The G-x model refers to the G-5, the G-7/8 and the G-20, which are structurally and procedurally in sharp contrast with the earlier treaty based organizations of the post war world. They are far more informal and unstaffed than the UN and Bretton Woods institutions. Focus on the G-x process as a forum for international leadership, especially in comparison and combination with the formal institutions of the UN-Bretton Woods system offers a frame to evaluate the effectiveness of the G-x process.
Consider the following points in this respect:
- The emergence of a prominent role for the G-x has been propelled by broader forces of contemporary global affairs. Since the formal permanent mechanisms of the Bretton Woods and UN institutions have been increasingly deadlocked, the G-x has offered an alternative outlet.
- While G-x agenda began with focus on political and economic issues, it broadened to environment, infectious diseases, international crime, Africa, development as well as international security issues.
- The G-x model aids in filling the core functions of forging co-operative agreements, inducing national compliance with these collective commitments and responding to the regional cries before they endanger systemic stability. Seen more modestly, however, it serves deliberative functions. It performs the core functions of stability maintenance through ongoing communication, consensus formation, and crisis response. Leaders get the opportunity for frank face-to-face discussions and information on national policy action.
- In G-x institutional commitment is encouraged with summit repetition. The iteration of the summits highlights matters of commitment and compliance as leaders anticipate future interaction and ongoing relationships. The associated flow of information and growth in transparency and mutual understanding imposes constraints, or at least costs, for cheating or defection. As commitments gain support and adherence over time, social pressure on leaders may increase for them to undertake further commitments.
- The growing importance of trans-governmental networks in international relations and global governance has also been stressed by many. Contrasted with classic intergovernmental multilateralism – in which high level personnel of each delegation presents a position on behalf of its government or nation as whole—trans-governmental consultations are more like public administration guilds, based on specialized expertise and professional standards as well as ministerial competence. This has certainly been prevalent for the G-7 and now for the G-20.
- Some had expressed the fear about the role of G-x vis-a-vis other institutions. In this regard, it must be remembered that the institution building of the G-x process was clearly an adjunct to, rather than a replacement for, the existing system. The Bretton Woods-UN system had been built on a formal “hard law” of heavily organized bodies. Over the decades this formal system was joined by “softer” organizations with more limited membership, less bureaucracy, and more flexible organizations. Further the G-x was not the only manifestation of this heterogeneity, which also included the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the International Energy Agency, and the Bank for International Settlements.
- Critiques of the G-7 and G-8 as a “club of the rich”’ appointing themselves as global leaders have been prominent for many years. For those outside the club an element of illegitimacy remains. But it has been argued that the legitimacy discussion is largely an unwinnable exercise. The advocates of the G-x process have argued that it is consciously a club structure, through which influential nations give themselves an alternative to the universalism and the “committee of the whole” sluggishness evident in many of the Bretton Woods-UN institutions.
- Leaders and others have often emphasized the value of informality of the G-x process and summits and the opportunity of the small group setting to get to know each other personally. It has been observed that over time, leaders become familiar with one another personally as well as the respective problems they face back home. The summits also offer a chance to speak more directly and forthrightly than in other diplomatic settings.
- The G-x process also has a levelling effect, in terms of the relative stature of the leaders. It is notably non-hierarchical and built on the basis of equality. The leaders are accorded the same strength of voice in the discussions.
This obviously contrasts with the United Nations, where the key forum for international peace and security, the Security Council, is a two-tiered system of permanent (veto-holding) and rotating members. In the Bretton Woods institutions, differing quota shares also distinguish the clout of the different member states.