified by China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and a majority of other signatories. The UN now has 192 Member States.


United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – sets an overall framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle the challenge posed by climate change. It recognizes that the climate system is a shared resource whose stability can be affected by industrial and other emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The Convention enjoys near universal membership, with 189 countries having ratified. The Convention entered into force on 21 March 1994. An addition to the treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, which has more powerful (and legally binding) measures, was concluded in 1997 and came into force February 16, 2006.


World Health Organization – the UN specialized agency for health, established on 7 April 1948. WHO’s objective, as set out in its Constitution, is the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health. Health is defined in WHO’s Constitution as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.


Weapons of Mass Destruction – generally considered as including three categories of weapon – chemical, biological and nuclear.

World Bank

Not a bank in the common sense, it is made up of two unique development institutions owned by 185 member countries – the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA). Each institution plays a different but supportive role in the Bank’s mission of global poverty reduction and the improvement of living standards. The IBRD focuses on middle income and creditworthy poor countries, while IDA focuses on the poorest countries in the world. Together they provide low-interest loans, interest-free credit and grants to developing countries for education, health, infrastructure, communications and many other purposes. Originally established in 1944.


World Trade Organization – established in 1995 as the successor organization to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (originally set up in 1948). WTO deals with the rules of trade between nations at a global or near-global level. It provides a forum through which governments can negotiate trade agreements and a place where they can settle trade disputes. It operates a system of trade rules and encourages the liberalization of international trade.


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Agenda items, 2, 17, 18, 20, 22, 24, 27, 28, 30, 31, 45, 54–55, 58, 61, 63, 64, 66, 76

Agricultural subsidies, 10, 19, 20, 67

Agricultural trade, 16, 20, 24, 40, 43, 45, 66, 69

Alexandria, Egypt, 19, 21, 40, 43, 50, 69, 71

Annan, Kofi, 8, 25

Arria Formula, 44, 49, 50

Bellagio, 16, 40, 43

Berlin, 1, 25, 26, 27, 71, 87

Blair, Tony (Prime Minister) 59, 69, 71, 72, 74

Brazil, 1, 3, 15, 41, 47, 53–54, 61, 69, 72, 77, 80, 88

Breaking Global Deadlocks, 77–80

Brussels, 25, 26

Buira, Ariel, 17–18

Bush, George W., 10, 33, 34–35, 64, 77

Canada, 2–4, 8, 9, 13, 21, 26, 28, 53, 64, 65, 74, 78

Carin, Barry, 8, 11, 15, 40, 42, 61

Centre for Global Studies (CFGS), 4, 7, 19, 26, 64–65, 73, 77, 78

Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), 4, 7, 19, 26, 64–65, 73, 78

Chatham House rule, 20, 78

China, 3, 15, 41, 47, 53, 54, 61, 69–70, 72, 74, 76, 77, 79, 87, 88

Civil society, 18, 23, 26, 43–45, 49, 61, 72–73, 79, 83, 90

Climate change, 2, 8, 15, 17–18, 20–21, 24, 27, 28, 40, 45, 46, 48, 54–55, 59, 66–67, 70, 72, 76, 77–78, 80, 81, 85

Clinton, Bill, 1, 39–40, 77

Conceicao, Pedro, 30

Cooper, Richard, 76

Daley, Ralph, 75, 76

Davos, 23

Day, Catherine, 76

de Rato, Rodrigo, 9

Dobriansky, Paula, 64

Dodge, David, 9

Doha Round, 10, 20, 67, 70, 75, 78

Dosanjh, Ujjal, 65

Durer, Albrecht, 85–86

Egypt, 19, 21, 53, 69, 77, 89

Energy security, 19, 20, 25

English, John, 4, 76, 98

European Union (EU), 3, 10, 53, 59, 74, 76

Evans, Tim, 17, 63, 75, 76

Financial crises, 1, 2, 3, 22, 24, 40, 54, 62

Fisheries, 25, 28, 32, 40, 70

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 21, 26, 64–65, 70

Fragile states, 25–27, 45, 54, 68, 71

G-7, 2, 3, 11, 15, 18, 23, 32, 41–42, 49, 68

G-7 Summit, 2, 23

G-8, 3, 7–8, 44, 52, 53, 54, 55, 59, 61, 62, 69, 70, 71, 72, 74, 77–80, 88–89, 90

G8+5, 70, 71, 74

G-20, 2–4, 8, 10, 15, 23, 24, 42, 49, 53, 61, 62, 69–70, 89–90, 98

G-24, 18, 42

Geneva, 25, 26, 40, 63, 64, 65, 70

Gleneagles, 69, 70, 71, 72, 76, 77, 79

Gleneagles Summit, 69, 70, 74, 79

Global governance, 7, 12, 16, 23, 33–37, 39, 42, 48, 58, 69, 73, 77, 80, 85

Globalization, 1, 2, 7, 9, 10, 15, 17, 23, 39–41, 44, 47, 48, 80, 87–90

Global public goods, 25, 29, 30, 35, 44, 45, 46–47, 52, 59, 62, 67, 69

GLOBE/COM+, 44, 72

Grand bargain, 35, 59, 66, 67, 78

Gurria, Angel, 78

Health, 2, 17, 21, 24, 26, 39, 43, 45, 47, 51–52, 54–55, 62–67, 70, 76

Heinbecker, Paul, 18, 75, 76

Helleiner, Gerry, 42, 49, 72, 89

Helsinki Process on Globalization and Democracy, 23

Hormats, Robert, 23

Human security, 17

India, 3, 15, 41, 47, 53–54, 61, 69, 72, 74, 77, 87–88

Indonesia, 1, 3, 53

Infectious disease, 2, 8, 21, 24, 26, 35, 43, 63, 66

Intellectual property rights, 35, 47, 48

International Fisheries Governance, 25, 28

International Monetary Fund (IMF), 3, 7, 9, 10, 18, 36, 41, 53, 67, 70, 81

Iraq, 1, 30, 34, 59, 67, 75, 76

James, Paul, 17, 49

Jordan, Petra, 25, 28

Kapila, Mukesh, 75, 76

Kaul, Inge, 30, 77

King, Mervyn, 9

L-14, 77–80

L-20, 1–4, 8, 9, 13, 15–22, 23–32, 33–37, 39–46, 49, 51, 52–54, 55–59, 61–74, 75–77, 80–82, 85, 87–90

Lamy, Pascal, 10

Langdon Hall, 78

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, 29

Leader, 1–4, 11–12, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21–22, 23, 26, 27–30, 33, 34, 36, 40, 43–47, 51–54, 56, 59, 61, 63–67, 69–74, 76, 80–81, 87–90

Legitimacy, 9, 10, 18–19, 29, 36, 39–48, 49, 55, 56, 89

Maastricht, 25, 30–31, 45, 47, 62, 70

Malone, David, 64

Martin, Paul, 2–4, 7, 8, 11–12, 15–16, 23–24, 39, 40, 42, 51, 61, 65, 72, 74, 75, 80, 82, 85, 87–90

Membership, 3, 8–9, 16, 24, 29, 41, 49, 53, 61, 69, 70, 88

Mexico City, 19, 22, 40, 70

Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), 25–26, 76

Najam, Adil, 76

National Security Strategy, 33, 34, 80

Networks, 29, 33, 57–58, 73, 74, 79, 89, 90

Network of think tanks, 19, 73, 79

New York, 19, 33, 40, 50, 63–64, 67, 79

Nigeria, 53, 69, 70, 82, 89

Nuclear proliferation, 55, 76, 81

Official Development Assistance (ODA), 25, 28–29, 35, 45, 73

Oldham, Geoffrey, 76

O’Neill, Jim, 23

O’Neil, Maureen, 76

Oxford, 17, 19, 20, 40, 43, 69, 70

Pandemics, 19, 24, 25, 26, 28, 40, 63, 66, 76

Parson, Ted, 78

Partnership 21 (P21), 23

Petra, 25, 28, 29, 32, 45, 69, 73

Princeton, 19, 21, 25, 29, 35, 44, 45, 46, 52, 57, 59, 62, 67, 69, 74

Princeton University, 29, 57

Rajan, Raghuram, 9

Role of leaders, 11–12

Rosenau, James, 7, 48

Rozental, Andres, 75–76

Russia, 1, 3, 53, 70, 74, 88

Safe drinking water and sanitation (SDS), 18, 19, 21, 35, 40, 43, 50, 52, 54, 66, 71, 74

Sagasti, Francisco, 50, 75, 76

San Jose, Costa Rica, 19, 21, 43, 50, 63

Saudi Arabia, 3, 53, 57, 70

Schwab, Klaus, 23

Science and technology (S&T) for development, 25, 30, 45, 47, 48, 52, 54, 66

Second Inaugural Address, 34

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), 63

Sewell, John, 75

Slaughter, Anne-Marie, 57–58, 73, 75, 76, 77, 90

Smith, Gordon, 2, 4, 8

South Africa, 3, 53, 54, 69, 70, 72, 77, 89

Stanford, 25, 56, 57

Stanford University, 17, 27

Summers, Lawrence, 2, 3

Track two diplomacy, 65

Tsinghua University, 78

Turkey, 1, 3, 53, 70

Tussey, Diana, 16

United Nations (UN), 3, 7, 8, 9, 15, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25, 26, 34, 36, 41, 44–45, 51, 52, 54, 62, 64, 65, 67, 70–71, 75, 79, 81, 82, 88

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), 34, 70–71

United States, 1, 3, 4, 7, 10, 19, 22, 33–37, 39, 53–54, 55–56, 62, 66, 70, 76, 80, 82, 87, 88, 90

University of Waterloo, 4, 15

Variable geometry, 54, 70, 89

Victor, David, 17, 76, 78

Victoria, Canada, 25, 28

Waterloo, 8, 13, 15–16, 26, 40–41, 43, 61

Weapons of mass destruction (WMD), 2, 21, 22, 24, 27, 29, 31

Wolfowitz, Paul, 10, 13

Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs, 29, 57

Woods, Ngaire, 16–17

World Bank, 3, 7, 10, 36, 41, 53, 70, 72, 81

World Economic Forum, 23

World Health Organization (WHO), 17, 21, 26, 63, 64, 65, 70

World Trade Organization (WTO), 7, 10, 26, 41, 47, 70

Zurn, Michael, 44, 89