One of the major criticisms of the G20 is that it continues a tradition of patriarchalism and colonialism towards those states that are poor, powerless, vulnerable, and volatile. For example, there is only one African country that has a seat among the other G-20 members, i.e., South Africa—despite the fact that there are fifty-four other nations located on the continent! Since the European Union has a seat at the table, it seems reasonable for the African Union to be one of the governmental entities or—better yet—to expand the agency to 21.
The purpose of the G20 is to assess, augment, ameliorate and advocate for international financial security and stability. This is a self-appointed group founded in 1999 and allows the major developed countries to consult with each other to develop and underwrite programs, policies, and services to enhance the global economy. Part and parcel of this organizational mission is to foster fiscal growth and productivity among underdeveloped nations and to discover ways to sustain profitability and solvency so that these countries can increasingly become full-fledged partners in international trade and commerce, including climate control and technological parity.
In addition to the paucity of African representation, the G-20 suffers from the same malady as the United Nations. They both lack the power and authority to enforce their decisions around the planet—especially because the members in the so-called First World have veto rights. Hence, the veto is regularly utilized when there is a perceived threat to that particular country’s national security. These economic and military powerhouses lord their privilege over the more dependent and weaker bodies: thus, making a mockery of the mission goals of stability and security all around.
It is not simply an idealistic dream to give voice to the voiceless or a home to the homeless, so to speak. By leaving others out because of favoritism towards those with economic and military power cannot ultimately lead to a harmonious world society. We must listen to all voices, for such diversity provides differing viewpoints and a more holistic approach to ensuring a better environment. When the most developed countries ignore the perspectives of governments that are not similarly equipped, dissatisfaction and unrest will inevitably arise. Weapons of mass destruction and affluence should not be the determinative factors in shaping the destiny of the world. The inclusion of as many perspectives as possible is necessary for a just and sustainable society.
Jeffrey Sachs, university professor at Columbia University, has been making this case for years. He has advocated for the African Union to sit at the table—enlarging the organization to have further representation from the continent of Africa like the twenty-seven countries of the European Union. Sachs has promoted this addition throughout his involvement with departmental committees of the United Nations on sustainable development. His arguments are clear and irrefutable, but the unwillingness of governments to adopt his recommendations demonstrates how difficult it is for the privileged to relinquish control of their undeserved advantages. Whereas there is an advisory group to the G20 made up of western and eastern African nations, many countries in the central and southern regions of the continent are not included. Moreover, in the final analysis, these countries do not have a seat among the members of the main body of the G20. This omission is unconscionable.
This exclusion of African countries harks back to the long night of colonialism. As African countries started to win their independence in the middle of the twentieth century, many former European colonizers abandoned them. Malcolm X started the Organization of Afro-American Unity to join up with and support the Organization of African Unity—for the legacy of oppression among the African diaspora was common, universal. Malcolm wanted the OAU to assist him in bringing the concerns of African Americans to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The OAU received pressure from the U.S. State Department not to bring the issue of white racism to the U.N. And so it went. Malcolm X would not live another full year.The G20 and the United Nations could have greater influence if basic humanity as opposed to wealth and might would rule the day. With that inclusivity and the further acceptance of other remaining voiceless countries in Central and South America and in Asia, we would come closer as a world community that could experience both prosperity and peace. Will the twenty-first century get us there?