/ 9 September 2023

African Union secured admission to wealthy and influential G20

Gettyimages 1635304788
The agreement to admit the AU was championed by Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. (Photo by Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

The African Union (AU) has been admitted as a member of the G20, a highly influential international economic forum made up of the world’s wealthiest countries, at its meeting in India.

The consensus decision was announced by the forum’s sitting chairperson, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, on Saturday following an agreement, reached by consensus, among the existing member states.

The move has been welcomed by South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa – who told the One Earth G20 summit being held in New Delhi that he was “delighted” over the decision.

The AU now joins the European Union (EU) and 19 member states in the bloc, which represents more than 85% of the world’s economy, and includes key roleplayers like the United States, Russia and China.

The decision to admit the AU is a major victory for proponents of multilateralism and was championed by Modi, using his position as G20 chairperson, and for Ramaphosa, another of the architects of the agreement.

It follows on the announcement by Modi on the sidelines of the Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa (Brics) summit in Johannesburg last month that he would be using his term as G20 chairperson to work for the admission of the AU to the bloc.

In his address to a plenary session, Ramaphosa said that global reconstruction in the wake of Covid-19 presented an opportunity to accelerate the transition to low carbon, climate resilient and sustainable society.

At the same time, developing economies were bearing the brunt of climate change, despite “carrying the least responsibility for this crisis” and needed to meet their climate commitments “in the midst of significant developmental challenges like poverty, inequality and unemployment,” Ramaphosa said.

South Africa believed climate change, sustainable consumption and production and other challenges could only be addressed collectively and “with a great deal of solidarity” and that the global partnership for sustainable development be “enhanced and expanded.”

This needed to be supported by concrete policies – and access to adequate and predictable funds from private and public sources – if the United Nations sustainable development goals were to be met.

Ramaphosa called for greater investment from the big economies.

“Development partners need to both meet their existing commitments and upscale official development assistance. Ordinary people see billions of dollars being spent on the weapons of war instead of addressing development challenges,” he said.

“In particular, development partners need to meet their commitments to capacity building and infrastructure development in low- and middle-income countries. No country is spared the effects of climate change. It is therefore vital that we respond collectively, decisively and with urgency to this existential crisis.” 

It was vital that industrialised countries, which had the means and were the greatest contributors to climate change, support  sustainable development in developing economies.

The summit has adopted a declaration by participating states to “concrete actions to address global challenges” and acknowledging that “the decisions we make now will determine the future of our people and our planet.”

It commits to a series of actions aimed at fully implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by providing resources and building the capacity of existing development funding forums.

It also commits to pursue low greenhouse gas and carbon emissions and climate resilient and environmentally sustainable development pathways, and to “urgently accelerate our actions to address development and climate challenges”.

On the war in Ukraine, the summit reiterated the G20’s earlier position and resolutions that all countries should abide by the UN Charter and “must refrain from the threat or use of force to seek territorial acquisition against the territorial integrity and sovereignty or political independence of any state. “

It added that the “use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible.”

While the G20 was an economic forum and not the platform to resolve geo-political and security issues, “we acknowledge that these issues can have significant consequences

for the global economy.”

The forum had highlighted the human suffering and negative impact of the war on global food and energy security, and on the economic stability and well-being of developing nations.

While there were “differing views and assessments of the situation,” it called for the immediate reinstatement of the Black Sea grain deal and for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

“We call on all states to uphold the principles of international law including territorial

integrity and sovereignty, international humanitarian law, and the multilateral system

that safeguards peace and stability,” the declaration said.

“The peaceful resolution of conflicts, and efforts to address crises as well as diplomacy and dialogue are critical. We will unite in our endeavour to address the adverse impact of the war on the global economy and welcome all relevant and constructive initiatives that support a comprehensive, just, and durable peace in Ukraine.”