Norwegian call for Nordic membership in the G20

Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre has called for the Nordic countries to be given a joint seat in the Group of 20 leading economies, and warned that the body has yet to secure its international legitimacy.

Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre has called for the Nordic countries to be given a joint seat in the Group of 20 leading economies, and warned that the body has yet to secure its international legitimacy.

In a letter to his Nordic colleagues he has proposed that the members of the Nordic Council – Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland – could share a rotating seat together with the Baltic States. There could be similar arrangements for other under-represented groups, such as African and Arab countries.

Large donors
The Nordic countries’ collective weight in the world economy would make them number nine in terms of GNP. Norway on its own would be number 22 or 23. The Nordic countries figure even more prominently in the field of financing: collectively they rank among the two or three largest donors of total official development assistance.

The G20 is rapidly shaping up to become the premier forum for international financial and economic coordination and decision making. While also engaging in broader international issues, it is gradually replacing the G8 and sidelining established international organisations with universal membership such as the IMF, the World Bank and the UN.

Problem with legitimacy
While the G20 – with its wider participation of emerging economies – is to be welcomed as more representative than the G8, it does not enjoy the legitimacy of a body elected by all members of the family of nations. For instance, the low-income developing countries and African countries are basically without representation. Several countries that are central to international cooperation are excluded, while many of the G20 participants are of less economic weight and/or are not seen as truly representing the regions they hail from.

The key role of the G20 therefore poses a real challenge to true multilateralism and the principles that Norway and its Nordic neighbours and partners have always promoted. How should we deal with the G20 and the role it in fact plays in international finance and economy?  How can we best apply the principles of multilateralism and representative legitimacy to the existing G20?  

Joint representation?
The Government of Norway believes it is worth exploring whether it might be in the interest of all – including the present G20 members – to make the group truly representative, and thereby increase the legitimacy of its decisions and recommendations. One way of achieving this would be to introduce a system of geographical constituencies along the lines of those we already have in the Bretton Woods institutions –  the IMF and the World Bank. The Managing Director of the IMF has raised this idea independently.

On this background the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs has approached his Nordic colleagues with a view to exploring the possibility of joint Nordic and Baltic representation on a rotational basis in the G20. Such an arrangement would be an extension of the useful and harmonious constituency system enjoyed by the Nordic countries in the IMF and the World Bank after the Second World War, which has later been successfully expanded to include the Baltic countries.